This past Wednesday, March 25, Scalawag brought together labor organizers and legal providers working in the field on a digital call titled “Strategies for Southern Workers Amid the COVID-19 Crisis.” We learned how workers are protecting themselves and fighting for their rights during this crisis.
Author’s note: This past March, the Southeastern Women’s Studies Conference met at the University of Mississippi in Oxford. SEWSA is the oldest and largest regional women’s studies conference of its kind. This was a return to home for me—I had served as SEWSA’s newsletter editor in 1980, when that meant running the publication off on a purple-stencil machine. For this year’s conference, I made the four-hour drive over from my home in Alabama to offer some personal and political memories. I gave these words in honor of three ancestors from Mississippi who are no longer with us: Eddie Sandifer, a gay, white, anti-racist communist from Jackson who died in 2016 at the age of 87 after serving as a “drum major for justice and equality;” Brenda Henson, who died in 2008, a refuge from anti-woman and anti-lesbian violence who opened Camp Sister Spirit in Ovett, Mississippi, with her partner Wanda in 1993; and Laura Cates, who died in 1984 in her 80’s, an African-American farm, factory, and domestic worker who migrated to Alabama from the Mississippi Delta and was the person who raised and taught me.
In the first installment of our collaboration with Burnaway Magazine–a series exploring the intersections of art, labor, and struggle in the U.S. South–Madeleine Seidel writes on histories of radical Southern labor films that archive and agitate to this day.
This collaboration aims to offer a platform for art workers, cultural organizers, and residents on the brink of displacement to share the struggles of navigating the challenges of living and making in states with limited labor protections for all workers, cultural or otherwise, and examining the ways in which art work has aided social and labor movements in visualizing an alternative and just collective future.