Celebrating Black History Month includes recognizing those who are leaving an impact, making a change, and taking a stand now. This week, we’re highlighting a multifaceted community organizer who is “connecting the dots” on the complex challenges his hometown faces.
Artist and community activist Broderick Flaningan is doing the work in his native Athens, Georgia. He is involved in a variety of projects in Athens, home of the University of Georgia, and beyond that connects individuals and groups to resources, and each other.
“I’d describe my work as connecting the dots in order to create institutions that enable more people to experience more freedoms. This includes access to equitable education, fair housing, and good jobs at prevailing wages,” Flanigan said when asked to describe his work. He owns an art studio in Athens where he teaches and makes a difference through art activism. He’s painted several murals around the city and hosted events for other groups seeking to make change.
Broderick says he got started after noticing how he and his peers were experiencing life.
“I was motivated to start this work after coming home from college to see that many people I grew up with and myself were experiencing poverty the same way or even worse than the generation before us. I decided to do something about it,” he said.
Over the summer, Broderick launched a grassroots educational program in response to the learning needs of underserved communities by bringing teaching materials to kids and providing homework help. This was especially helpful as students in Athens, like many across the country, work to get and stay connected to virtual learning amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“A commitment to people and a desire for everyone to experience the freedoms our society has to offer is what keeps me going. Passion and a strong network helps when things get tense,” Broderick said.
When asked about what impact he hopes his efforts will have, Broderick says he hopes it “will be transformative in a sustainable and tangible way.” Broderick’s goals for this year include opening a workers’ center to advocate for labor rights, “leadership training and development.”
He also wants to grow the membership of the center to participate in “informing new policy at the local level around labor for local government contracts [and] bids.” The center would be worker-centered, Broderick said, “making sure to let the workers identify and lead the issues we organize around.”
For those looking to get involved in their communities, Broderick suggests leaning into individuality: “I would suggest finding ways to do work in their own communities that enable the freedoms of others. There are many levels to it…” he said. “Be consistent in the work,” he added, “Stay grounded in truth and knowledge. Ask questions when you don’t understand. Then ask more questions when you do understand.”
Photo: Courtesy Of Broderick Flanigan