Rural Spotlight

Tools to enact change

Being Black and rural is a blessing. Having come from generations of Black Rural Georgians, I have witnessed and experienced the intersectionality of challenges we face. I was raised by a village of Black men and women who instilled a sense of perseverance, humility, and ambition deep inside of my heart. It has become a common misconception by national strategists and progressive organizations that “Rural America” is synonymous with white. That doesn’t happen to be the case where I come from and in other regions of Georgia, including the Georgia Black Belt. Black and brown Georgians are immersed and have heavy influences in Southern culture, and quite frankly, are the reason why the South, and the nation, have gotten this far.

Here at New Georgia Project, I am proud to lead Georgia Ignite — a program aimed at supporting local organizers and activists to lead their own campaigns. Urban areas are the constant targets of civic engagement and investment because it is perceived that these are the only places capable of progressive change. Georgia Ignite seeks to disrupt and disprove this narrative. This movement is about rural power building, giving folks the tools to enact change through community organizing and policy advocacy specific to their local communities.

Spades tournament, hosted by Georgia Ignite

This year, we have the perfect opportunity to target multiple small municipal elections. Voting locally is the basic building block of democracy. We are using this year’s municipal elections to organize people around voting rights in addition to local problems that affect their community. In doing this, we are able to create local culture around voting and holding their local governments and authorities accountable.

But we can’t truly address local problems without also addressing federal policy. We need people from around the country to fight for federal policies that defend voting rights, end discrimination, and remove the barriers that hinder our ability to improve rural Georgia.

–Brandon Byrd, New Georgia Project Action Fund