My home state of Tennessee was in the national spotlight a lot this year, and most of it was bad news. From expelling legislators who stood with teens rallying for gun control to sweeping anti-trans legislation, our state is implementing the authoritarian playbook that’s sweeping the country.
But with help from people like you, we’re changing the story: Southern Crossroads, the project of SURJ I direct that brings poor and working class white Southerners into multi-racial movements for housing and healthcare justice, is growing and winning in places targeted by far right MAGA forces like Tennessee.
Here are things Southern Crossroads achieved this year in Tennessee:
✅ Our project, Bedford County Listening Project (BCLP) in small town Shelbyville, won a citywide renter’s committee, which gives directly impacted people a seat at the table in city council decisions.
✅ BCLP won a city council resolution that supports federally funded housing to implement rent control, ban retaliation against renters, and require landlords to make repairs.
✅ We launched our statewide initiative Tennessee for Safe Homes (T4SH) and knocked the doors of thousands of renters in majority-white, rural areas.
✅ We joined in a multiracial coalition with 14 other housing organizations in Tennessee and are laying the foundations for a policy fight to implement our wins in Shelbyville at the state level.
✅ We sent a delegation of rural renters to Washington, D.C. to brief Congress and meet with Federal Housing Finance Agency Director, Sandra Thompson, about enforcing renter protections for privately-owned properties with federally-backed loans (pictured below).
As I watched our legislature work itself into a frenzy and move to expel three Democratic legislators earlier this year, I texted a friend, “This would never have happened if we had more BCLPs across the state.” Members of the BCLP and TN4SH have talked to hundreds of poor white renters across Tennessee. What we’re finding over and over is the draconian policies and authoritarian power grabs of the state legislature don’t represent the will of the people.
Renters in Tennessee want what everyone does: safe and stable housing, fair paying jobs, and opportunities for their kids. When we organize, we build the power to implement the will of the people.
Kelly Sue Waller
Southern Crossroads Director