It takes more than good intentions to transform the South. It takes money.
What the hell is a Scalawag?
"What does it mean for a diverse group of young Southerners to be producing content that is read by mostly white folks—and white folks that are older than them?" was the question asked in a November 2019 article from the Nieman Journalism Lab about Scalawag. For our team, the answer was clear: it meant we needed to do things differently, and that's exactly what we did.
We have since redeveloped our organizational vision, mission, and values both to better align our work to Southern freedom struggles and social movement, and to make more explicit our pursuit of a liberated and just South.
We published impact-driven journalism. Our storytelling supports and amplifies the work of movement, stands in solidarity with oppressed people and provides a platform to directly leverage power. Our work shifts narratives, changes how people understand an issue, and makes explicit the need for policy and political changes that bring us closer to social justice.
Since 2019, Scalawag has hosted more than 20 in-person and virtual events that have moved generative, reciprocal relationships from theory to practice. As we've poured suport into Southern people and communities, y'all have poured it right back into us. In that same time, more than 630 folks have become Scalawag members, 808 have made donations to support our mission, and our regional philanthropic partners—North Carolina's Z. Smith Reynolds, the Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham, and the Southern Power Fund—have brought much-needed support to the table.
We ended the publication of our print magazine in 2020 and created the capacity to develop new, imaginative, and responsive products and projects—projects like As the South Votes, our video series on voter suppression and community organizing in the lead up to and aftermath of the 2020 elections; and Abolition Week, an annual reporting and engagement campaign during which Scalawag publishes work written exclusively by incarcerated writers and centers and amplifies the life-affirming and collective emancipatory project we know as Abolition.
What has emerged from doing things differently is Scalawag's latest theory of change, and a model for the future of journalism: One that is reparative, just, equitable, and builds with both communities and movement in order to transform the South and beyond.
Today, we are honored to share The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation's announcement that Scalawag is one of its newest grantees. Through their new Humanities in Place program, the Foundation will invest $350,000 in Scalawag over the next two years, allowing us to further concretize and grow our transformative work. Humanities in Place supports a fuller, more complex telling of American histories and lived experiences by deepening the range of how and where our stories are told, bringing a wider variety of voices into the public dialogue.
Through philanthropic partnership with the Foundation, Scalawag will:
- Expand our engagement team by hiring a Community Engagement Manager and four state organizers. With increased engagement capacity, Scalawag will strengthen our partnerships with Southern community, cultural, and movement organizations, values-aligned media organizations, and the communities we collectively serve. This expansion fortifies our role as builders in the South's social change ecosystem.
- Produce more of the journalism that is core to our mission. The Mellon Foundation has graciously funded the next two years of Scalawag's Race & Place vertical. Race & Place expands traditional conversations about environmental racism, climate change, segregation, gentrification, freedom movements, and more to better understand both the nuances of how places are made and for whom, and how we can transform power to create the future places of our dreams.
- Host more events, both online and (as it becomes safe to do so) returning to in-person, in our Hometowns: Durham, North Carolina; Birmingham, Alabama; Atlanta, Georgia; and in our newest Hometown, New Orleans, Louisiana.
We cannot say thank you enough to our communities, audiences, and supporters at all levels—you are why we do this work, and your trust in us is the reason we are able to sustain it. We are overjoyed for what's to come for Scalawag—and most importantly, for the South.
We'd like to extend another heartfelt thank you to our newest philanthropic partner, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
Alysia, Cierra, Katherine, Ko, Lovey, MiMi, Sarah, Virginia, Yusef, and Xander.
—The Team at Scalawag
The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation is the nation's largest supporter of the arts and humanities. Since 1969, the Foundation has been guided by its core belief that the humanities and arts are essential to human understanding. The Foundation believes that the arts and humanities are where we express our complex humanity, and that everyone deserves the beauty, transcendence, and freedom to be found there. Through our grants, we seek to build just communities enriched by meaning and empowered by critical thinking, where ideas and imagination can thrive.