History of Southern Echo

History of Southern Echo

Southern Echo was founded in 1989 to build the capacity of African American communities to form a network of new, accountable grassroots community organizations, on an inter-generational model. Southern Echo provided training, technical and legal assistance. The primary goal was to empower the community to impact the formation and implementation of public policy. These are some of the accomplishments:

  • 1991-1992 — Echo helped build the Mississippi Redistricting Coalition at the state level and the Delta Redistricting Working Group at the county level. These coalitions provided training and legal assistance in connection with the redistricting of the Congressional, legislative, and numerous county boards of supervisors and helped to involved hundreds of grassroots citizens in the public hearings and drawing of redistricting plans.
  • In 1991 African Americans won 30 percent of the County Board of Supervisor seats, the most powerful local office in Mississippi.
  • In the 1992 election an historic turnout of black voters doubled the size of the Legislative Black Caucus from 21 to 42 in one election. In 2008 there are 50 Caucus members.
  • In 1992 Southern Echo began to organize around the fight to create a quality first-rate public education accessible to all children.
  • In 1995 the Mississippi Legislature ratified the 13th Amendment to the US Constitution abolishing slavery, an important symbolic victory in a culture rooted in symbolism.
  • From 1995-1997 grassroots community groups across the state and the Legislative Black Caucus defeated every statute, referendum and proposed constitutional amendment by conservatives who sought to undo the impact of the redistricting process at the state and county levels.
  • In 1997 the Legislature adopted the Mississippi Adequate Education Program in an effort to bring equity to the funding of public education. The legislature appropriated $650 million dollars over 5 years, the largest education appropriation in the state’s history. The conservative anti-education Governor vetoed the bill. A united Legislative Black Caucus, with support from African American communities, led the fight to override the veto, which prevailed in the state Senate by one vote and in the state House by three votes.
  • From 1998 to 2000 the Legislature appropriated major teacher pay raises and passed legislation to create state standards for student achievement and state accountability standards for school boards, superintendents, supervisors and teachers.
  • In 2004 and 2005 the Legislature adopted two Juvenile Justice Reform Acts that were crafted by the recently-formed MS Coalition for the Prevention of Schoolhouse to Jailhouse, a broad-based coalition in which Southern Echo and grassroots organizations from the Delta were integrally involved.
  • In 2004 through 2006 Southern Echo and grassroots organizations in the newly-formed MS Delta Catalyst Roundtable built a broad-based education stakeholders alliance to defeat the conservative Governor’s education packages that were designed to drastically slash public education funding, supported public funding of private schools and privately-owned, privately-governed charter schools, and which sought to weaken the capacity of the MS Dept. of Education to hold local school districts accountable to state education standards.
  • In 2006 the MS Dept. of Education created its Department of Dropout Prevention and in 2007 launched its statewide Dropout Prevention Program in which parents and students can participate at the local school district level on the dropout prevention teams.
  • In 2007 the Legislature fully-funded the MS Adequate Education Program for the first time and did so again in 2008.

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