Advancing Black Strategists Initiative

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What is ABSI?

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 the 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, and 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.  

We’re proud to establish a new partnership with Clark Atlanta University ahead of the launch of our second cohort of ABSI Fellows in July 2024.

Meet the ABSI Advisory Committee! 

ABSI Co-Conveners: 

  • Jobs With Justice
  • Clark Atlanta University
  • Erica Smiley, Executive Director, Jobs With Justice 
  • Jason Tomlinson, National Program Manager, Jobs With Justice 
  • Sherman Henry, Director, Labor Institute for the Advancement of Black Strategists 

ABSI Advisory Committee: 

  • Dedrick Asante-Muhammad, President, Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies 
  • Dr. Algernon Austin, Director, Race and Economic Justice, Center for Economic and Policy Research 
  • Appollos Baker, Special Assistant to the Secretary-Treasurer at New York State AFL-CIO 
  • Dr. Sheri Davis, Senior Program Director for WILL Empower with the Center for Innovation in Worker Organization (CIWO), Rutgers University School of Management and Labor Relations 
  • Kenny Diggs, Assistant Political Director, AFSCME 
  • Seitu Jamel Hart, Georgia Film Imperative Project: Building Workforce, Economic, Mobility and Racial Equity 
  • Dr. Alethia Jones, Program Director, Open Society Fellowship Program, Open Society Foundations 
  • Dr. Joseph Jones, Associate Professor of Political Science, Executive Director, W.E.B. Dubois Southern Center for Studies in Public Policy, Clark Atlanta University 
  • Dr. Danielle Phillips-Cunningham, Associate Professor, 
  • Department of Labor Studies and Employment Relations, Rutgers University School of Management and Labor Relations 
  • Patrick Scott, Director, AFL-CIO Organizing Institute 
  • John Taylor, National Field Director of Property Services Division, SEIU 
  • Dr. Naomi R Williams, Assistant Professor, Rutgers University School of Management and Labor Relations 


We’re asking you to join us in this initiative to build power with Southern Black workers and to create an economy where all working people can thrive. Become an ABSI sustaining giver here.

Learn more

Reviving the Southern Black Labor Movement

Southern Black workers have a long record of forming unions to press their demands for justice—we once again need to build power at work as we have in the past. Read more.

Advancing Black Strategists Initiative Reaches New Heights

 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. Read more.