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Karen Baynes-Dunning Elected as Chair of the SPLC Board of Directors

First Woman and Black Woman to Serve as Chair  

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Today, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) announced that Karen Baynes-Dunning was elected by the SPLC Board of Directors as chair of the board. Baynes-Dunning, who first joined the board in October 2017, has played a crucial role in the organization’s reimagining as a catalyst for racial justice in the South and beyond.

The Board of Directors also elected Emery Wright as vice chair. Wright, executive director of Project South, an Atlanta-based movement-building organization, has served on the SPLC’s Board of Directors since October 2020.

“I am delighted to have Karen and Emery, both deeply rooted in the South, leading our Board of Directors as the SPLC enters a new era of community-centered work organizing, innovating, and transforming our region and the nation,” said Margaret Huang, president and CEO of the Southern Poverty Law Center. “They are both tireless advocates for racial justice with a clear vision for our efforts to dismantle white supremacy, protect our democracy and advance the civil rights of all people. We look forward to their new leadership roles on the board.”

Baynes-Dunning, a former juvenile court judge, has dedicated her career to improving the quality of life for children, youth and families. Over the past 30 years, she has served in numerous leadership positions in the public and nonprofit sectors to help improve the public policies and services that affect the lives of young people. She replaces Bennett Grau, a longtime advocate for peace and justice, who served as board chair for the past three years.

“We are extremely grateful for Bennett’s leadership as chair of SPLC’s Board of Directors,” continued Huang. “He has made an indelible mark on this organization. His steady hand and collaborative spirit will be missed.”

Wright, in addition to his role at Project South (which was founded under the name Institute for the Elimination of Poverty and Genocide), is active in youth development and organizing and is founder of Youth Speak Truth Radio, a youth-led program on public affairs.

Both Baynes-Dunning and Wright start their new roles on the SPLC board this November.