Since 2008, NC Women United has awarded an annual Anne Mackie Award to a long-time advocate working to achieve the full equality for the women and girls of North Carolina. Our criteria for making this award doesn’t focus on any particular issue affecting women and girls, nor does it focus on a particular type of advocacy. We are looking for an advocate who is in it for the long haul, who knows that the process of achieving the full political, social and economic equality for the women and girls of North Carolina will take more than one campaign, more than one election cycle and a focus on more than one issue. The advocates we honor are making sure they include a focus on women’s issues in everything they do, from social justice organizing to local neighborhood initiatives.
Erin Dale Byrd, current Executive Director of Blueprint NC, co-founder of the Fertile Ground Food Co-Op, and an early organizer of what has become the Moral Monday movement, embodies the values of NCWU and our Anne Mackie Award. President Tara Romano’s award speech is presented in full below. Please join us in congratulating Erin!
“Thank you all for coming out tonight. We always look forward to our holiday party as a time when we can finally stop and relax and socialize. We have spent more time this past year creating opportunities for us to come together and build relationships in addition to setting strategy, and I feel like we are a stronger movement for those efforts.
And I feel those relationships have been crucial in sustaining our work as we went through another difficult year for social justice. I was looking over my speech from last year, in which I started out with “Well, it’s been a tough year….”; in some ways, I think this year has been worse. Certainly many setbacks for our work. But I still, as I did last year at this time, remain hopeful for the work that we are doing. And it is not because I am some sort of incurable optimist, because I’m not. But I have many reasons why I remain committed to this work, why I believe every day we can take steps towards change. And one of those reasons is the recipient of the 2014 Anne Mackie Award, Erin Dale Byrd.
Ever since Erin came to NC in 2000, she has been an integral part of North Carolina’s social justice fabric. Whether it is clean elections, reproductive health care access, citizen advocacy, racial profiling, or coalition and community building, Erin can speak to a number of our issues eloquently, and she knows how to organize around these issues. Just noting that Erin played a critical role in developing what I consider to be one of the most exciting grassroots movement in the country today – the Moral Monday movement – and that she is also currently the Executive Director of a statewide progressive coalition and the co-founder a much needed food co-op in Southeast Raleigh would be enough to convince people of Erin’s merits for this award. This is the calling card of someone with deep roots in our progressive activist community in North Carolina.
But Erin is more than those accolades. What we really believe it is about Erin that embodies the values of NC Women United and this award is that Erin always brings a gender lens to the work she is doing, no matter what that work is. We know that doesn’t always happen, even within our progressive activist community. And other women can ignore those voices as well as men, so we don’t take it for granted that just because a woman is leading women’s voices will be included. Which makes us even more thankful that we do have this leader in our social justice community who will make that effort to see that women aren’t left out of any of the gains our movement does make.
We also know that Erin will continue to bring, in particular, the voices of women of color to not just the wider movement in North Carolina, but also to the women’s movement we are trying to build. This past year has been a time for NC Women United to take a close look at our movement, and own what it means to truly be an active participant in dismantling the structures of racism and oppression. Erin has been critical partner to NC Women United as we do this transformative work, supporting our efforts even before she really knew much about who NCWU was. But she still believed enough in what we were doing to be a key part of this work. And I hope we can honor that faith put in us. It’s a testament to Erin’s commitment to this movement that she is going down that path with us; while many of us have very good intentions, I know those intentions are not always enough to keep the process from creating missteps that are unproductive, ineffective, or even hurtful. But Erin hasn’t walked away. And that kind of commitment to not just social change, but change within the movement, is why I am so honored to present Erin Dale Byrd with the 2014 Anne Mackie Award.”