I have been privileged to have had mentors who introduced me to social justice work when I was a teenager in Louisville, Kentucky. The road from there led through Appalachia, the Peace Corps in Colombia, many parts of Canada, Europe, and to a final home in East Tennessee for the past thirty-one years.
For two decades, I was a trainer and recruiter with the Southern Empowerment Project (SEP) where we trained hundreds of organizers and thousands of grassroots leaders. Through SEP, I met an amazing community of people. I learned from colleagues about philanthropy and community-based fundraising. I worked in Washington, DC for the National Organizers Alliance, a place where the wide community of advocates of all sorts of issues and models of social justice came together. In recent years, I was the director of the Tennessee Health Care Campaign from the implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (called by some Obamacare) and in the fight to expand Medicaid (TennCare).
My ties with Appalachia are deep. Bill Fields, my companion of forty-four years is from Leslie County, Kentucky and went to Berea College. We married a little over four years ago.
I am always drawn back to the hills and valleys and the people of this region. I was an Appalachian Volunteer in Clay County, Kentucky while in college. I assisted the Commission on Religion in Appalachia (CORA) for many years, Episcopal Appalachia Ministries, Grace House on the Mountain (southwest Virginia), and dozens of community groups throughout Central Appalachia.
I am proud of the relationships that I have had with folks working to change the circumstances imposed upon them.
My work history includes being an administrator, a civil servant, a researcher, and even a bridge painter. But my happiest working conditions are those that involve working with people for justice, particularly in challenging racism and the “isms” that divide us in order to control us.