Breakout Sessions for Rural Assembly 2018


May 22, 11:00-noon – Breakout session #1

  • Voting Rights in Rural America

Produced by the Daily Yonder

Description: Douglas, Georgia, City Commissioner Olivia Pearson risked her reputation and freedom to successfully defend her right to help a first-time voter exercise her franchise. This panel will use Commissioner Pearson’s story as a point of departure to explore the unique ways voting rights issues can arise in rural communities. We will also talk about resources for defending voting rights. Also on the panel will be voting-rights advocate Anita Earls, a 2018 Rural Assembly firestarter speaker. Tim Marema, who reported on Commissioner Pearson’s experiences for the Daily Yonder, will moderate.


  • Tim Marema, Editor, Daily Yonder, Vice President, Center for Rural Strategies (moderator)
  • Anita Earls, Founder, Southern Coalition for Social Justice
  • Olivia Pearson, City Commissioner, Douglas, Georgia
  • The New Girls Club: Womxn Shaping Rural Futures

Produced by Rural Arts Weekly and Springboard for the Arts

Description: Womxn (a term that includes trans, femme-identifying and non-gender binary community members) have historically taken a backseat to “old boys clubs” in rural power structures, organizing efforts, and movements for change…even as those movements benefit from our labor and genius. This  participatory session (led by three fierce female rural arts administrators) will introduce a variety of regional perspectives, challenges, resources, and tested strategies for shifting our organizations―and the communities they serve―towards equity with humor, acuity, compassion, and style. This is an inclusive session: people of all genders, ages, ethnicities, and degrees of ability are welcome.


  • Michele Anderson, Rural Program Director, Springboard for the Arts
  • Amy Brooks, Program Director & Dramaturg, Roadside Theater; co-founder, @RuralArtsWeekly
  • Pilar McKay, Associate Director, Arts Council for Wyoming County, New York and co-founder of Shake on the Lake

Hashtag(s):  #RuralAW, #newgirlsclub

Social Media:

  • What Does It Mean to Be a Good Citizen?

Description: If someone asked you to grade yourself as a citizen what you would say? What role does your family’s history play in what citizenship means to you? What do you think are the responsibilities of a “good” citizen?

Using the results from a pre-conference survey, this participatory workshop will explore the nature of citizenship in the U.S., how we imagine it, how we practice it and what might we learn from this discussion on how to heal our divides.

It will engage Assembly participants in unpacking the nature of patriotism, what “freedom,” “justice” and “equality” mean, and if time allows reflect on current conservative and liberal proposals to amend the U.S. Constitution.

Produced by Tom Cosgrove, Founder, New Voice Strategies and The Cosgrove Group

May 22, 2:30-3:30 – Breakout session #2

  • Rural Broadband in Our Sights

Produced by Rural Broadband Policy Group

Description: Please join us at Rural Assembly for a breakout session on rural broadband access.  We will be talking about various ways of deploying high speed internet to rural areas; the policy, economic, and technological barriers to deployment; ways of overcoming those barriers; and how you can get involved in bringing reliable broadband internet to your community.  The breakout will include speakers from Public Knowledge, the Institute for Local Self Reliance; and Garrett County (MD) Economic Development.


  • Allie Bohm, Public Knowledge
  • Christopher Mitchell, Community Broadband Networks Initiative with the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR)
  • Cheryl DeBerry, Garrett County Economic Development

Social media:

  • Live Recording of Daily Yonder Podcast

Produced by the Center for Rural Strategies

  • Building Civic Courage: The Conversation Continues

Produced by YouthBuild USA

Description: Continuing the previous mainstage panel discussion, we will be taking the topic of civic courage to the next level and inviting you to dive deeply into this topic with us. What does “civic courage” mean to you? What is an example of something you stood up for that involved risk and required courage? And how did that go? How do you dive into potentially contentious conversations while maintaining civility and building connections? How can we encourage more people to speak  up for social justice? Come join us to have an active discussion about civic courage in our current world.


  • Kim Phinney, YouthBuild USA
  • Marlene Chavez, Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid 
  • Anna Clausen, Nathan Cummings Foundation Fellow
  • Abraham Diaz, La Union del Pueblo Entero
  • Oleta GarrettFitzgerald, Children’s Defense Fund
  • Maureen Holland, Holland & Associates PC
  • Students from Racial Justice Alliance of Montpelier High School

Hashtag(s): #civiccourage