Where We Came From & Where We're Headed: A note from Marilynn Winn
I want to share just a little history of where Women on the Rise originated from. I met Xochitl Bervera in 2011 when I was working for The Center for Working Families, Inc. I noticed I was seeing her more and more in the circles I frequented. Xochitl and I began to have conversations about starting an organization - at that time we called it Families for Dignity & Freedom. I remember saying to her, “If I start an organization it will have to be about formerly incarcerated women of color!” At this time, I was working on a Ban the Box campaign, volunteering with 9to5 Atlanta Working Women where I finally landed a job as their lead organizer to lead the Ban the Box campaign.
This is where the strong wooing came in! Xochitl and I continued to have these conversations at meetings and over dinner (No Más Cantina might be considered our first office!) She seemed so confident in my vision. I finally gave in! I said the organization’s name needed to be Women on the Rise, and that I was willing to start this new organization. She agreed and Women on the Rise was birthed. Then we started for real and began having meetings in borrowed office space in the Georgia Hill Building.
The experiment of being a project of the Racial Justice Action Center has been exciting, rewarding, educational and sometimes challenging. Our work with RJAC and Solutions Not Punishment Collaborative (SNaP Co) has been a lesson in innovative collaboration. Our success shows that the experiment of RJAC worked and paid off. We enjoyed every moment of the fun, the victories, the friends, and connections made along the way as RJAC incubated us into existence.
Women on the Rise sees itself as having been nurtured and developed under the transformative leadership of RJAC. We have increased our capacity and infrastructure, and are now ready to stand on our own. Spinning off into our own independent organization is a reward from all the work, sweat, tears and of course the laughter over the past 7 years.
In January 2020, we will continue our work and take it to the next level. We will continue to work in collaboration with our sister and ally organizations on felon disenfranchisement and local District Attorney races. We will continue to work on the Community Over Cages: Close the Jail ATL Campaign to ensure the implementation of the repurposing of the Atlanta Detention Center into a Center for Equity, Wellness, and Freedom for the individuals and communities who have been harmed in it, by it, and for those who needs supportive services. We will continue increasing our membership base by another 55% as we build '100 Women Rising.’ We will continue distributing Welcome Home packages that assist returning citizens when they arrive home, and connecting them to needed resources. We will continue our weekly Support Groups and Participatory Defense work which empowers families to advocate on behalf of incarcerated loved ones. We will continue our monthly meetings that will offer leadership development and robust networking and learning opportunities.
We foresee our next big campaign to be a statewide initiative toward true Record Redemption. We seek to legislatively mandate the clearing of conviction records after 10 years if a person has not been re-arrested so that the formerly incarcerated no longer struggle with the “life sentence” of stigma and discrimination.
We're so humbled by your support and happy you'll be joining on this next phase of our journey. You can support our work at www.womenontherisega.org/donate