Southerners On New Ground (SONG) is a regional Queer Liberation organization made up of Black people, people of color, immigrants, undocumented people, people with disabilities, working class and rural and small town, LGBTQ people in the South.
SONG envisions a sustainable South that embodies the best of its freedom traditions and works towards the transformation of our economic, social, spiritual, and political relationships. We envision a multi-issue southern justice movement that unites us across class, age, race, ability, gender, immigration status, and sexuality; a movement in which LGBTQ people – poor and working class, immigrant, people of color, rural – take our rightful place as leaders shaping our region’s legacy and future. We are committed to restoring a way of being that recognizes our collective humanity and dependence on the Earth.
SONG is a home for LGBTQ liberation across all lines of race, class, abilities, age, culture, gender, and sexuality in the South. We build, sustain, and connect a southern regional base of LBGTQ people in order to transform the region through strategic projects and campaigns developed in response to the current conditions in our communities. SONG builds this movement through leadership development, intersectional analysis, and organizing.
Since 1993, SONG has been known, both regionally and nationally, for its organizing and training work across issues of race, class, gender, culture and sexuality with both LGBTQ people and allies. We work to build and maintain a Southern LGBTQ infrastructure for organizers strong enough to combat the Southern-specific strategy of the Right to divide and conquer Southern oppressed communities using the tools of rural isolation, Right-wing Christian infrastructure, racism, environmental degradation, and economic oppression. We formed to build understanding of the connections between issues and oppressions, do multi-racial organizing, and develop strong relationships between people who could and should be allies. During our life as an organization we have learned that movement building requires grassroots organizing, leadership development, deep analysis, listening/data collection, inter-generational relationships, the linking of social movements, and good long-term planning. Some of SONG’s major accomplishments include: crafting the first-ever Southern, LGBTQ-led, traveling Organizing School for small towns and rural places all over the South; training over 100 Southern and national racial and economic justice organizations to integrate work around homophobia and transphobia into their work; holding over 50 Southern sub-regional retreats for Southern Queer People of Color; continuing to be one of the only LGBTQ organizations in the US that truly listens, responds, and represents LGBTQ folk in small towns and rural places; and in 2008 holding the largest gathering specifically for Southern LGBTQ organizers in the last 10 years. Most recently, the coalition-strong campaign in GA where SONG was central in winning an injunction against a key aspect of HB 87 (Arizona copy cat laws), wherein ‘harboring of illegal aliens’ was made punishable by law for individuals and organizations.
Long-term goals of SONG are to build, drive, amplify, and support Southern inter-sectional movement work thru regional capacity building, leadership development, and organizing. All of our work centers the shared interest of women, LGBTQ people, people of color, and immigrants—in who we are as SONG’s leadership and membership, and the analysis and work we create. We start at the place of lifting barriers and breaking the isolation that prevents people from participating fully in economic, social, and political life through creating an organizational home for LGBTQ Southern organizing and LGBTQ Southern people. This creates a space for Southern LGBTQ people to enter a political home: a space for understanding conditions and patterns, building analysis, and organizing. From this space, we grow the work of liberation.
ESSENTIAL CONCEPTS OF SONG
- Whole selves: SONG creates spaces in which all of a person’s identities are honored and affirmed – no one is asked to prioritize one over the other, and no one is left behind. We believe in building, renewing, and supporting Southern activists.
- Self-determination: SONG creates spaces in which people can grow and be challenged, and are expected to strive to be their best whole selves. SONG expects that members will not hinder the self-determination of others through acts of racism, sexism, classism, homophobia, hatred, and intolerance.
- Member-driven: SONG’s commitment is to its members. We want to strengthen members’ skills and help them build connections with each other.
- Connection: SONG brings people together so that they can overcome feelings of isolation and organize with others who share the same worldview. SONG connects groups in the South who are doing similar work. SONG sees the interconnections between different systems of oppression. SONG also connects the experience of Southerners to global conditions, and trains people to see the connections between the conditions of their individual lives and larger systems.
- Vision: SONG is visionary, not reactionary. SONG organizes for hope, not in response to fear. We build, connect, and sustain a kind of organizing that is not limited by the boundaries of race, class, culture, gender and sexuality; an organizing that amplifies hopes and dreams of transformation to a better world. We organize to build the world we really want to live in.