About Us

The Southern Rural Black Women’s Initiative for Economic and Social Justice (SRBWI) is a collective of women leaders across Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia dedicated to lifting up Black women and families in rural, impoverished areas.

For generations, Black women have been at the very foundations of the South — mothers, aunts, innovators, activists, leaders and inspirations in the very heart of rural communities. They “made a way out of no way” — and that tenacity is far from gone.
SRBWI exists to pursue solutions to poverty and injustice in the poorest counties in America and to improve the quality of life in our communities.

Our Mission Statement

SRBWI works to eradicate historical race, gender, class, cultural and religious barriers facing Southern rural Black women.

We will:

  • Nourish the internal capacity of women to take responsibility for their own lives, personally and externally.
  • Engage women in advocacy and policy initiatives that redirect local, state and federal resources to help ensure women’s access to economic and social justice.
  • Develop an asset-based economic development strategy that invests in women and communities to help lift women out of poverty.
  • Build organizational capacity within the region to sustain our work.
  • Connect with women’s groups committed to human rights and economic and social justice.

Our History

The Southern Rural Black Women’s Initiative traces its roots back to a meeting convened by the Ford Foundation in New York City in late 2000, where a small group of women from Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi came together to discuss their experience working in the rural South while exploring answers to the most pressing question — What will improve the quality of life for for rural Southern women?

It wasn’t until January 2002 that an expanded group of women met and formally formed the SRBWI. With a planning grant from the Ford Foundation, SRBWI went to work in the areas designated as “persistently poor” for over two decades by the United State Department of Agriculture. Together, they surveyed the growing disparity between rich and poor — and rural women of color were placed at the bottom of every index.

With this in mind, SRBWI works to lift Southern rural Black women out of poverty through sustainable initiatives, leadership development and public policy advocacy.

We serve 77 counties and over 2,500 women across the Mississippi Delta and the Black Belt of Alabama and Southwest Georgia. Although these are among the poorest counties in the nation, the women within them are known for their tenacity.

In working with these women, SRBWI strives to:

For the past 11 years, SRBWI has worked to build upon the rich legacy of strong Southern Black women during the Civil Rights Movement by exposing and fighting barriers of race, class and power that trap Black women and their families in the vicious cycle of poverty.

  • Secure employment or skills that will provide their families with higher incomes
  • Identify services needed in their communities and create self-employment or small business opportunities to meet those needs
  • Develop programs to help young people and senior citizens

Our work has grown a strong, committed and connected network of women leaders throughout the rural parts of Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia. These women are deeply involved in our programs and planning. They tirelessly support Human Rights and advocacy for equitable health care, education, asset-building and job training.

A regional advisory committee made up of representatives from each state are responsible for coordination and oversight.

SRBWI State Lead Organizations

The Children’s Defense Fund also serves as SRBWI’s fiscal agent and regional administrator.

  • Federation of Child Care Centers for Alabama (FOCAL) in Montgomery, Alabama
  • The Southwest Georgia Project for Community Education in Albany, Georgia
  • The Children’s Defense Fund - Southern Regional Office (CDF) in Jackson, Mississippi

Our Staff

Executive Committee

Carol Blackman
CB Enterprises
Jackson, MS

Oleta Garrett Fitzgerald
Southern Regional Director
Children’s Defense Fund — Southern Regional Office
Jackson, MS

Winifred Green
Southern Coalition for Educational Equity
New Orleans, LA

Sophia Bracy-Harris
Former Director of Federation of Childcare Centers of Alabama, Inc.
Montgomery, AL

Shirley Sherrod
Southwest Georgia Project
Albany, GA

Sarah Bobrow-Williams
Bobrow-Williams Consulting
Albany, GA