Activist Mia Raven, baker Monique Williams
Foreword South launched in April 2017 with the goal of giving a platform to the various community members that founders Megan Skipper, Dillon Nettles and Ashley Edwards come in contact with while working across the state.
Childhood friends Skipper and Nettles met Edwards while at Auburn, where they envisioned themselves starting careers helping people elsewhere.
“When we were at Auburn, each of the three of us on our own right had these big dreams because we wanted to be helpers and changemakers and do great community work, and we felt like
After they graduated – Nettles and Edwards in 2015 and Skipper in 2016 – the three all separately moved to Montgomery. While living in the capital city, they found it wasn’t the nightmare they thought it would be.
“We kept talking to each other about these really cool community people that we’d met who are artists and social workers and entrepreneurs, and we were amazed by them,” Skipper said. “[W]e kept saying, ‘Why aren’t these the stories that are told to people when it’s time to talk about the South?’”
Foreword South has published detailed, long-form pieces on people like Charles Lee, owner of Montgomery hot dog restaurant That’s My Dog, who came to Alabama from Chicago after surviving a shooting at age 13.
In 2012, Lee started a nonprofit to mentor the city’s youth “through arts and entrepreneurship.”
“We consider ourselves storytellers,” Edwards said. “We weave in … the private stories that we hear of the people that we’ve met in the community every day.”
Montgomery, a city entrenched with a history of civil rights struggles and triumphs, has proved to be the perfect place for Foreword South’s mission, Nettles said.
“Really all the work the folks are doing now, even the work the three of us are doing, is all only able to happen because of what our forebears did when they laid the groundwork,” he said. “So while our stories may not be focused on history and those people of the past, we do really try to weave in those legacies into the work that we put out on our platform.”
Foreword South is attempting to cover the lives of ordinary Southerners in a way national political reporters don’t. Alabama was swamped by national media members during the lead up to last year’s Senate special election, but after Doug Jones’ upset victory on Dec. 12, not many stuck around.
But it was on that Tuesday night in December when the three felt reaffirmed about their work thus far.
“I think the Doug Jones win was a moment and a message that for so many communities who have been disenfranchised,” Edwards said. “[W]e can rally together to get out the vote, to educate the electorate, to make sure that people whose votes have been suppressed … can rally together and make sure that everyone gets to the polls to send a message.”
Skipper said she thinks
“Either people like them exist or people different from them exist, and both of those things are equally valuable when you’re talking about creating community and building trust,” she said.
“That’s a beautiful thing about storytelling. I think it’s equally an art and also political activism.”
On Saturday, Foreword South will host its first live show at the Goat Haus in Montgomery. Eventually, the group hopes to venture into more mediums, like podcasting, and open satellite offices around the South – in cities more like Savannah rather than those like Atlanta – but for now it has two contributors based in New Orleans.
Though the group of 20-something Alabamians originally thought they would move away from home, they all said they’re dedicated to sticking around the South, at least for now.
“I truly have figured out who I am in Montgomery and think I got so much more clarity