Last month, at the MediaJustice Southern Regional Membership Assembly, I had the amazing opportunity to go to the Highlander Center in Tennessee with a cohort of folks from different organizations across the South. Along with Southerners On New Ground (SONG), Appalshop, Working Narratives, Free Press, Black Lives Matter Memphis, and Alternate ROOTS, we cultivated deep thinking and collaboration to fuel our collective resistance through media justice.
Our team at Racial Justice Action Center, specifically through the Solutions Not Punishment Collaborative (SNaP Co.), have utilized digital space and media to amplify the work we’re doing to create marijuana reform, bail reform, and close the Atlanta City Detention Center down. SNaP Co. has used direct action, digital organizing, and media justice to support the strategy of protecting Black trans people in Atlanta, specifically sex workers, formerly incarcerated folks, and people living with HIV.
In our upcoming work, as we still work to transform and repurpose the City Jail into a Wellness Center with resources for our folks, we are committed to a transformative campaign that would de-prioritize arrest for solicitation in Atlanta and decriminalize sex work in Georgia. We are making sure the stories and narratives erased from larger movement and dominant media platforms are centered, uplifted, and protected. We are actively aware that the hypersurvelliance of Black folks, trans folks, and sex workers also amplifies the risk of incarceration, police harassment, and punishment. As we prepare to win this fight for decriminalizing sex work in Georgia, we recognize and prioritize the high rate of Black transwomen being killed while engaging in sex work and in intimate partner settings. We’re clear and committed in this work in how we want to build a world where Black trans people are free, affirmed, living sustainably, nourished, and abundant.
We’re building a future where the South is honored and protected. We’re working to visibilize Southern Black trans folks of all experiences who deserve to live and be free in their bodies. Our work is the South’s work and beyond. The South is the soil that births movement. The South breathes life into the lineage of resistance. The South is forever home. Atlanta is where we stay, but the whole South is what we fight for.
Ashleigh Shackelford is a Black fat queer cultural producer, multidisciplinary artist, nonbinary shapeshifter, afrotechnologist, and data futurist based in Atlanta, Georgia, with roots in Richmond, Virginia. Ashleigh serves as the Communications Coordinator at Solutions Not Punishment Collaborative of the Racial Justice Action Center. She is an Echoing Ida Fellow, Edie Windsor Scholar, and will be published in the forthcoming book “The Lemonade Reader.”