“The Fierce Urgency of Now:” Alternate ROOTS 2020 Preview

Rebecca Mwase performing Looking at Abroad at ROOTS Week 2017. Photo by Melisa Cardona.


On this day honoring the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., we at Alternate ROOTS are looking to the year ahead and reflecting on these words from Dr. King’s 1967 speech, “Beyond Vietnam – A Time to Break Silence:”

“We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there “is” such a thing as being too late. This is no time for apathy or complacency. This is a time for vigorous and positive action.

As we once again hear the beat of war drums, see the effects of poverty, mass incarceration, and environmental destruction, and move into a year that includes both a national election and a census, we at ROOTS know that we as artists and activists are now – and still – in a time of urgent need to activate ourselves and our communities.

As we did in 2019, we will spend the year exploring this theme, The Fierce Urgency of Now. We see ALL of the work of ROOTS – from our partnership programs to our organizing spaces like ROOTS Week and ROOTS Commons – as ways that we as a community activate in response to this time. You’ll find the key dates for 2020 listed below.

Please join us as we share strategies of how to amplify our art and action right here, right now in this critical time.


Jose Torres-Tama performing ALIENS, IMMIGRANTS AND OTHER EVILDOERS at ROOTS Week 2019. Photo by Eli Lakes (edits by Melisa Cardona).



  • After a year of staff-and-member-led visioning our new strategic plan was approved by the Executive Committee this past December, and went into effect the first of the year. Currently in the design phase, look for a public launch of the 2020-2024 strategic plan in March.


  • This year’s ROOTS Week Annual Meeting & Artists Retreat takes place in Arden, NC August 4-9. The Call for Proposals will open January 30, and will be due February 28. Registration will open in early May.


Partners in Action cohort convening, 2016 in Eatonville, FL. Photo: Ariston Jacks.


  • 2020 marks the start of ROOTS’ newest partnership program, Partners for Change, co-designed in partnership with The Surdna Foundation. Through Partners for Change ROOTS will invest deeply into strengthening the network of artists, communities, regional and national partnerships in support of a progressive southern movement by strategically funding artists/cultural workers of color and people of color led organizations. Partners for Change will provide recipients with $25,000 over three years (for a total of $75,000) as well as matching dollars in technical assistance, support and services to projects that imagine and practice more racially just systems and structures, led by artists or artists collectives of color, or small arts organizations led by people of color. Applications launch February 3 and are due March 10. More details on eligibility coming soon. Contact ashley@alternateroots.org for questions. Check out Ashley’s Partners for Change video introduction here!


  • Our long-running Artistic Assistance program provides direct support to individual artists and cultural workers in the South to enhance their skills, create unique projects, and build community. Two funding cycles are offered throughout the year: Project Development in the spring (applications open February 28; due April 3) and Professional Development in the fall (applications open August 14; due September 18). Members, please note that these are in a different order this year!
    To be eligible to apply, renew your ROOTS membership, or become a General or Voting member, AND complete your membership profile by Friday, February 14th. For questions or assistance with setting up your membership or profile, contact aimee@alternateroots.org.


  • Continuing our partnership with Southern Movement Assembly, we encourage all members and supporters to join the SMA monthly general calls to stay updated with organizing on the ground across the region, and support each other to grow our forces within the 21st Century Southern Freedom Movement. We also hope to see you at the SMA Organizing Intensive in Little Rock, AR this March 20-22. 


  • We’re thrilled to announce ROOTS Weekend: Little Rock this fall – exact dates TBD (but we’ll let you know as soon as they’re set!). Condensed versions of ROOTS Week, these three-day convenings bring artists, activists, and cultural organizers together to build community and share work through workshops, dialogues, visual arts, and performances.


Alison Kibbe performing body/s in question at ROOTS Week 2018. Photo by Melisa Cardona.












  • After five cycles of Partners in Action cohorts, we are pausing in 2020 to reflect and understand how the program has been beneficial and how it can make a deeper impact. During this hiatus from bringing on new partners, we will gather all the past recipients and key supporters for a Partners in Action Reunion at Highlander Research & Education Center in New Market, TN this June.


  • Welcome back Ashley Walden Davis from her 6 month sabbatical (you can read all about it here)! This year is Paige Heurtin’s turn, and she’ll take hers  beginning in October. Six-month paid sabbaticals are offered to staff member ok s after six years of service and are one of the ways we seek to create a healthy and sustainable work culture that prioritizes staff wellness and keeps us energized for the long haul.


  • The Intercultural Leadership Institute, of which ROOTS is one of four founding partner organizations, will begin its third cohort this year. Stay tuned for more information coming soon!


  • Beyond all our partnerships, events, and programs, there are so many ways to be an active ROOTS member. You can attend monthly ExComm meetings (all are listed in the Members News and on our calendar), join a work group, get funding to host a Rhizome in your community, and set up your member profile, just to name a few. An active membership makes for a healthy ROOTS!
Alternate ROOTS supports the creation and presentation of original art that is rooted in communities of place, tradition or spirit. We are a group of artists and cultural organizers based in the South creating a better world together. As Alternate ROOTS, we call for social and economic justice and are working to dismantle all forms of oppression—everywhere.