In partnership with our Atlanta University Consortium and the Institute for Policy Studies, Jobs With Justice launched the Advancing Black Strategists Initiative (ABSI) in the fall of 2020. We began with a vision to create a cohort of Black economic justice and labor-focused strategists committed to leading, developing, and advancing policies and campaigns that support collective power-building of working people – particularly in the South.
With the significant need for Black leadership at all levels of movement work, the inaugural ABSI Movement Fellowship Program kicked off in the Spring of 2022. This paid apprenticeship program offered a cohort of Black worker-leaders direct experience developing and implementing strategies that sought to expand organizing and collective bargaining power with Black-led campaigns in the U.S. South, the opportunity to share experiences and advance their understanding of the ABSI ‘School of Thought’ in fellowship with Black academics, labor leaders, and organizers. With focused strategies that seek to expand workers’ direct role in creating, implementing and enforcing new standards beyond simply passing policy, the Fellows examined the effects of race, class, gender, and power on workers across the South.
In 2023, Jobs With Justice was thrilled to celebrate the first ABSI Fellows cohort – Nichel Dunlap-Thompson, Anastancia Cuna, Eric Hall, and Shechel Williams – at a graduation ceremony in Washington, D.C. The reception was a powerful venue to continue the fight against repressive barriers working people face, especially Black workers in the United States and the American South.
ABSI continued to see growth and support throughout 2023. Jobs With Justice produced ‘ABSI: Reviving the Southern Black Labor Movement’ and made headlines. In the fall of 2023, we convened more than 25 Black foundation executives and leaders at the Ford Foundation to spotlight ABSI and focus funders on the intersections of economic and racial justice. Many ABSI stakeholders and founders also attended, and academics from various HBCUs strategized on how to collaborate more deeply with ABSI moving forward.
We’re proud to share that the second cohort of ABSI Fellows will begin their program in Summer 2024.