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SPLC Welcomes Eric K. Ward as Senior Fellow

Leading expert on extremism will help expand Intelligence Project work

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — One of the nation’s leading experts on hate and extremism, Eric Ward, will be joining the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) as a senior fellow on April 27 to advise its hate and extremism work.

Ward, who will continue to serve as executive director of Western States Center, will bring his nearly 30 years of experience in community organizing to help advise the work of the SPLC’s Intelligence Project — the arm of the organization that tracks hate and extremist movements in the U.S. —  and to build a stronger national movement of grassroots organizations working together to push bigotry out of the mainstream. 

The Intelligence Project monitors more than 1,600 hate and extremist groups throughout the U.S. Its researchers and reporters expose the activities of hate groups and antigovernment “patriot” groups through the SPLC’s annual Year in Hate and Extremism report, investigative reports and blogs, and expert analysis provided to the media, lawmakers and public. The Intelligence Project also shares key intelligence with elected officials and law enforcement agencies.

“I am thrilled to be joining the Southern Poverty Law Center at an exciting time as we expand the impact of our work to destabilize and disrupt extremist movements,” Ward said. “I am looking forward to working hand in hand with the researchers to provide resources as we cultivate a strong network of allies across the country to counteract the surge of hate we’re seeing in this country.”

As a senior fellow, Ward will implement new initiatives to: 

  • Strengthen and expand the Intelligence Project’s field organizing; 
  • Lead a new initiative to convene Black community leaders, civil rights leaders and elected officials to combat antisemitism and white nationalism; and
  • Provide insight and analysis of extremist movements by contributing to the SPLC’s Hatewatch blog, investigative reports and more.

“The SPLC has been at the forefront of combating hate and extremism for decades,” said SPLC President and CEO Margaret Huang. “Through the launch of new initiatives, we will partner with communities across the country to rise up against all forms of bigotry.”

Ward, a national expert on the relationship between hate violence and the preservation of democratic institutions, governance and inclusive societies, began his work nearly three decades ago to counter the white nationalist movement’s rising violent paramilitary activity in the Pacific Northwest. 

As one of a handful of prominent leaders of color working to counter organized hate, he has successfully encouraged some violent neo-Nazi leaders to renounce racism and violence. He has also worked with government leaders, civil rights campaigners, business leaders and law enforcement officials to establish hundreds of anti-hate task forces and assisted immigrant rights advocates in addressing the growing influence of xenophobia on public policy.

Ward leads Western States Center, a national hub for activists and grassroots movements addressing hate violence and authoritarian movements.

Prior to Western States, Ward worked for a number of organizations, including the Ford Foundation, The Atlantic Philanthropies’ U.S. Reconciliation and Human Rights Programme, the Center for New Community, the Northwest Coalition Against Malicious Harassment and the Community Alliance of Lane County.

Read more about Eric Ward.

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Here’s what leaders in the anti-hate movement say:

“The leadership and vision of Eric Ward is critical in this time more than any other time. The impermanence and vulnerability of our democracy is in plain view. For decades, Eric has been sounding the warning and assembling leaders across the country and the world to prepare for this new reality. United Vision for Idaho is proud to work with SPLC and thrilled about the leadership role Eric is taking to confront the greatest challenge of our time.” – Adrienne Evans, Executive Director of United Vision for Idaho

“In one of my favorite sermons, Dr. King preached about the vital need in troubled times for us to be drum majors for justice with hearts full of grace and souls generated by love. The eloquence of Eric's own drumbeat and his clarion call for moral justice by example, has benefitted communities across the nation in ways that will undoubtedly become even more impactful at his new position with SPLC, a group also very close to my heart.” – Brian Levin, Director of the Center for the Study of Hate & Extremism, California State University, San Bernardino

“It's no longer possible to think that hate and bigotry exist only on the fringes of our communities. The threats that they pose to our democracy can no longer be denied. We must interrupt and confront these ideas at every level and work to build an America that truly reflects inclusive democratic principles. Eric Ward may have a national profile. However, his roots go back to organizing community members to stand up to and push back against the extremists who try to divide us. Eric's experience doing this work at the local, regional, and national level makes him uniquely qualified to lead SPLC's efforts.” – Travis McAdam, Director of Combating White Nationalism and Defending Democracy at the Montana Human Rights Network

“Now, more than ever, we need leaders like Eric to help steer the anti-hate movement so that communities have the tools they need to face the battle ahead.  Eric's on the ground experience has given him a deep understanding of the complexities of community work. At the same time, he has an eye on the broad-scale victories that can be won when local residents and leaders join forces to stop racism and hate. Congratulations to the SPLC and Eric on this fellowship. We hope Eric's engagement leads to deeper collaboration between SPLC’s Intelligence Project and communities standing up to hate.” – Patrice O’Neill, CEO/Executive Producer at Not in Our Town

“As threats to democracy grow and more and more people find themselves in the crosshairs of white nationalist violence, our collective survival increasingly depends on a united front. Eric offers an essential combination of historic insight, contemporary analysis and visionary leadership that provides the road map we need for the future that we dream of.” – Cole Parke, Community Organizer at Carolina Jews for Justice

“It is so exciting to hear that Eric Ward will be collaborating with SPLC as a senior fellow. Eric is a dynamic and engaging speaker and an experienced leader. I very much look forward to seeing his partnership with SPLC unfold as they work to build a larger, community-based collaborative network to help fight hate and bigotry.” – Megan Squire, PhD, Professor of Computer Sciences at Elon University​

“The program that I work on daily, the Los Angeles County Anti-Hate Initiative, seeks to build inclusive, safe communities by providing ways for residents to report hate acts; to receive needed resources to heal from hate acts, and to know they don't stand alone—that there is a network of providers ready to help whether by organizing acts of solidarity; reaching out to the individual victim or family with support or going to the media to spotlight the hate and the county's response. Eric Ward will be weaving such regional efforts as the Los Angeles County Anti-Hate Initiative into a multi-faceted ‘quilt’ of hope and inspiration on a national level—and it can't happen soon enough!” – Terri Villa-McDowell, Anti-Hate Initiative Program Coordinator, LA County Human Relations Commission