Shannan Reaze has advice to those who want to make change happen: “Look to the South.”
The Atlanta Jobs With Justice Executive Director explains that “Southern workers are leading right now. We’re fighting conservatism; as it’s the only organizing we know. We’ve had a vision for the South – to have our voices heard and our communities invested in. While others are afraid of standing up to white supremacy, people in the South are moving forward, because this is what we know and what we’re trained to do.”
No doubt, the South is on a winning streak.
The South is winning in raising wages for working people – for example, individuals who work for the city of Atlanta came together to boost their pay to $15 per hour. The South is winning at mobilizing teachers to stand up to lawmakers for better working conditions and to demand school improvements for students. And the South is winning at uniting and mobilizing working people to build power, and a strengthened labor movement.
Organized labor in the South is pushing forward, despite political, racial and economic challenges. And it’s due to the work of trailblazers like Shannan.
Shannan directs Atlanta Jobs With Justice’s grassroots efforts to enact economic and social justice in the workplace, as well as in communities across Georgia. She has been organizing working people and communities across the South for the past 15 years. Most recently, Shannan worked to pass ban the box policies in nine municipalities across Georgia. She also has been a driving force behind the Fight for $15 in Atlanta, securing a 2017 wage victory that is helping pull many who work for the city out of poverty. Next month, the Ms. Foundation will award her for her commitment to working people and economic progress across racial, gender, and geographical barriers in Atlanta at the 30th Annual Gloria Awards – A Salute to Women of Vision.
The Gloria Awards are named for feminist icon Gloria Steinem, one of the organization’s founders. The annual event recognizes groundbreaking women like Shannan, who have made an incredible impact on the gender justice movement and also celebrates Ms. Foundation grantees around the country. She is among great company, as this year’s nominees include filmmaker Ava DuVernay, Teen Vogue Editor in Chief, Elaine Welteroth, SisterSong Executive Director Monica Simpson, and Executive Director of Girls for Gender Equity, Joanne Smith.
Shannan is beyond grateful for the recognition. She commented: “I’m excited to receive this honor after decades of being an unsung leader. It is a true manifestation of years of work that was unheard and unseen. It’s been a great year for Black women, LGBTQ women; minority women; it’s a good moment to have our contributions heard and seen. This award shows that achieving our dreams is possible. I’m even more charged to do more work.”