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Southern Leadership Jam 2018


Apply to the 2018 Southern Leadership Jam! – 7 spaces still left!

From October 3-8, 2018, we will gather at the Feliciana Retreat Center in Norwood, Louisiana.  

This is our 6th Southern Leadership Jam and will be our second time in the Gulf Coast region.

We are thrilled to be coming together under the oaks and pines of eastern Louisiana.



“The South got something to say… that’s all I got to say.” – Andre 3000, Source Awards 1995

Sitting at the crossroads of racial injustice, economic exploitation and threats to civil rights and social justice, we’ve got a lot to say about being both one of the most significant sites of exploitative practices in the country and the home of some of the most inspired and powerful resistance stories today.  


In the South, we are practicing transformative justice in our work both in and out of Southern prisons and jails; We are lifting up the voices of our black and brown and trans sisters in leadership roles; We are defending our families and neighbors against ICE raids; We are building alternative economies to the coal industry in Appalachia; We are bringing grassroots activism inside the walls of the legislature in Jackson, MS; Despite voter repression, marginalized Southerners are turning out to the polls and flipping districts; Led by our indigenous elders, we are defending sacred land and water from the devastation of new pipelines in the Gulf; We are finding creative ways to survive and thrive when neoliberalism attacks poor people instead of conditions of poverty; We are transforming the South with our southern traditions of storytelling, music, political education, popular education, resistance, humor, sharing meals, performance, critical thinking, celebration and so much more.  


Southern transformation prioritizes —  and indeed is made possible by — relational, not transactional movement building.  We know that authentic relationships built across difference demand that we address squarely the land that we live on, the violences that have divided us, the many processes of colonization that have brought us all to this place in which we identify as “Southern.” We are here for the work of healing.  We are here for the work of learning. We are here for the work of manifesting our collective liberation.


As the legacy of the south continues to be (off/)centered in our national dialogues on race, gentrification, resource extraction, politics and almost every facet of our nation, we know that shifting the narrative of exploitation in the south shifts the narrative of this country.  Let’s grow the tradition of freedom fighting inside and out. Let’s say “Yes!” to the work of slowing down, reconnecting to ourselves, to each other, and to nature so we can re-energize, re-frame, and realign our work in ourselves and our communities.  Because together, we’ve got a lot to say.



Southern Jammers are people who are dedicated to creating change in our communities; people who know the beauty, power, and wisdom of each other, our diverse cultures, and varied communities; people who see the the potential of our collective liberation in this vibrant and challenging part of the world.  We are people with the fire in our hearts that calls us 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 6th annual Southern Jam!



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.


150+ Jams have been held with social change-makers all over the world on six different continents over the last 19 years. This is the 6th Southern Leadership Jam. This year the Southern Jam will be coming for the first time to Louisiana, and will be held at the Feliciana Retreat Center in Norwood, Louisiana!  In past years, we’ve gathered at the the Highlander Research and Education Center near Knoxville, TN, Camp Beckwith in Fairhope, AL, Prama Institute in Marshall, NC, and last year at Alex Haley Farm near Knoxville, TN.



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 while caring for and being 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 learning, love, truth, reconciliation, 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 do 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, using a variety of modalities — circles, small group work, movement, meditation, visioning, the arts, play, time in nature, ceremony, and more —  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, 2016 and 2017 Southern Jams:

After 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.



Ashley 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.


John 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.


Hannah 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.


Kate Morales is a learner-artist, storyteller and visual architect. Early in life 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 asking the wind again where to plant themselves next.  As a political artist, graphic recorder and visual facilitator, they are passionate about illustrating ideas and deeply believe that artistic practices support a world in which our movement spaces are able to address the complex challenges of our time with increasing creativity, collaboration and strategic design. Kate is also a member of an emergent network of global leaders who are experimenting with remembering, reimagining and rebuilding learning spaces outside of institutions. Kate’s day to day is informed by capoeira, permaculture, building homespaces with rebel family, and being queer – politically and otherwise.


Rhiana Anthony (she, her, they, boo) is a queer black girl magician working toward collective liberation through community organizing, soulful facilitation, and healing justice. Her roots begin on the Third Coast of Houston, TX and the Piney Woods of rural East Texas. Growing up black, womyn, southern, and working class have shaped her values and influenced her conscious decision to dedicate their life as a Black Southern organizer and abolitionist. Rhiana’s powers activate around housing and land justice, alternative economic development, decriminalization of blackness, mental wellness,  cultural organizing, and healing justice.


Ekua Adisa is a healing artist at the intersection of Black Southern traditions and Haitian and West African practices that center ancestor veneration, earth magic, ritual, and community care. Ekua weaves these threads into their ritual performance work, while providing spiritual support and council for folks on the front lines of the movement for Black liberation and all intersecting movements for liberation. They enjoy creating new systems that undermine old institutions rooted in exclusion and oppression, as well as designing and hosting spaces for groups and individuals to learn, heal, and expand themselves within. They are currently excited about work that uses collective ritual to help communities move collective grief. Ekua’s life philosophy can be summed up into these two words: queer everything.


Shilpa 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.



The Jam will be held at the Feliciana Retreat Center in Norwood, Louisiana, which houses people in a variety of two- and four-person dormitory rooms on-site and offers a healthy, mostly plant-based dining experience.

We are asking people to cover their own travel costs, although we will help arrange carpools from nearby airports such as Baton Rouge. There will be a welcome packet to help you with arranging your travel.

Tuition for the Southern Jam is $900, of which $450 covers food and lodging, while $450 covers program expenses. Additional tax-deductible donations above the event price are welcome and help us to provide scholarships to continue making Jams accessible to more people.

We never want money to be a barrier in participating in a Jam, so we will do everything we can to make it work for you to attend.
 Some partial scholarships and work trades may be available. We also can create a monthly payment plan that works for you. Additional donations above the event price are welcome and help us provide scholarships to support the broad spectrum of participation on which this event thrives (they are also tax-deductible).



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.

August 20, 2018 is our final deadline, and the sooner we receive your application, the better your chances of receiving a partial scholarship and being selected for the Jam.  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, Ekua, Kate, Rhiana, Hannah and Shilpa