One Rural Leader Shares Why She's Facing Race Together
I’ll never forget the day I visited the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC.
As a native of South Carolina’s Lowcountry, I grew up with history wrapped around my shoulders like one of my grandma’s quilts. It dripped from the trees like moss. It called from the skies like gulls. The idea of seeing so much American history that originated on SC dirt roads under one roof thrilled me to no end.
I walked around the museum wide eyed, reflecting on the path that led me to create and lead Freedom Readers, a literacy non-profit which is headquartered near Myrtle Beach, but serves many rural communities like the one that raised me.
It is nothing short of miraculous, the reality of an African American woman spending her career improving literacy in low-income communities in a state where her ancestors were forbidden by law to read or write. I wondered if the ancestors would have dared dream it.
Then I came across the words of James Baldwin emblazoned on the wall.
“The great force of history comes from the fact that we carry it within us, are unconsciously controlled by it in many ways, and history is literally present in all that we do.”
I froze. How could Baldwin have captured the essence of the work of the rural nonprofit leader so precisely? It was as if he, too, had been an organizer, had held meetings in church fellowship halls and community centers, had prepared meals for the elderly aided those who face poverty, advocated for their fair and just treatment.
Rural leaders, this year’s Nonprofit Summit themed Facing Race Together, is our opportunity, to reflect on the myriad ways that our work in South Carolina is impacted by our history.
We can gain clarity on issues that we’ve been confronting, and we can celebrate the progress we’ve made. This is our chance to gain more tools to help us clear the way for our children to move more freely together through our educational corridors, our halls of justice and beyond. This is our chance to amplify the impact we’ve had and continue to have in our rural areas where barriers to equity can be most stubborn.
I’m excited about this amazing opportunity to take the next step on my personal journey toward wisdom, understanding, and growth. I expect there may be moments of challenge, but also many moments of AHA!
The thing I am most looking forward to, though, is meeting you, hearing your story, and taking full advantage of the power of TOGETHER.
Tracy Swinton Bailey, Ph.D.
Chief Executive Officer, Freedom Readers
(843) 251-1804 cell