Building Black-Brown Coalitions in the Southeast


As the percentage of Latinos in the U.S. has risen dramatically, from just under 5 percent in 1970 to 15.4 percent in 2008, writers, researchers, community members, and activists have grown more interested in the ways African Americans and Latinos are relating to each other. Many recent publications have called for, or evaluated the prospects of, cooperative activities and coalitions to solve common problems. On October 5-6, 2008, the first National Black- Latino Summit was held in Los Angeles. Prominent on this meeting’s agenda were such topics as environmental justice, the criminal justice system, access to health care, and immigration. Overcoming the problem of the color line is going to require coalitions among all of those affected by it, particularly between Black and Latino communities. The Southern Regional Council (SRC), one of the country's oldest civil rights organizations, recently released a report that examnies Black and Latino coalitions. The report features case studies from four successful coalitions in the South, and it includes lessons learned that could be useful for other organizations seeking to build such coalitions. Through research, informal discussions with individuals intimately involved with the issue of inter-ethnic collaboration, and four focus group sessions, they have gained greater clarity about effective coalition- building among African Americans and Latinos. Times are changing in the Southeast. Latinos have become an integral part of the Southeastern social, economic and political landscape. Their exponential growth within some states has led to tensions, but it has also brought forth new opportunities in the struggle for freedom, justice, and equality. Based on their research, they have identified nine elements that prove very helpful in establishing and sustaining an African American/Latino coalition: Establish Trust Among Coalition Members, Identify the Issues, Develop a Process for Communication, Find a Safe Place to Meet, Promote Contextual Understanding, Promote Representative Leadership Predicated on Trust, Develop an Agenda Based on Current Community Concerns, Identify Goals, Objectives and Tasks that are Attainable, and Participants Should Enjoy the Company of One Another.

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