Courageous Love: Linda Stout
Linda Stout grew up in North Carolina, daughter of a “mill-town girl” and a tenant farmer, later a mill worker. She is a 13th generation Quaker who grew up inspired by the Quakers’ tradition of speaking up for their beliefs. Her home had no indoor water or plumbing. Other kids were told not to play with her because she was “white trash.” A devastating car accident disabled her mother, who was confined to their trailer because she lacked a wheelchair, not even leaving it for Linda’s high school graduation. Linda figured out on her own how to apply for college and scholarships, then had to drop out when college costs rose and her scholarship didn’t. She worked in a hosiery mill, then in offices.
She started the Piedmont Peace Project in North Carolina in 1984, and with others slowly built it into one of the strongest multi-racial, multi-issue low-income organizations in the state. It won the National Grassroots Peace Award. In a very conservative area, they gradually swayed their Congressman’s votes until he supported limiting the military budget and expanding domestic spending. They were banned from meeting places, had their office vandalized, and had threats from the KKK. Bullets flew through Linda’s bedroom window. After 10 years at PPP, she moved on in search of how to build power and do movement building at the national level. Supported by Harvard Radcliffe Bunting Institute she wrote Bridging the Class Divide: And Other Lessons from Grassroots Organizing (Beacon Press: 1997). She moved to Massachusetts and directed a foundation, the Peace Development Fund, before starting a new organization, Spirit in Action, where she is now the director. Her now book, Collective Visioning: How Groups Can Work Together for a Just and Sustainable Future will be published in the spring (and is available for pre-order on Amazon now).
Linda will be speaking at the UUA General Assembly this year, returning to her beloved North Carolina where she and her wife Angela are planning to build a low-income co-housing community. I met Linda at a time in my life when I was a burned out community organizer. She gave me inspiration and hope, she helped me vision a different future for myself and our world. Shortly after, I started working at the UUA. Linda has been my mentor and in inspiration for keeping on in the work of building beloved community. Her maxim: Build community and social change will follow. She has a big heart.
Lifted up by: Susan Leslie