Alabama Institute for Social Justice (AISJ) is a nonprofit organization that advocates for social justice and racial reconciliation across the state of Alabama.


We work to remove barriers that limit and/or undermine the economic well-being of women and people of color through leadership development and training, advocacy and public policy, and racial healing and reconciliation.

AISJ - Social Work Group .jpg


AISJ works to achieve meaningful and sustainable systems change in support of under-resourced children and families in Alabama’s Black Belt. 

Through the advancement of a bold organizational agenda rooted in racial equity and social justice, we seek to go beyond adjustments to the status quo and instead drive transformational change in public policy, organizational culture, and the public narrative within government, businesses, and our communities.

AISJ engages in advocacy to address barriers to quality education and job opportunities, and to ensure a seamless transition for human success from birth to adulthood. Our work varies by issue but always centers on five core policy goals: Intentionality, Integrity, Inclusion, Investment, and Impact.



Lush - Voter Registraion (table & staff)

AISJ uses three core strategies to implement its work: advocacy and public policy, leadership development and training, and racial healing and reconciliation. 

Our primary aim is to alleviate the strain of social and political disenfranchisement by using an empowerment model that is implemented through (1) grassroots organizing, including trainings and issue education; (2) identifying public policies that create barriers to economic mobility and then advocating on behalf of those most impacted; and (3) promoting racial healing and reconciliation through community dialogue forums and workshops focused on facilitating diverse understandings.

By focusing on the intersectionality of these three strategies, AISJ facilitates essential change initiatives that address institutional and structural systems of oppression. Using research and data, including feedback from communities, to formulate platform issues, all of AISJ’s work uses a gender and racial equity lens to strategically address the marginalization of these targeted demographics.

OUR Values

As an organization advocating for economic and social justice, AISJ values respect, inclusion, compassion, and equity.

  • Respect
    AISJ encourages fostering an amicable and effective organization for all involved, by embracing differences in thought, methodology, and culture.

  • Inclusion
    AISJ is an organization geared towards working across divergent peoples and groups, to ensure justice for all humankind regardless of race, religion, sex, intellect, or disability.


  • Compassion
    AISJ is sensitive to the needs of humanity and works to demonstrate that care through thoughtful actions, collaborations, and programming.


  • Equity
    AISJ seeks to promote fairness across multiple areas including political policy and racial disparity. AISJ has a vested interest in all people being treated fairly and having equal access to resources that will help them live better lives.



Alabama Institute for Social Justice (AISJ), formerly known as the Federation of Child Care Centers of Alabama, Inc. (FOCAL), has existed for 50 years as a nonprofit organization whose purpose and work pioneered during the American Civil Rights Movement. In 1972, then established as a child-care advocacy agency, the organization’s work was launched in response to an outcry from a group of African-American women in Selma, Alabama who sought to achieve quality and equitable child care for their children in disadvantaged areas of rural Alabama. Historically, our work has focused on ensuring quality child care and improving the child care delivery system in Alabama, understanding that child care is vital to not only the education of children, but to the health of communities, and the economic development of the state. While advocating for quality child care remains among the organization’s platform issues, AISJ’s overall work has evolved to advocate for social justice and racial reconciliation across the state of Alabama, working to remove barriers that limit and/or undermine the economic well-being of women and people of color, through leadership development and training, advocacy and public policy, and racial healing and reconciliation.

Some of our accomplishments include:

An appointment to the State Licensing Committee and serving as instrumental in the revision of the state minimum standards for child care.

Guiding the passage of a bill providing $800,000 to continue the funding of day care in Alabama; organizing the Congress for Human Services, a coalition of 76 human services programs in Alabama.

Organizing the Black Women’s Leadership and Economic Development Project; co-organizing the first statewide summit on unemployment; drafting the sliding fee scale for parents and lobbying for its acceptance.

Forming the Alabama Alliance for Child Care, which advocated for implementation of the Governor’s Legislative Task Force recommendations.

Co-founding the Alabama Organizing Project (AOP), a groundbreaking coalition of six grassroots organizations in Alabama, which designed and implemented a leadership training program to address critical quality-of-life issues with low-income and minority populations.

Securing $18 million in grants from the state to help 4,000 child care facilities meet the cost of new minimum standards.

Educating voters on Alabama’s proposed tax reform plan and contributing to its passage; conducting a public awareness campaign on child medications and negotiating an amendment for a child care medication law.

Halting the implementation of costly unfunded child care ratio changes; publishing Coming Undone: The State of Child Care in Alabama, which documents the unprecedented rise in the number of unlicensed child care facilities.

Organizing town hall meetings to develop a national family platform for working families; and serving as an advisor for Applied Research Center’s report Under Protected, Under Supported, which documents the risk of unlicensed child care in Alabama.

Publishing position papers on Child Care and Race: Why Race Matters and Child Care as an Economic Engine, as well as other articles printed in the Equal Voice News, Huffington Post, the Anniston Star, and AL.com.

Advocating before the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for the elimination of exempt status for child care programs, resulting in the issuance of regulations requiring inspection of unlicensed child care programs receiving subsidy reimbursements.

Being instrumental in developing the strategy for an SOS-sponsored (Save Ourselves Coalition for Justice and Democracy) petition campaign, demanding that the Governor of Alabama expand Medicaid; providing training for participants, collecting 7,000 signatures (17,000 total signatures collected), and organizing over 500 participants to rally on the steps of the Capitol.

Conducting 150 town hall and small group meetings across the state of Alabama, reaching more than 5,000 community residents, leaders, and elected officials; facilitating discussions on child care, the Affordable Care Act, Medicaid expansion, voting rights/voter ID requirements, retirement security, and other issues.

Surveying 123 child care center and family home providers across the state regarding the status of their businesses and the impact of new policies and regulations, compiling the data and relaying findings to the Director of the Alabama Department of Human Resources (DHR).

Providing leadership to and facilitating meetings of the Alabama Child Care Alliance with the Director of DHR, and launching a public awareness campaign around unlicensed/unregulated child care facilities, as well as promoting awareness of the importance of early care and education for 0-3 year olds.

Participating as a convener in the Governor’s Early Childhood Education Leadership Summit, and organizing the participation of 30 child care providers from various areas of the state.

Organizing a race conference, “Raising the Curtain on Race,” from which emanated several smaller group and community discussions around the state.

Advocating effectively for the retention of 28,000 children on the DHR child care subsidy roll.

Advocating for reinstitution of the DHR Child Care Citizen’s Coordinating Committee.

our team

Leadership and Staff

  • Lenice C. Emanuel, MLA, Executive Director

  • Audrey Brown, Receptionist

  • Bonnie L. Taylor, Executive Support

  • Bill Kaser, Finance

  • Derrick Cobb, Technology Support

  • Deborah Thomas, Programs Advisor

  • Gwendolyn Reese, Social Justice Coordinator

Board of Directors

  • Tari Williams, President

  • Dr. Michael Sibley, Vice President

  • Mary Moncrease, Secretary

  • Deborah Webb, Treasurer

  • Elizabeth Sankey, Member

  • Ron Abernethy, Member


Alabama Child Health Improvement Alliance

Alabama Child Care Alliance (ACHIA) currently consists of more than 30 individuals and organizations collaboratively strategizing and addressing early care and education funding and policy issues. 

Community Change

Community Change is a national organization that builds the power of low-income people, especially people of color, to fight for a society where everyone can thrive.

Community Media Organizing Project

CMOP is a partnership of progressive, grassroots, community-based organizations in the Southeast US who have joined forces to increase our capacity for using media coverage as an organizing tool.

Delivering Good

AISJ partners with Delivering Good, located in New York City, to periodically distribute clothing to local organizations whose constituents are low-income families. 

Equal Voice for America’s Families

AISJ advances the Equal Voice campaign by continuing the community meeting format, supporting the people and processes needed to achieve policy changes vital to working families, and working cooperatively with other organizations on issues of mutual concern.