I grew up in an immigrant family in the South. My parents were textile workers, and when the factories started to close (after NAFTA), my family would move to wherever there was a mill still open; from town to town all across Appalachia. I experienced firsthand how companies can extract all the labor and resources from a place and move on to the next, leaving nothing of use behind. After my community in western North Carolina experienced some devastating immigration raids, we started working together and talking with other communities to try to figure out how to build new economic relationships that are rooted in places and can withstand the different storms that will come.
“My parents were textile workers, and when the factories started to close after NAFTA, my family would move to wherever there was a mill still open; from town to town all across Appalachia.”
The Peer Network training helped me to see that the one place where I always thought we’d have to defer to “business as usual”, finance, might be more accessible to my community and communities all across the South than I had thought. An understanding of business development and capitalization wasn’t just something we could access, it might be something we can do.
It’s in that spirit, of doing for ourselves, that I’ve been working at the Southern Reparations Loan Fund. Through my work, I’ve had the opportunity to travel all over the South, and listen to stories. I’ve visited with musicians in eastern Kentucky, immigrant farmers in New Orleans, community organizers in Jackson, Mississippi, and cooks in Little Rock, Arkansas. I’ve sat with people and places and stories that are all different, but I can see some similar veins in history: promises made and broken, the extraction of people’s labor and natural resources, the denial of ownership. I also see my own hopes reflected: people working hard in their communities to build something that belongs to everyone, together, with dignity.