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How The Black Southern Women’s Collaborative Is Giving ‘A Voice To The ‘Purposely Ignored’

Updated: Apr 29

The Black Southern Women’s Collaborative (BSWC) is a network and advocacy organization committed to empowering Black women serving as executive directors in the Southern United States.

Established in 2021, BSWC assembles a team of dynamic Black women executives to address pressing issues like economic justice, political empowerment, healthcare access, and social equality, which disproportionately affect Black women in the South. The organization offers resources, support, and a platform for Black women to advocate for themselves and their communities. Through strategic partnerships, campaigns, and community engagement, BSWC endeavors to foster a positive and safe environment, empowering Black executives to drive change and amplify the voices of Black Southern women.

The organization boasts a diverse leadership team, including Kendra Cotton, CEO of the New Georgia Project; Nsombi Lambright, executive director of One Voice in Mississippi; Ashley K. Shelton, founder and president of the Power Coalition for Equity and Justice; Reverend Rhonda Thomas, executive director of Faith in Florida; and Tameka Greer, executive director of Memphis Artists for Change.

Since its inception, BSWC has allocated over $7 million to Black women-led organizations across the South, prioritizing leadership development and training programs for Black women.

Despite facing the persistent challenges of white supremacy, including voter suppression tactics and biased redistricting maps, the BSWC remains steadfast in its commitment to protecting voting rights for Black women. As legislative efforts across the South have attempted to diminish the voices of Black citizens at the polls, BSWC is ramping up its efforts to vigorously combat these measures through community-centered organizing, voter education initiatives, and their targeted Get Out the Vote-style campaigns aimed at empowering communities directly affected by voter suppression.

“We often say in organizing spaces that we have to engage, listen to, and organize with those closest to the pain, and that’s what the Black Southern Women’s Collaborative members are doing,” BSWC’s founder Phyllis Hill, told NewsOne via email.

“Black women are naturally custodians of the community; these Black women have transferred those same skills to how they organize. For instance, they employ formerly incarcerated people, people who have never had a career, single parents, immigrants, young college graduates, grandmothers who are caretakers, etc.” 

For Hill, the BSWC gives “a voice” to Black women and the needs of other community members who are “purposely ignored.”

Hill, who also leads the community-based Faith In Action initiative, added to NewsOne, “The BSWC gives them a chance to live out their purpose and create a new reality for their families. They give people the opportunity to have a job with health benefits, which is important because most of the southern states do not have Medicaid expansion. This creates a picture of what we want to see in the world. Members of the BSWC do a mix of social service (providing food, water, housing, money for high utility bills) and organizing because they work to meet the immediate needs of people while encouraging them to step into the light and do away with the shame of what society says about them. They are organizing with people to create a political home to wield and build power and redesign the power dynamic between policymakers and the people to a co-governance model to improve our communities. This starts with caring for the people (providing food, water, housing, money for high utility bills), educating them about voting, and integrating this learning to address systemic anti-black issues. These Black women are deeply in tune and in touch with the spirit of the people.”

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