As we reflect on our 2023 Action Network retreat, it’s truly inspiring. This journey immersed us in the heart of history, culture, and activism, as we explored the vibrant cities of Atlanta and Montgomery, Alabama. During Black History Month, we can’t help but recall how this experience profoundly shaped us and fueled our unwavering commitment to progressive advocacy.
Our adventure kicked off with a bold idea from Mark Fleischman, founder of Action Network and an experienced organizer. He pitched the concept of hosting our annual retreat in Atlanta, and with a bit of internal organizing efforts, the idea gained swift traction and was selected as our destination. Atlanta’s rich history, with its civil rights leaders and thriving grassroots organizing legacy, provided the ideal backdrop for our retreat.
Our journey transcended the confines of a historical tour; it became a wellspring of inspiration that continues to propel our mission forward.
In Atlanta, we followed the usual retreat schedule, complete with planning sessions, icebreakers, shared meals, and meaningful meetings with some remarkable partners based in the city. However, this retreat held a unique purpose: connecting us with the roots of our progressive movement.
To deepen our understanding, we sought the expertise of Mr. Roger Pennyman, a local guide who added a personal touch to our journey from Atlanta to Montgomery, Alabama. Mr. Pennyman guided us through significant Atlanta landmarks, offering insights about the MLK Memorial, the profound history of grassroots organizing at the Atlanta University Center Consortium (Spelman, Morehouse, and Clark Atlanta), and the pivotal role of the Black church as an organizing hub.
Leaving Atlanta on our chartered bus headed for Montgomery marked a pivotal moment in our journey. Once we arrived at The Legacy Museum and National Memorial for Peace and Justice we were met with the unfiltered truths of racial injustice in America’s history. It served as a stark reminder of the urgency of our ongoing fight for social justice.
In addition to visiting The Legacy Museum and National Memorial for Peace and Justice, we were fortunate to have a private audience with Bryan Stevenson, the visionary founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI), a human rights organization headquartered in Montgomery. Under his leadership, EJI has achieved remarkable success in challenging unfair sentencing, exonerating innocent death row prisoners, and advocating for the rights of incarcerated individuals and children prosecuted as adults. Additionally, Mr. Stevenson has argued and won multiple cases at the United States Supreme Court, including a 2019 ruling protecting condemned prisoners who suffer from dementia and a landmark 2012 ruling that banned mandatory life-imprisonment-without-parole sentences for all children 17 or younger. Our candid conversation with Mr. Stevenson was an enriching and transformative experience.
Our journey transcended the confines of a historical tour; it became a wellspring of inspiration that continues to propel our mission forward. We wholeheartedly embraced the timeless lessons from the Civil Rights Movement, understanding the profound impact of grassroots organizing, the enduring significance of nonviolent resistance, and the unifying strength found in diverse coalitions. The 2023 Action Network retreat in Atlanta and Montgomery served as a pivotal milestone in our ongoing journey, and we eagerly anticipate sharing more of our experiences, insights, and progress with you in the future. Together, we remain steadfast in our dedication to building a brighter and more equitable future.