Schedule at a Glance

Keep It Rural with The Daily Yonder

Dr. Besser will be joined by Ligia Cravo, Senior Program Officer at Hearst Foundations and board member of Center for Rural Strategies, for a conversation about the effects of Covid-19 on rural America. They’ll focus on the ways this virus has exposed the cracks in rural America’s community health system and how long-standing societal barriers like racism – baked into our systems and institutions – have led to tragic consequences for communities of color during the pandemic. Dr. Besser and Ms. Cravo will also explore the kind of policies and investments that are needed to repair what is broken.

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 Critical Infrastructure
Alex Kelley, Broadband and Future of Work Program Manager, Center on Rural Innovation
Irene Flannery, Director, AMERIND Critical Infrastructure
Check out two recent policy briefs from the American Indian Policy Institute on the tribal digital divide and the impact of limited internet access and issues with social distancing for native students
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 will include…
Colette Pinchon Battle (Gulf Coast Center for Law & Policy)
Leonette Henderson (Griot Arts)
Jessica James (youth organizer with BYP 100 in Mississippi)
About Sipp Culture: The Mississippi Center for Cultural Production (Sipp Culture) is honoring the history and building the future of Utica, MS. Our work weaves together research, development, local agricultural, with contemporary media & storytelling to promote the legacy and vision of our hometown. Our place-based model program will promote economic empowerment and self-sufficiency of low- and moderate-income people through education, technical assistance, training, and mentoring in agribusiness. Additionally, it will work with the community to create an advocacy base to lobby and establish increased broadband access in this rural community – a key to sustainable community development in the 21st century.

Join us for an hour-long Rural Culture Happy Hour with ArtPlace America and Art of the Rural after the main stage programming and breakouts conclude at Rural Assembly Everywhere. Participation is capped at 50. The happy hour will be facilitated by Nikiko Masumoto, an organic farmer in California; Frank X Walker, author of eleven award-winning collections of poetry; and Brandi Turner, Programs and Events Manager with Sipp Culture.

About ArtPlace America: ArtPlace America is a collaboration among a number of foundations, federal agencies, and financial institutions. ArtPlace envisions a future of equitable, healthy and sustainable communities in which everyone has a voice and agency in creating contextual, adaptive, and responsive solutions. Their mission is to position arts and culture as a core sector of community planning and development.

We Belong to Each Other

Join us for a moderated conversation between filmmaker Shannon Kring & Wašté Win Yellowlodge Young, a leader of the Standing Rock movement. Grist reporter Angely Mercado will interview the two women about their work together on the film, END OF THE LINE: THE WOMEN OF STANDING ROCK, and how the story of Standing Rock is bound up in indigenous women’s activism and leadership.You can watch the trailer for the documentary here. The conversation will be preluded by a 10-minute preview of the documentary. 

Join Poet Padraig O’ Tuama of the On Being Project for “a generous, human-centered perspective on the challenges and promise of this extraordinary moment we inhabit.

Padraig O’Tuama is a poet and theologian from Ireland. He presents Poetry Unbound from On Being Studios. His work has appeared in Harvard Review, Poetry Ireland and national broadcasters in Ireland, Britain, the US and elsewhere. For 20 years he worked in conflict resolution in his native Ireland, particularly addressing the sectarian legacy of British-Irish conflict. He’s coming to us from Ireland. 

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?  
About Thrive Rural: Thrive Rural is a new effort of the Aspen Institute Community Strategies Group in partnership with the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation – focuses on creating shared vision and understanding about what it will take to create dynamic, sustainable rural communities where all people can realize their full potential and live healthy lives.

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.

Join us for an hour-long Rural Culture Happy Hour with The On Being Project’s Civil Conversations and Social Healing Project team after the main stage programming and breakouts conclude at Rural Assembly Everywhere. This one hour event will be a follow-up to Krista’s presence earlier and a chance for attendees to have a soft landing after a long day, hear about the work of social healing, integrate some of what they’ve heard throughout the day, and do some discerning about their role to play in the days ahead.

Participants must pre-register for happy hours, and participation is capped at 50.

Check On Your Neighbor

Join us to hear from Kathleen Sebelius, former Governor of Kansas and Secretary of Health and Human Services. 

Kathleen Sebelius has been engaged in health policy for decades in the public and private sectors. She served in President Obama’s cabinet at HHS Secretary and was elected statewide four times in Kansas as Governor and Insurance Commissioner.

Currently, Sebelius is the CEO of Sebelius Resources LLC. She serves on the boards of directors of Dermira, Devoted Health, Exact Sciences, Myovant Sciences, and several private health sector interests. She continues policy work with the Kaiser Family Foundation and co-leads the Health Strategy Group for the Aspen Institute.

Sebelius lives in Lawrence, Kansas, with her husband, Gary. They have two married sons and four grandchildren.

Join NY Times Bestselling Author Sarah Smarsh for reflections on rural through working-poor, feminist and progressive lens. Sarah will be joined in conversation by Benya Kraus, Co-Founder and Chief Program Officer of Lead for America. 

Sarah Smarsh is a journalist who has covered socioeconomic class, politics and public policy for The New York Times, The Guardian, The Nation and many other publications. Her first book, “Heartland: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth,” was a finalist for the National Book Award.
Smarsh was Shorenstein Fellow at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government in 2018 and is a frequent speaker and commentator on economic inequality. Her new book, “She Come By It Natural: Dolly Parton and the Women Who Lived Her Songs,” will be published in October 2020. She lives in Kansas.

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

About Women for the Land: Women For the Land is national initiative of the American Farmland Trust that combines three complementary strategies: (1) research into the barriers women landowners face, (2) learning circles to engage women landowners in conservation, and (3) technical assistance and policy reforms to better serve women landowners.

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.

More about Lead For America: Lead For America operates on the foundational understanding that our root problem is one of disconnection from place and community. We seek to activate a community revival, spearheaded by the people who know their communities best. We are building a bench of 1 million convergent leaders by 2040 to catalyze a widespread revitalization of our nation’s communities.  Lead For America’s programs strive to build a critical mass of leaders and communities that will buoy this movement — until it is unstoppable. 

Join rural artists, creative connectors, and cultural workers from across the country for this fun-filled, fast-paced way to meet your rural neighbors near and far! Grab a drink of your choice, put on a fun costume, hat or backdrop, and get ready to move quickly and connect freely with playful prompts, competitive challenges, and periodic dance parties! Participants must pre-register for happy hours, and participation is capped at 50.

Building Civic Courage

Join us for a keynote from Dr. Danielle Allen, Political Philosopher and Harvard Professor. 

Danielle Allen, James Bryant Conant University Professor at Harvard University and Director of Harvard’s Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics, is a political theorist who has published broadly in democratic theory, political sociology, and the history of political thought. She is the recipient of the 2020 John W. Kluge Prize for Achievement in the Study of Humanity, an award administered by the Library of Congress that recognizes work in disciplines not covered by the Nobel Prizes.Widely known for her work on justice and citizenship in both ancient Athens and modern America, Allen is the author of The World of Prometheus: The Politics of Punishing in Democratic Athens (2000), Talking to Strangers: Anxieties of Citizenship since Brown vs. the Board of Education (2004), Why Plato Wrote (2010), Our Declaration: A Reading of the Declaration of Independence in Defense of Equality (2014), Education and Equality (2016), and Cuz: The Life and Times of Michael A. (2017).

Black, Brown and Indigenous people, including women and non-binary people, have been part of the fabric of rural America from the beginning of US history, despite the fact that rural America is often depicted as white and male.  This panel will focus on the many contributions of BIPOC people in rural America, some of the most pressing issues to be addressed and the ways in which they are building power to push for change.
Ash-Lee Woodard Henderson, Co-Executive Director at Highlander Research and Education Center
Sarah Eagleheart, Co-Founder & CEO, Return to the Heart Foundation
Reyna Lopez, Executive Director at PCUN

About Justice for Migrant Women: Justice for Migrant Women protects and advances migrant women’s rights through education, public awareness and advocacy. Justice for Migrant Women aims to ensure that all migrant women are guaranteed human and civil rights, including the freedom of mobility, the ability to live and work with dignity, and the right to be free of threats of violence against them and their families, whether they are migrating across borders, around regions or within states. 

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. 

About Student Voice: Student Voice is the by-students, for-students, student led nonprofit. We position students as storytellers, organizers and institutional partners who advocate for student-driven solutions to educational inequity. 

 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.

Join us for an hour-long happy hour with the Center for Rural Strategies featuring networking, ice breakers, and more! Participants must pre-register for happy hours, and participation is capped at 50.

Rally Day

Enjoy a recap of content from keynotes and breakouts from the week. 

The Rural Assembly is a program of