Female leaders and change champions

October is Farm to School month and there’s no better way to celebrate our farmers than honoring Cindy Ayers Elliott, who owns Foot Print Farms, in collaboration with her nonprofit and WKKF grantee To Improve Mississippi Economics. Elliott, one of the few Black women who own and operate a farm in Mississippi, was named ‘Farmer of the Year’ by the Mississippi Association of Cooperatives. The foundation supports her work to provide business technical assistance and training to other Black farmers in the Jackson Metro area and Mississippi Delta.

Speaking of food … Chef, author and WKKF Food & Society Policy fellow alumnus Bryant Terry was featured in the New York Times for an imprint called 4 Color Books, where he collaborates with chefs, writers, artists, activists and innovators of color. The first title, Black Food, was released this month and showcases the breadth of Black culture around the world.

Lorena Quiroz-Lewis, executive director and founder of WKKF grantee Immigrant Alliance for Justice and Equity in Mississippi (IAJE), received the “Community Change Champion” award from Community Change, a leading organization focused on worker, immigrant and child care justice as well as voter engagement. The national award honored IAJE’s efforts to champion immigrant workers and community in Mississippi since the 2019 U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids. In her acceptance speech she noted, “It is only through community with which the South will rise.” And rise it will, with leadership like Quiroz-Lewis’.

The Opportunity Agenda is recruiting applicants for its 2022 cohort of Culture & Narrative Fellows. We Can Thrive Together is a call for re-imagining cultural realities and rewriting dominant narratives around economic justice – especially those informing racial justice and immigrant rights. People of color and LGBTQIA+ artists, creatives and cultural strategists are encouraged to apply by Nov. 10, 2021.

WKKF grantee Promise54 recently released Unrealized Impact 2.0—the leading review of diversity, inclusion and equity (DEI) in the education sector. Data from 28,000 respondents across 500 organizations revealed an undeniable pattern: Black staff working in education, in particular Black women, reported among the least positive experiences of diversity. Too often, Black staff experience racialized micro- and macro-aggressions at work, while being asked to lead DEI and racial justice work on top of their regular jobs. The authors make clear diversity is not enough: We must address workplace culture, habits, systems and structures to realize change.

Big Picture Learning launched its first Ashé Leaders Fellowship, which amplifies what is possible when communities host and sustain leadership to improve student success and increase community prosperity. The inaugural class includes several leaders from WKKF’s Mississippi partners: Natalie Collier, founder and president of The Lighthouse | Black Girls Project; Rukia Lumumba, co-founder and executive director of the People’s Advocacy Institute; Toya Washington, program associate at The Institute for Democratic Education in America; and Precious Malembeka, assistant principal at McWillie Elementary School in Jackson Public School District. Congratulations to the fellows, whose leadership skills will be broadened through this opportunity.

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