State Lead Organizations
ALABAMA - BAMA KIDS, INC
BAMA Kids Inc., (Better Activities Makes All-Around Kids), a Camden, AL-based organization dedicated to the holistic development of youth and their families in Wilcox County, AL. Launched in 1993, BAMA Kids, Inc. coordinates resources to provide a comprehensive range of activities that serve as alternatives to negative behavior. BAMA Kids, Inc. has successfully coordinated existing resources, combined varied activities, and developed others to establish a comprehensive program across the county.
Sheryl Threadgill Matthews is director of BAMA Kids, Inc. and the SRBWI Board Historian. Sheryl Threadgill-Matthews is the co-founder and Executive Director of BAMA Kids, Inc. Threadgill-Matthews worked for 29 years for the Wilcox County Department of Human Resources; as a Social Worker and Quality Assurance Coordinator. During her tenue with DHR, Mrs. Threadgill-Matthews also served as the Community Development Coordinator for a W. K. Kellogg-funded project . She started volunteer coalitions and developed resources to support the elderly, families and children. Upon her retirement, Threadgill-Matthews served as director of the Wilcox Area Chamber of Commerce; while continuing to sustain and strengthen the program-components of BAMA Kids, Inc. and its networks.
Threadgill-Matthews comes from a family whose legacy of fighting for justice and civil rights is woven into Alabama history. She was one of eight students who integrated the all-white school system in Wilcox County in 1967 and went on to lifelong service to thousands of youth and families in Alabama’s Black Belt. Threadgill-Matthews graduated from Knoxville College in Tennessee.
GEORGIA – SOUTHWEST GEORGIA PROJECT
Southwest Georgia Project for Community Education (SWGP) is an Albany, GA-based service and advocacy organization founded in 1961 during the Civil Rights Movement to educate and empower marginalized communities. Covering a 14-county swath of Southwest Georgia, SWGP’s work included addressing school integration, voter rights, Black land loss, and welfare rights.
Shirley Sherrod is co-founder of SWGP). Ms. Sherrod co-founded SWGP with her husband Charles Sherrod, and through SWGP, the two spearheaded community organizing campaigns that led to the creation of the first community land trust in the United States.
Ms. Sherrod was also the first African American to serve as Georgia Director of Rural Development for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). She and Charles were class action plaintiffs in the landmark Pigford v. Glickman lawsuit against the UDDA that alleged racial discrimination against African American farmers in allocating farm loans. The farmers’ victory in the case led to the largest civil rights settlement in history.
Ms. Sherrod earned a Bachelor’s Degree at Albany State University and a Master’s Degree at Antioch University. She and her husband are owners of Resort, a 1,638-acre resort near Albany, GA, built on land originally owned by one of the largest slaveholder estates in Georgia.
MISSISSIPPI - Children's Defense Fund – SOUTHERN REGIONAL OFFICE
Southern Rural Black Women’s Initiative (SRBWI) is the Jackson, MS-based, Southern Regional Office for the Children’s Defense Fund. SRBWI operates in 77 counties across the Black Belts of Alabama, Georgia, and Mississippi and is dedicated to lifting up Black women and families in rural, impoverished areas.
Oleta Garrett Fitzgerald is SRBWI Board Chair and has served as the SRBWI Regional Administrator since its inception. She is also Southern Regional Director of the Children’s Defense Fund’s office based in Jackson, MS. She has helped to grow SRBWI from its conception in early 2000 into one of the most formidable organizations in the U. S. focused solely on improving the lives of rural Black Women. SRBWI promotes the first Human Rights agenda in the United States aimed at eradicating historical race, class, cultural, religious and gender barriers experienced by southern rural Black women and young women in the U. S. South.
Ms. Fitzgerald has served as project director for the Southern Regional Council, increasing minority representation on rural electric cooperative boards. She served as former Congressman Mike Espy’s District Director and was appointed White House Liaison and Executive Assistant to then-Secretary of Agriculture Espy by President Bill Clinton. Ms. Fitzgerald has a Bachelor’s of Science degree from Tougaloo College. As a member of the Rural Development Leadership Network, Ms. Fitzgerald received a Master’s of Arts degree from Antioch University Midwest focused on Rural Development including a Summer Study Program at the University of California at Davis.