Linda Stout is an activist and a visionary. In her lifetime, she has identified and worked against injustice within her world, her country and her community. Like so many women – a handful recognized, most invisible – she has refused to be silenced or stopped from building inclusive, direct democracy. As a 13th-generation Quaker born to a tenant-farming family in the Piedmont region of North Carolina, Linda first recognized racial and economic injustice in the mid-1970s. Refusing to support the racism and classism endemic in the textile mill where she worked, Linda left a desperately needed paycheck and began a lifelong mission for social change.
In 1985, after several years working for a civil rights law office, she founded a successful grassroots organization called the Piedmont Peace Project (PPP). PPP quickly attracted national attention for its success in drawing leadership from within a poor and working-class community–empowering people who never had a voice in policy decisions to speak up for their own interests–and building an organization where a high level of diversity was achieved and maintained at every level. PPP established itself in the midst of a daunting mix of well-organized corporate interests including textile giant Cannon Mills and icons of the political right wing such as the Moral Majority, Senator Jesse Helms and the Ku Klux Klan. In order to work at the national level, Linda Stout accepted the Executive Director position at the Peace Development Fund (PDF) in 1995. Under Linda’s leadership, PDF tripled its grant-making capacity and initiated several groundbreaking projects, including the Community Media Organizing Project, the Southeast Training for Trainers Program and the National Listening Project.
Linda founded Spirit in Action in 2000 to seek out transformative tools, models and resources for building a powerful and visionary progressive movement. Spirit in Action’s core initiatives, Circles of Change and the Progressive Communicators Network, produced real change in communities across the country. Most notably, both programs have contributed to the rebuilding of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina through Kids Rethink New Orleans Schools – a student-led initiative to rebuild New Orleans’ public schools and KIN – the Katrina Information Network that has mobilized and educated reporters about the systemic issues of race and class at play in New Orleans and the Gulf region.
Linda is the author of countless articles, blogs and a critically acclaimed book, Bridging the Class Divide, published by Beacon Press in 1997. Her awards and honors include a Public Policy Fellowship from Harvard’s Radcliffe College, the Freedom Fighter Award of the Equal Rights Congress, the Petra Foundation Fellowship, and Studs Terkel’s profile of her life in his book, Hope Dies Last. She has been active in several volunteer organizations including Class Action, United for a Fair Economy and the Radcliffe Public Policy Institute Economic Justice Task Force. Always a crusader for justice speaking from the heart, Linda has given more than 500 lectures, sermons and workshops in the last 40 years in an effort to use her voice to unite change-makers to create a just world. Her book, Collective Visioning, published by Berrett-Koehler in 2011, shows how to create an inspiring vision, including a process for building trust so that people from every background work together with passion, commitment and joy. Her TAKE 10 Workbook, published by Amazon, is a guide for organizers everywhere to help them think deeply and creatively about their work.
Check out her website www.lindastout.org.