(510) 922-8556 info@yesworld.org

Southern Leadership Jam 2017

5th Annual Southern Leadership Jam e-card (4)

Apply Today!

Final deadline: June 30, 2017


Southern Jam 2017

A Call to Co-Envision, Unite, and Build in the South!

August 4-9, 2017

Highlander Research and Education Center, New Market, TN




So much is upon us in this moment; we see Fascism and alternative facts being normalized while Black and Brown bodies are continuously targeted. At the same time, large-scale shows of resistance and people power are emerging all over the world. The South is showing up strong, demonstrating new normals with fusion and intersectional organizing, moral agendas and grassroots efforts all across the South. W.E.B. Dubois’ famous words ring just as true today “as goes the South, so goes the nation.”  Sitting at the crossroads of racial injustice, economic exploitation and threats to civil rights and social justice, the South remains both the most exploited region of the country and the home of some of the most inspired and powerful resistance in history. A connected and organized South impacts the entire country.


The Southern Jam is a place to deepen into the organizing and community building aspects of this moment, while also tending to the personal and collective healing that is necessary for the marathon we are running together. Let’s grow the legacy of freedom fighting, inside and out. It’s time to build bridges across our divides, put forth radical visions for what the South and the United States could be, and take bold steps together toward that future.


We are experiencing hateful rhetoric and ideology translated into legislation and policy across the country, and it is most concentrated in the South. A few of many examples: “Bathroom bills”denying transgender people access to the bathroom have been filed in 5 Southern states. In Arkansas, a bill has been introduced which would make teaching books by Howard Zinn, author of A People’s History of the United States, illegal. Mississippi remains the state with the highest poverty rate in the country, and Louisiana continues to incarcerate people at a higher rate than any other state or country in the world.


At the same time, we are in a new moment of movement-building momentum.  From the ongoing Moral Mondays movement in North Carolina, to Louisiana organizers’ efforts to stop the Bayou Bridge pipeline, people in the South and across the nation are rising up and experiencing the power of unified action. The US South has incredible potential for establishing a New Normal — just imagine how the world would change if we did.


Southern Jammers are people who are dedicated to creating change in our communities, people who know the beauty, power, and wisdom of each other, diverse cultures, and varied communities — people who see the liberatory potential in this rich and challenging part of the world — people who are motivated to build beloved community.


With all that is happening, we find it crucial to come together across difference to connect, heal, share our stories, and dream together. We want to celebrate our victories and share what it looks like for each of us to create safe, just, and sustainable lives and communities. Through collective truth-telling, deep listening, and support, we push back against the ‘divide-and-rule’ story, often used to justify oppression.


Together, we connect the dots of our work and lives, build beloved community, and expand in self-awareness. This year’s jammers will experientially co-envision a New Normal for the South while sharing tools and creating knowledge on how to get there. YOU – organizers, artists, entrepreneurs, healers, strategists, public officials, business leaders, dreamers, thinkers, activists, builders, educators, poets, researchers, philanthropists,  non-profit leaders, and all-around up-standers and visionaries — are invited to join us for the 5th annual Southern Jam!


We will gather at the historic Highlander Research and Education Center, a sacred place of learning that played instrumental roles in the labor movement of the 1930s and the Civil Rights movement of the 50s and 60s. In this new moment of activation and mobilization, what better place to dream, vision and build than this historic home of justice. It’s also the 85th anniversary of the Highlander Center this year!  What better way to celebrate the history, legacy and many achievements of this place, than by Jamming for the present and future we hope to see.



A Jam is a gathering that works on three different levels in order to support change: the internal (self), the interpersonal (relationships) and the systemic (our processes & the whole).  Jam comes from the spirit of a musicians’ jam — a confluence of many voices, purposes, stories and energies, to co-create something that has never been seen before.  It is not a conference, seminar or a typical meeting.

125+ Jams have been held with social change-makers all over the world on six different continents over the last 18  years. This is the 5th Southern Leadership Jam. This year the Southern Jam will be returning to our first gathering site, the Highlander Research and Education Center near Knoxville, TN.  In the intervening years, we’ve gathered at the Prama Institute in Marshall, NC, and Camp Beckwith in Fairhope, AL.



The conveners envision the Southern Jam as an on-going gathering and “think–act” tank where intentional self-reflection, relationship-building, strategizing and visioning takes root on the ground, and in our day-to-day lives and work.  The Jam offers five days to slow-down and intentionally reflect on our current struggles and work while integrating play, creativity, healing, connection, honest conversation, and dream-building. The Southern Jam incorporates three fields of transformation: the inner/internal, the interpersonal and the systemic.


On the inner/internal level: 

The Southern Jam will allow for purposeful conversation that will be centered on questions like: How do I thrive and sustain in the midst of an often chaotic and violent political climate? How do I take care of myself, care for, and be taken care of by community? How do I find more balance across the many responsibilities in my life? How do I evolve my work and role in my community?  What’s my purpose/calling and how do I live into it more?  How do I want my values to be manifested in my daily practices?  What tools and processes are useful to helping me pause, heal, or center myself?


On the interpersonal level:

The Southern Jam knows that healing across our divides is essential and seeks to explore: How do we create Beloved Community in the South and our day-to-day lives? How do we find connections and common ground across our different forms of social change work? How can we heal wounds amongst ourselves that have been developed and inherited across social identities? How can we together create forms of dialogue and conversation that center on learning, love, truth, forgiveness and transformation?


On the systemic level:

Social change-making can sometimes be all-consuming. In the Southern Jam, we challenge ourselves to ask fundamental questions to build and sustain our movement infrastructure (i.e. relationship & networks):  How can we continue to challenge discriminatory and oppressive policies and regressive socio-economic conditions that permeate the South? How can we build and sustain our movement infrastructure? How do we stay hopeful in the face of growing income inequality, anti-immigration, environmental degradation, transphobia and more? What place does reform, resistance, (re)imagining, and (re)creating occupy in this work? How can we better understand what’s happening state by state and where we have common ground?  How can we connect the dots of what we are each doing and see a picture of the whole vision we seek?

What questions do you have?  They are welcome!  


Yours, these and many more questions are the basis of the Jam.  And, by exploring them together, we will build a foundation for lasting, transformative change throughout the South.



The Jam is being sponsored by YES!, an organization dedicated to connecting, inspiring, and collaborating with change-makers through exploratory and innovative programs that meet the evolving needs and opportunities of our world. The Jam will be facilitated and organized by several alumni from the 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016 Southern Jams:

FB_IMG_1462923518221After 21 years of living in the north, Jovan Julien moved south in 2010 after graduating from school. Since then he has called Atlanta, GA home. He works in the same city and regionally working on building intersectional movement with organizers, community members, and friends grounded in a practice of Beloved Community. His work often has him moving between the US South and the Caribbean as he brings his skills, passions, and dreams into being.

ACAshley Cooper believes in the goodness of humans — in our abilities to collaboratively address the complex challenges we face and care for one another along the way. She is devoted to creating a more loving and equitable world. She has worked as a teacher, school counselor, community organizer, entrepreneur, coach, consultant, and facilitator. Her experience has demonstrated that meaningful change comes from diverse groups who are able to face the truth, imagine innovative possibilities, and collaborate to create the world they want to live in. Ashley identifies with her Southern roots- born in Tennessee, raised in Georgia and currently residing in Asheville, North Carolina.


20170405_060954John Paul Taylor is an Emmy-nominated poet from the award-winning documentary “Mr. Dial Has Something To Say”. He is the co-founder and director of Real Life Poets, a non-profit community service organization focusing on mentoring young adults, and encouraging good communication and oratorical skills using spoken word poetry and the arts. His passion for the arts and ability to inspire youth of all ages afforded him the opportunity to connect with many community leaders and organizations. John Paul organized the first Alabama youth poetry slam team to be invited to the Brave New Voices International Teen Poetry Festival and finished Top 20 in the world. Most recently, he leads the Teen Poetry Initiative which is a partnership with the Birmingham Public Library and funded by the Alabama State Council on the Arts.  In addition, he is the coordinator of the Hip Hop is Life program for the youth from UAB Juvenile TASC/ASAP program. John Paul has served as vice-president of the board of directors for Youth Towers, non-profit aimed to help fight youth/young adult homelessness. John Paul co-founded Real Global Poets and created a international poetry exchange project between youth in Alabama and youth in Kenya sharing life experiences through poetry. Currently, he is a part of the inagural class for UAB Public Health’s Community Research Fellowship training and of Birmingham Equally United, a group of community members and police officers geared to improving community and police relations.


IMG_1536Hannah Sadtler is a social ecologist, group harmonist, and popular educator for community transformation. Raised by Quakers in the Northeast, she’s been living and loving in New Orleans since 2008, a city which has profoundly shaped her life and work. Hannah’s main organizing focuses in recent years have been the struggle for a just and liberatory education system, and racial justice movement-building with other people of European descent. She is challenged and inspired by the indomitable, embracing culture and people of New Orleans every day, and the long history of both resistance to oppression and manifestation of love and liberation throughout the South. Being rooted here sustains her belief in the power of communities to build a new world.

FullSizeRenderKate Morales is a learner-artist, storyteller and visual architect. Early on Kate blew across the world from the Blue Ridge mountains to the Himalayas, a little seed that picked up strains of resistance and resilience along the journey and now finds themselves planted in an actual garden in downtown Atlanta.  After a few years of being yelled at by their ancestors y’all, Kate is now comfortable in publicly affirming that they are on a spiritual path of love, connection and healing. Their hustle involves visual facilitation, graphic recording, and giving it their all to help folks have more interesting meetings, while Kate’s daily life-work is informed by capoeira and permaculture, and centers home-making and chasing the sustainability dream.  They are most aligned with god(ness) when collaborating with rebel friends in ATL and across the world making political art, striking that sweet balance of heart-mind, and being queer, politically and otherwise.

305278_10150359822245140_747470139_10190432_242988494_nShilpa Jain is currently rooting herself in Oakland/Berkeley, CA, where she serves as the Executive Director of YES!. Prior to taking on this role, Shilpa spent two years as the Education and Outreach Coordinator of Other Worlds and ten years as a learning activist with Shikshantar: The Peoples’ Institute for Rethinking Education and Development, based in Udaipur, India, where she served as coordinator of the Swapathgami (Walkouts-Walkons) Network. All of her work seeks to uncover ways for people to free themselves from dominating, soul-crushing institutions and to live in greater alignment with their hearts and deepest values, their local communities, and with nature.

Our last organizer, Tasha Fletcher, will be sending in her photo and bio soon!


“APPLY! APPLY! APPLY! This retreat changed my life. The things I learned about myself in this space were integral to affirming my work and gave me a taste of the world I want to create. DO IT!”

– Rhiana Anthony, 24, Black Lives Matter, Nashville, TN

“I so appreciate the thoughtful flow of the week. From a group of nervous strangers to a connected & powerful community, the skilled facilitators guided us through the journey with a rich plethora of tools and experiences. I feel renewed and nourished and equipped with a greater variety of techniques to bring to my home community and my work community. Thank you for an incredible, hope-renewing, experience.”

– McKenzie Wren, 49, Clarkston Community Center, Atlanta and Clarkston, GA

“There were a host of terrific ideas that can only come to fruition by means of the changemakers that I met here. I also learned much about building the right structure of support for organizing endeavors.”

– Gabriel Santos, 38, faculty and community organizer, Lynchburg College, Lynchburg, VA

“Being at a cross-roads in my life, I arrived here with a big idea, but not knowing if I had the energy or the means to achieve it. This amazing journey nourished my parched soul and gave me the inspiration and support I need to move forward with courage and confidence.”

– Marla Durden, 48, coach & consultant, Houston, TX


“When Martin Luther King stood on a hill in Tennessee and looked down into a valley and had his vision… This is that same hill that I was looking down in this picture. Words cannot express the feelings I had as I sat and meditated on this hill, to walk among the same grounds and sit in the same places that Rosa Parks and many people that brought about profound change in our land was such an inspiring and overwhelming feeling, the healing that I shared with others at this place as we envisioned a new South. The spirit of these change makers reached into my most inner soul and showed me who I really was as a person. To finally find myself, to understand myself, to freely BE myself is a reward in which I will never be able to fully pay back, but I will try with the rest of my life to pay that feeling back with the work I do. I can’t wait to share my new vision with my friends in Arkansas, the South and places afar, as we change the land around us for ourselves, our children, and the people our children will be among. To build the new economy, to build communities, and to build ourselves and our future, my destiny has been revealed and I can never forget the people that helped me in my journey and helped promote a new awakening inside of me.”

– Brandon C, 28, visual artist and designer, Occupy Arkansas, Hoxie, AK



The Jam will be held at the Highlander Center, which houses people in a variety of dormitory rooms on-site and offers a healthy, mostly plant-based dining experience. We are asking people to cover their own travel costs. There will be a welcome packet to help you with arranging your travel.


Tuition for the Southern Jam is $950, of which $550 covers food and lodging for the time, while $400 covers program expenses. Additional tax-deductible donations above the event price are welcome and help us to provide scholarships to enable the diversity upon which this event thrives.  We ask people to contribute on a sliding scale of $500-$1100, with a base suggestion of $600.

We will work with each participant to create a combination of payment, scholarship and work trade that works for them.  Also, we have the option of a monthly payment plan as well.  Money should not be a barrier in participating in a Jam, so we will do everything we can to make it work for you to attend.


If you want to join us in co-learning, collaborating, and co-creating region-wide connections to tackle the current challenges across the South and a fresh vision of what’s possible here, please complete the application today.

June 30, 2017 is our final application deadline.

We have space for 30 people and are aiming to bring together a diversity of folks from around the region.

If you have any questions that this invitation does not answer, and/or need any more information, please do not hesitate to contact us at <southernjaminfo[at]gmail.com>.

Looking forward to Jamming with you!

John Paul, Ashley, Jovan, Tasha, Kate, Hannah and Shilpa