My name is Chuck Reece, and I’m not bitter anymore.
What I am is hopeful. Some might say to be hopeful is to be nuts, in these times when it seems everybody has picked one side or another, locked themselves in, and just want to yell at each other.
But I know a lot of people who would rather do something different: They want to talk. And these people — the ones who want to have conversations that might bring a little more peace into this world — need a place of their own.
That’s why my talented wife Stacy and I have partnered up to provide a publication — and an online community to go with it — called Salvation South.
Salvation South will be inspired by hope and healing and — most importantly — the desire to create a place on the web and a community of people where civil conversation can happen.
Salvation South will be a publication for people who believe that our region — the American South — actually could become the “beloved community” envisioned by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Salvation South will ask you questions and welcome your answers, because we believe the beloved community can be built only through a persistent dedication to conversation — even, sometimes, with people who disagree with you.
We invite you, with all of our hearts, to become part of the community we believe will unite around this publication. Truth be told, we’re thinking of Salvation South as a big ol’ house party. The kitchen will be full of cooks and farmers and eaters talking about recipes — deviled egg arguments and barbecue battles. The living room will be filled with folks talking about Southern writers and artists who inspire us — everyone from William Faulkner to Zora Neale Hurston to Lonnie Holley and Willie Birch. In the backyard, people will be singing and dancing to the music we’re so proud of — our blues, our rock, our hip-hop, our soul, our R&B, our gospel, our country.
On the back porch, there will be a gaggle of folks whose conversations are serious. Good folks talking about our current divisions and what to do about them. They will have these conversations knowing the seeds of our nation’s current conflict were planted and nurtured in the South. Our region fought to maintain the original sin of slavery. Our region fought — and still fights — to maintain a system that is not equitable. They will also know that racism was taught to so many of us when we were children, and that our job today is to unlearn those lessons.
The Salvation South house party will always be filled with people who believe “a change is gonna come,” if I may borrow the words of that great son of Clarksdale, Mississippi, Sam Cooke. And when the party finally breaks up — probably 3 a.m. or so — we will all still be friends.
I founded another publication eight years ago because I became angry about the stereotyping of Southerners. But these days, stereotypes are the least of the South’s problems. Our region’s deepest problem is division. Southerners are divided from each other eight ways to Sunday. Salvation South will never stoke the fires of those divisions. It will be a place where people of good will can talk, where writers and photographers and filmmakers can bring us food for thought that we can talk about together.
We start off today by asking you to support us financially. Stacy and I cannot do this by ourselves. We already have commitments from some of the South’s greatest writers to contribute essays and stories that aim to start conversations. But to make Salvation South an enduring publication, we need the seed money to start it. We aim to pay our contributing writers, photographers, filmmakers and illustrators the rates they deserve, not the pittances that too many publications offer them today. We intend to produce a podcast. We want no less than to show the world a group of Southerners who are dedicated to having the difficult conversations that can ultimately bring down our divisions.
That’s why we ask you to invest as much as you can to help us kick off the Salvation South house party, one to which you will always be invited as long as you mind your manners and act right.
Salvation South will celebrate all the delicious elements of our culture, because Southerners of all stripes created it together, no matter how or why we came to this region. Salvation South will always celebrate our common culture.
And Salvation South will not approach our current divisions with anger. Instead, it will tell the stories of Southerners in the fervent hope that together, we can find salvation from the wounds that divide us — and that together, we can find salvation in the culture that binds us. Our door is open to everyone who seeks hope and healing.
Welcome to Salvation South.