"Keep your eyes on the prize."

It's one of the most famous slogans of the civil rights movement — a reminder that, whatever the odds and obstacles, we need to dig in and stay focused if we want things to change.

The past year — including the tragic shooting at "Mother Emanuel" A.M.E. Church in Charleston, South Carolina — has been a painful reminder of the threats we face every day from hate and violence.

But in 2015, across the South, we also saw the inspiring power of people coming together for change: immigrants demanding to be treated with dignity, youth insisting #BlackLivesMatter, working people risking their jobs for fair pay. 

For 45 years, the Institute for Southern Studies has been proud to be part of this legacy for change. Founded in 1970 by Julian Bond and other civil rights veterans, the Institute was launched with a clear mission: to connect grassroots activists, community leaders, scholars, policy makers and others with ideas and information to build a better South. 

We have never wavered in our mission. Ever year, every day, we work towards our vision of a better South by:

EXPOSING CORRUPTION AND INJUSTICE: Through our online magazine Facing South, our award-winning investigative team has brought regional and national attention to abuses of power, with Institute investigations featured by MSNBC, The New York Times and other major media.

BUILDING A COMMUNITY FOR CHANGE: The Institute puts our research and analysis directly into the hands of change makers fighting for lasting reform. In 2015, we presented our research on Big Money in politics, immigration, labor rights and other issues at more than 30 events in 11 states.

OFFERING A VISION OF HOPE: As W.E.B. Du Bois said, "As the South goes, so goes the nation." The Institute's Southern Strategies Program is helping dispel tired stereotypes about the South and identify exciting new opportunities to transform policy and politics in the region.

In 2016 — when the South will hold one-third of Electoral College votes needed to elect the next president — the Institute's fearless journalism, cutting-edge research and voice for change will be needed more than ever.

As Julian Bond, who passed away in August of this year, once said: "The civil rights movement didn't begin in Montgomery and it didn't end in the 1960s. It continues on to this very minute."

Thank you for joining with us as we continue the journey, keeping our eyes on the prize of a more just, democratic and sustainable future in the South.