Rural Assembly Everywhere Breakout Sessions

Thank you for joinin usat Rural Assembly Everywhere. Registration for breakout session is now closed. Email if you have any questions. 

Thank you for registering for Rural Assembly Everywhere.  As a reminder, breakouts are an opportunity to meet and hear from colleagues and friends who are working on some of the most important issues of our time, from climate change to gender equity. They will be hosted through Zoom Webinar and there will be the opportunity for Q&A. All breakouts will take place from 5-7 PM ET on Monday-Thursday, 10/26-10/30. Have questions or having trouble signing up? Contact us at

Description of Breakouts

Monday, October 26, 5-7 PM ET

This session will highlight the experiences of rural communities who are still on a quest to close the digital divide. In the time of COVID-19, when families, workers, and children are being encouraged to register to vote, learn, and work from home, broadband is more essential than ever. And yet, millions of rural, Native, and migrant communities do not have access to a reliable, affordable broadband source. The goal of this session is to place this persistent broadband disparity in the context of a global pandemic. We’ll hear about the steps local leaders are taking in different regions to advocate for better policy and more investment in broadband infrastructure. We’ll also hear from national policy groups who are watching for regulatory and legislative opportunities at state and federal levels. Workshop participants will leave this session with a better understanding of both the gaps and potential pathways to closing those gaps.

Panelists include:
Peggy Schaffer, Executive Director, ConnectMaine Authority;
Traci Morris, Executive Director American Indian Policy Institute @Arizona State University;
Jenna Leventoff, Senior Policy Counsel Public Knowledge & Broadband Connects America coordinator;
Sean McLaughlin, Executive Director, Access Humboldt;
Edyael Casaperalta, ACI Project Manager, AMERIND
Alex Kelley, Broadband and Future of Work Program Manager, Center on rural Innovation

Join this workshop to explore the heart of the Cultural New Deal “In this moment, we face four major threats to our shared existence: a global pandemic; militarized state and vigilante violence, significantly directed at Black people; environmental degradation; and an economic crisis. All of these have been shaped and exacerbated by racism and white supremacy. Black, Indigenous, Native American, Latinx, Chicanx, Arab, MENASA (Middle Eastern, North African, South Asian), Asian, Pacific Islander, and other communities of color, especially those who are Disabled/Deaf and/or LGBTQIA+/Two-Spirit, are dying of these threats — by disease, police/carceral and racial violence, and the health and social inequities that force us into premature death.

The main question that we all confront now is whether we will emerge from this era choosing to maintain the same systems and beliefs that support the current culture of division and death or if we will instead move forward toward a more just, shared future, guided by worldviews that foster collaboration and mutuality.”

Panelists include:
Colette Pichon Battle, Gulf Coast Center for Law & Policy;
Leonette Henderson, Griot Arts;
Jessica James, youth organizer with BYP 100

Tuesday, October 27, 5-7 PM ET

The Southern Rural Black Women’s Initiative for Economic and Social Justice (SRBWI) promotes the first human rights agenda in the United States aimed at eradicating historical race, class, cultural, religious and gender barriers experienced by southern rural black women. For generations, Black women have been at the very foundations of the south – mothers, aunts, innovators, activists, leaders, and inspirations in the very heart of rural communities. They made a way out of no way – and that tenacity is far from gone.

5:00 PM- 5:45 PM ET: Fireside Chat: A Southern Dichotomy of Rural America: Your Rural America is My Rural Too

Presenters will share life-long learning experiences from growing up in the rural Jim Crow south, voting rights, through the conservative evolution of policy roll backs at the state and national levels. Each will share structures that they have navigated and help to shape for positive engagements and impacts in their own communities. Education both formal and community level has been critical in their expanding the sphere of improved quality of life outcomes.

5:30-6:15 PM: Inter-generational Rural Civic Engagement: Human Rights Commission Leads and Voices of Rural Young Women Leaders

6:15-7:00 PM: Telling Our Own Stories: Role of Rural Black Women in Participatory Research on the Lack of Health Coverage and Its Impacts in Rural America

Rural communities are integral to our nation’s economy, culture, history – and future. One in five Americans lives in a rural place. While many rural places are dynamic and thriving, others are struggling, with economies in stress and declining livelihoods and health outcomes. This is especially true in low-income communities and communities of color. We must do better – and we can.  Hosted by Thrive Rural in partnership with Welcoming America, this session will explore how we get there.  Learn how communities are taking action to create belonging, connection and to build power, especially among those often on the margins with a moderated discussion of the question: What will it take for each person in the community to be welcomed, feel connected, and to be able to exercise and influence power in decision-making?  

Panelists Include:

  • Katherine Ferguson (Moderator), Associate Director of the Aspen Institute Community Strategies Group;
  • Molly Hilligoss (Moderator), Midwest Regional Manager for Welcoming America;
  • Fatima Fine, Executive Director of Project FINE;
  • Alejandra Hernandez, Executive Director of Unity Alliance of Southern Idaho;
  • Cecilia Cornejo Sotelo, documentary filmmaker, artist, and teacher;
  • Bassem Gayed, Multicultural Services Coordinator the Otis Library in Norwich, CT.


Wednesday, October 28, 5-7 PM ET

Join Women for the Land for a breakout exploring the intersections of climate change, environmental justice, and rural resilience. Diverse women in agriculture and rural communities explore what climate resilience looks like to them, from farmland preservation, regenerative agricultural practices and the cultivation of first foods. Explore what climate resilience looks like in the context of rural spaces and places with women leading the way.

Panelists include:

  • Moderator/facilitator: Caitlin Joseph, American Farmland Trust
  • Gabrielle Roesch-McNally, American Farmland Trust
  • Andrea Malmberg, rancher and member of women in ranching network
  • Naomi Miguel, House Committee on Natural Resources, Subcommittee for Indigenous Peoples
  • Danielle Antelope, Montana State University

Join Lead For America for this session on rural homecomers. Whether it’s where you were born and raised, or a place you’re committed to making home, this session will explore the joys and nuances of homecoming — and how to attract the next generation to make your rural community their home.

Thursday, October 29, 5-7 PM ET

Our Rural & Native Youth Initiative is excited to partner with Student Voices to offer a youth-led session focused on education equity. This webinar will feature five rural high school student leaders as they share their perspectives and lived experience on what it is like to be a student in America right now. Participants will be invited to share their own reactions and ask questions of the panelists. This session is designed as a youth focused space for rural and Native high school students. 

Join Citizen University for a session to explore your own power and how we show up in our communities. Learn about their framework Power + Character = Citizenship and explore what it means for your community. You’ll unpack what it means to create a strong foundation for democracy starting with you, and learn from participants in Citizen University programs about bringing these ideas to life locally.

About Citizen University: Our mission is to build a culture of powerful, responsible citizenship across the country. We envision a great civic revival across our nation — our dream is a country in which Americans are steeped in a sense of civic character, educated in the tools of civic power, and are problem solving contributors in a self-governing community.