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SPLC’s new interim president hopes for change within the nonprofit group

Mikayla Burns

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The Southern Poverty Law Center is hoping to forge a new path for the group.

Karen Baynes-Dunning, interim president and CEO of the SPLC, has her first few weeks in office speaking with employees at the center about their experience within the workplace culture.

She has acknowledged the group’s recent troubled past, as she was promoted in the wake of many resignations by leadership at the SPLC following accusations of internal racism and sexual harassment within a group that fights to end such throughout the country.

“When I was asked to join the SPLC Board of Directors just over a year ago, I knew that this organization was at the forefront of fighting systemic racism and discrimination, combating hate and extremism and helping teachers and schools educate children and youth to be active participants in a diverse democracy,” Baynes-Dunning said.  “I also knew that like many organizations, the work being done externally was most likely not happening internally with the same level of urgency and intensity. My appointment marked the board’s acknowledgment of the need to add new perspectives to leadership.”

She succeeds Richard Cohen, who resigned in order to give the SPLC a new, fresh start, which is what Baynes-Dunning wants for the nonprofit group.

“Not only will SPLC be a 21st century civil rights organization doing vital work in the communities we serve, but we will be a model for other organizations that are grappling with the best ways to incorporate values of diversity, equity and inclusion into their internal workplace cultures,” she said. “My pledge is to tackle this internal challenge with the same resolve that has made our almost five decades of work an integral part of the social justice movement.

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