I’m sorry I didn’t catch this until it hit my local paper this morning—after 36 years of social advocacy, the South Dakota Peace and Justice Center has folded. The group just didn’t have the financial support to keep working on “banning the box” to help ex-cons get jobs, promoting income equality and corporate accountability, protecting the environment, speaking for American Indian rights, and other good progressive causes.
Alarmingly, the South Dakota Peace and Justice Center didn’t have the people:
The group has lost significant ground in fund raising since its inception, particularly over the past three years, said Brian Bach, the Rapid City-based former president of the board of directors.
“The political demographics in South Dakota have changed over the last 40 years,” Bach said. “A lot of the people who’d supported us in the early 90s had left us” [John Hult, “SD Peace Center Closes Down,” that Sioux Falls paper, 2016.10.12].
Hmmm… maybe I need to revise my prediction to Mr. Jones that Hillary Clinton can coax more than the 31.6% of South Dakota voters who are Democrats to come to their humane senses at the polls and vote for someone qualified for the job of President.
On the less dim side, it’s not just progressive groups like the Peace and Justice Center having trouble sustaining membership. Count the grey heads at either major party’s county meetings, or at your local nonpartisan Rotary or Kiwanis. Plenty of community groups have trouble engaging the current generation of parents, workers, and students to carry on the work of their aging members. All groups face the challenge of piercing the attention-deficit-inducing media blizzard and reaching potential donors and volunteers with their messages.
And on the good side, the Augustana Democrats were able to recruit fifty-some marchers for their Black Lives Matter demonstration at Viking Days.
Still, we have lost one useful organized voice for social justice in South Dakota, because we have lost committed voices for progress. Time for more voices—and hands!—to rise and fill that vacuum!