Southern Movements Across Race, Gender, and Sexual Orientation

On November 6, 2013 Applied Research Center (ARC) was rebranded as Race Forward: The Center for Racial Justice Innovation. The content on this page was published on the ARC website prior to the rebrand.
New Report by the Applied Research Center Presents Challenges, Opportunities, and Recommendations

June 4, 2013 (New York, NY) – A new report released by the Applied Research Center (ARC) examines challenges and opportunities at the intersection of the movement for racial justice and LGBT activism in the U.S. South. In Better Together in the South: Building Movements across Race, Gender, and Sexual Orientation, ARC identifies demographics changes, noteworthy trends, and key strategies that Southern organizations have been using in their work, with the report outlining recommendations for continued work on these issues.

“To overcome the politics of division and marginalization, many groups are strategically embracing key themes of intersectionality, unity and visibility,” said ARC President Rinku Sen. “The organizations we have worked with have demonstrated a commitment to these values in exciting ways that are changing the landscape of racial justice and LGBT organizing, and we hope to see increased support for their efforts. "

ARC has coordinated the Better Together program for the last few years — a multi-faceted initiative that combines research, media, and leadership development to advance racial justice and LGBT activism. There is a significant disconnect between the mainstream national LGBT movement and Southern grassroots organizations that:

  • Prioritize economic and survival issues (ex: transgender employment discrimination and rights, LGBT youth criminalization and incarceration issues, the punitive treatment of immigrants, and access to high-quality and safe schools).
  • Promote leadership of color, an explicit critical race analysis, and an economic analysis that speaks to the lived experiences and realities of LGBT people of color in the South.
  • Aim to connect racial justice and LGBT equality which are often fundamentally detached, leading people of color to feel ignored in LGBT organizations, and LGBT individuals to frequently fall through the cracks in racial justice organizations.

ARC has established a working partnership with Southerners on New Ground (SONG), a 20-year-old, well-respected and well-networked hub of LGBT liberation activists in the South, and in 2013 convened a cohort of 22 leaders and organizers from eleven organizations, spanning ten states. Better Together in the South is the result of interviews, surveys, convenings, and research on recent developments in the South.

“We are thrilled to highlight the cutting edge political work of these organizations,” said Network Training Associate Nayantara Sen. “By integrating LGBT and racial justice lenses into the issues areas of reproductive justice, health and wellness, police reform, immigration, youth organizing and faith-based organizing, the Better Together cohort is taking risks, experimenting with new strategies, and generating models that can be replicable and instructive for the rest of the country."

Better Together in the South: Building Movements across Race, Gender, and Sexual Orientation
  • Overview of Southern Context (demographic, cultural, economic)
  • Policy Scan of Twelve Southern States (setbacks and successes on hate crime and nondiscrimination legislation)
  • Review of Better Together 2013 Southern Leadership and Action Cohort (program goals and member organizations)
  • Key Themes for Southern Movement Building (with examples of key intersectional, unifying, and visibility-raising practices)
  • Promising Practices (profiles of four organizations demonstrating particular success)
  • Recommendations  (increased strategic political analysis, long-term investment beyond specific policy fights, support for LGBT leaders of color in the South, increased media visibility, support for long-term movement-building organizations in the South).

The Better Together reports are available for download at On Tuesday June 11 at 2pmEST, will host a live video chat with Better Together cohort members Paulina Helm-Hernandez (Southerners On New Ground) and Bishop Tonyia Rawls (Freedom Center for Social Justice). Tune in live at, and tweet questions in with the hashtag #CLchat to learn more.
Better Together in the South: Building Movements across Race, Gender, and Sexual Orientation is the third ARC release on this work. The Better Together program is supported and made possible by a grant from the Arcus Foundation.