50 Forward: An Evening With The SPLC Projects Into The Next Half-Century

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The Southern Poverty Law Center commemorated his 51st birthday tonight in a celebration that recalled its singular historical achievements as one of the nation’s most prominent civil rights organizations.

50 advanced participants included Lecia Brooks, Karol V. Mason, Joseph J. Levin Jr., Tafeni English and Seth Levi. (Credit: Mhandy Gérard/SPLC)

SPLC President and CEO Margaret Huang presented the vision for the organization’s next 50 years by sharing the SPLC’s new vision for racial justice in the South. This vision recognizes that activists and freedom fighters in the South have shown courage and resilience, and we will continue to support the movement for justice despite the challenges we face today.

The event, 50 Forward: An Evening with the SPLCheld in Atlanta Foundry at Puritan Mill, brought together senior SPLC leaders with the organization’s partners, including Vote your voice grant recipients, community allies and SPLC supporters. Among the audience members were Georgia State Representatives David Wilkerson and William Boddie, whom Huang recognized from the podium.

Karol V. Mason, Vice Chairman of the SPLC Board, said at the start of the event, “The name of tonight’s event is 50 Forward, and one of the main purposes of our meeting is to know more about the course that the SPLC will chart in the future. I know how proud the SPLC community is of the many victories achieved during the first 50 years of the organization. But I also know that there remains there is still a lot of work to do and that we will not be satisfied until our “vision of a just future” becomes a reality.

The SPLC, Huang said, will focus on key issues such as countering hate and extremism, promoting democracy and civil rights, and pursuing legal, immigrant and economic justice on behalf of communities. black and brown.

To shed light on the work of these partners and allow the public to understand how the SPLC works with them, during panel discussions, partner representatives discussed efforts to promote democracy and counter the effects of hate and extremism on immigration policy.

“Our overall vision is to have a meaningful impact on issues affecting the communities we seek to serve in our Southern states,” Huang said. “We will never do this work alone – it will take the whole movement working together.”

Investing in communities

SPLC Brand

At the 50 Forward event, SPLC President and CEO Margaret Huang unveiled the organization’s new logo.

In its largest and most direct community investment, the SPLC will relocate its office from Metro Atlanta to a historically Black community. Although the location of a newly constructed office building has not yet been determined, it will have spaces and programs to benefit area residents, activists and allies, according to the director of strategy of the SPLC, Seth Levi, who discussed the move in a separate chat. ahead of tonight’s event.

“We are trying to rethink the way we use our office spaces, exploring how they can be a tool to achieve our strategic framework,” Levi said. “An office building can be much more than a place where staff come to work on their computers and meet in conference rooms. We try to imagine all the ways our real estate spaces can be used to have a direct impact on the communities we serve.

The building may also include commercial spaces designed to help create jobs and build wealth, such as discounted retail spaces for black and brown entrepreneurs in their early years of business when revenues are generally low. The SPLC is also exploring ways to invest locally in affordable housing.

Huang explained how the redevelopment aligns with the SPLC’s new strategic framework.

“We view these community investments as opportunities that will bring economic improvement to people’s lives. … We think it’s time to start using our resources and our ability to do that,” she said in another conversation ahead of tonight’s event.

The direction of the SPLC for the future will be visible in another way.

Rename the SPLC

At tonight’s event, Huang presented the SPLC’s new branding and logo, which will become the new symbol of the SPLC’s vision of a more inclusive and holistic organization and a reflection of the multifaceted nature of its work.

The individual SPLC letters of the logo are the logo and were designed to evoke both historical and modern sensibilities. The letters are punctuated with a vertically centered dot, called an interpunct. The new design was also driven in part by the emergence of the New South, which has seen increasing diversification and now has the highest LGBTQ+ population in the country.

The full set of rebranding images will appear wherever the SPLC logo appears: on the new SPLC website, on stationery, in email signatures, on social media, business cards, t-shirts branding, tote bags, posters, stickers and Learning for Forensic Materials.

The challenges of the future and the triumphs and struggles of the past are also reflected at the SPLC Civil Rights Memorial Center (CRMC), which announced how it plans to continue its mission to educate and connect communities.

Connect through technology

CRMC app on mobile devices

At the SPLC’s 50 Forward event, the Civil Rights Memorial Center unveiled its new mobile app, which will feature virtual tours of the Center and a condensed version of the film Apathy Is Not an Option.

CRMC has launched a mobile phone application, which CRMC Director Tafeni English presented to the public this evening. The app will allow students and others who cannot visit CRMC in person to virtually tour the galleries and learn about the modern civil rights movement.

Pleading with members of the public to pull out their phones at tonight’s event, English said: ‘You can download the Civil Rights Memorial Center app, and we don’t want you to download it and keep it to yourself. . We want you to share it. Share it with your family. Share it with educators. Share it with activists. …Whether they do so virtually or in person, we hope to convey this message to each of our visitors: we are still walking, and we still have a long way to go.

The CRMC, a project of the SPLC, is a cultural institution for racial justice and is now the first museum in Montgomery to use an app. English first designed adding the app to the the museum experience before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, but the idea gained momentum in 2020 when museums, including the CRMC, closed and struggled to stay relevant when programming has become virtual.

“The application increases our visibility [in areas] where we know the pandemic has impacted the ability of schools to do field trips,” English said. “We no longer see as many visitors as before the pandemic. Those who use the application will have the opportunity to learn more about the current work of the SPLC. »

The application can be downloaded for free from the Apple Store Where google play.

The app announcement was not the only example of recognizing the importance of the past and its impact on the future.

Look back and forward

Lecia Brooks

Lecia Brooks, SPLC Chief of People and Culture, reflects on the organization’s history during her keynote address at the 50 Forward event in Atlanta. (Credit: Mhandy Gérard/SPLC)

SPLC co-founder Joe Levin and Lecia Brooks, chief people and culture officer, who joined the SPLC in 2004, described the organization’s beginnings and its evolution over the past 51 years to today.

Levin recalled the inspiration of the founders to establish the SPLC as “a witness to the cruelty of institutional racial injustice and the violence of vigilante groups, especially the Ku Klux Klan”.

Tonight Levin said, “Our fragile and flawed democracy is in crisis. He cited the normalization of white supremacy, the spread of the ‘great replacement’ conspiracy theory, the January 6, 2021 insurrection at the United States Capitol, and the increase in hate crimes against racial, religious, and religious communities. , ethnic and LGBTQ+. Yet, he said, today’s SPLC is up to the task.

“It is reassuring and empowering to know that we are no longer the same SPLC that we were in the 20th century. We have become an organization ready to meet the new challenges of the South. … I couldn’t be more impressed with Margaret Huang’s exceptional leadership, our diverse and engaged Board of Directors, and our relentless and brilliant staff. This event is a remarkable way to pass the torch to a new generation of leaders at the Southern Poverty Law Center. The visionary strategy presented today is proof that the future of the SPLC is in excellent hands.

Brooks said she’s seen the growing depth and breadth of the SPLC’s good work. She recalled only part of this growth: the opening of the CRMC in 2005, of which she was the founding director; the establishment of the Immigrant Justice Project, also in 2005; the opening of regional offices; the transformation of the original “Klanwatch” into Hate Alert; and some of the major court cases won by the SPLC, such as David vs. Signal International, a labor trafficking case tried in 2015. Brooks noted that when she arrived at the SPLC, there were about 100 employees. Today there are about 450.

Huang summed up the powerful arc of the SPLC’s past and future.

“The SPLC has been doing incredible work for 50 years,” she said. “I wanted to celebrate that. We have had successes in litigation, but the issues are just as compelling and just as urgent for us to resolve as never before. … The SPLC is still going strong, but we know how much work still lies ahead of us.

Concluding his remarks to the audience, Huang said, “Change is possible. A better future for the South is on the horizon. A future of justice, of inclusion, of multiracial democracy. And I know we can do it together.

Top photo: SPLC President and CEO Margaret Huang speaks at the organization’s 50 Forward event in Atlanta. (Credit: Mhandy Gérard/SPLC)

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