SURJ’s Grassroots Organizing Work

Earlier this year, the now conservative majority Supreme Court began hearing a case that would allow states and municipalities to criminalize homelessness– an inhumane move as rent and cost of living across the country skyrockets. I am proud that SURJ’s projects across the rural and small town South are fighting back directly, organizing thousands of working white people around housing, delivering wins, and building a base of support to undermine these kinds of racist, unjust decisions. 

As SURJ works to block the spread of authoritarianism at the federal level by organizing white voters, we are also building an enduring base of white working class people in areas targeted by the far right. To win in the long term, we know we must do both.

We’re in our Spring Fundraising Drive right now where we’re raising $100k in 10 days. We’ve raised $50k so far– halfway to our goal! Can you give a gift today to help us reach $100k to bring working class communities into housing fights across the South?

We’re bringing small communities into bigger fights. Our Southern base building projects begin with listening, leadership development, and then launching a campaign in a local community. Those local campaigns then get connected to similar regional fights, and state and national coalitions. 

Here’s what our Southern base building work is growing this year:

In Tennessee, the Bedford County Listening project in small town Shelbyville organized their conservative state legislative representative to publicly support rent control and took a cohort of renters to a statewide lobby day as a part of a TN multiracial housing coalition. Our statewide TN project, TN for Safe Homes, contacted over 5,000 rural renters across the state, and is now planting seeds for two new projects: one in the town that infamously serves as the backdrop to the racist country song, “Try That In a Small Town,” and another that boasts the founding of the KKK. 

In Kentucky, the Kentucky People’s Union in Ashland has developed the leadership of a member who is now running for city council on a pro-queer, pro-renter, racial justice platform. Earlier this year, KPU won their demand for a public record of landlords and was featured on MSNBC’s MLK day special about racial healing. Further East in KY, the Madison County Tenants Union is organizing against a statewide bill that criminalizes homelessness. 

In Georgia, this year we knocked 5,000 doors in conservative rural communities, engaged in deep, transformative conversations, and 60% of people we spoke with indicated they were interested in getting involved in a project for community change. We are laying the groundwork to start two new projects in small cities in rural Georgia– majority-white areas with extreme poverty where local people are hurting under state and local policies. 

SURJ projects are fighting back in the South in the very communities targeted by MAGA and white nationalist movements. Can you give a gift today to make sure we reach thousands more people to bring working people into our progressive movements for the long haul?

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