Rural Assembly Everywhere 2023 Lineup

Register now for our free virtual gathering, Rural Assembly Everywhere, June 28th 1 to 3 p.m. ET. 

Featured Conversations  

In conversation: Silas House and Brian Cole

silas house author
Silas House
brian cole
Brian Cole

New York Times bestselling author and Kentucky Poet Laureate Silas House will be in conversation with his friend, The Rt. Rev. Brian Cole.

House’s latest novel, Lark Ascending, is the winner of the 2023 Southern Book Prize, among others. The novel, set in the near-distant future, was called a “luminous” and “urgent” work of climate fiction by Bitter Southerner. 

This spring, House was named Poet Laureate of Kentucky. The first openly gay poet laureate in the state’s history, House shared on Twitter:

“As a writer who was raised working class and in trailers, as a questioning person of faith,  and as the first openly gay poet laureate I will do my best to represent my place and my people.” 

Also a writer, Cole serves as the bishop of the Diocese of East Tennessee, with 51 parishes and worshiping communities in East Tennessee and Northern Georgia under his pastoral and administrative care. 


In conversation with rural organizer and state party leader, Anderson Clayton

Anderson Clayton

Anderson Clayton is the new chair of the North Carolina Democratic Party and at 25 is the youngest state party leader in the country. Anderson talks with Whitney about what she’s learned from visiting with rural residents across the state, how she navigates disinformation on social media in her small town, what gives her hope, and why it’s important to find your people. 

Rocking on the porch with Highlander Center

Ash-Lee Woodard Henderson
Allyn Maxfield-Steele

Ash-Lee Woodard Henderson and Allyn Maxfield-Steele are co-directors at the incredible Highlander Research and Education Center, a social change organization based in New Market, Tennessee. The Center was established more than 90 years ago and it became a learning community for advancing labor movements in the 1930s and 1940s, the Civil Rights Movement and other environmental, economic, and racial justice work. Ash-Lee and Allyn talk with Whitney about the historic and current ways Highlander approaches social change in the South. CW: This conversation contains some mature language.


Citizen Power: Sam Schimmel and Jonathan Blair

Sam Schimmel
Jonathan Blair

Sam Schimmel and Jonathan Blair are co-creators of an ongoing documentary media and public engagement initiative – American Creed: Citizen Power, a follow-up to the 2018 documentary American Creed from Citizen Film. Hear how they are working to build safer, more connected communities, the barriers they face, and their advice for other young rural community organizers. 

Stories from rural communities and organizations


East Kentucky Flood: More of the Stories

The Center for Rural Strategies will premiere two new video shorts from its coverage of the devastating July 2022 flood in East Kentucky.   

Missouri Good Neighbor Week 

David Burton, Community Development Specialist for the University of Missouri Extension, and Jennifer Prophete, Program Director for The Hopeful Neighborhood Project, put the spotlight on the Missouri Good Neighbor initiative. David received approval from the Missouri legislature and got the Governor to sign a bill creating Missouri Good Neighbor Week in 2022. The week began on National Good Neighbor Day (Sept. 28) and ran for seven days. This video explains the week and how they were able to document over 12,000 acts of neighboring statewide.
This is an effort that is transferable to other states and other partners. After all, when anyone is talking about neighboring, we all benefit! 
Welcoming America
Executive Director Rachel Peric shares thoughts from Welcoming America, a nonprofit leading a movement of inclusive communities becoming more prosperous by ensuring everyone belongs, including immigrants. 
Main Street America
Tasha Sams, Main Street America’s manager of Entrepreneur and Small Business Support, shares thoughts from Main Street America, a nonprofit organization that leads a movement committed to strengthening communities through preservation-based economic development in older and historic downtowns and neighborhood commercial districts.
Strengthen ND 
Learn how this North Dakota organization works with cross North Dakota (ND) to elevate nonprofits and rural communities to support a high quality of life and resources for vulnerable populations through community development.
Equal Justice Initiative 

Arts & Culture

Eliza Blue is a folk musician, writer, and rancher residing in one of the most remote counties in the contiguous United States, Perkins County, South Dakota. She writes a weekly column about rural life, Little Pasture on the Prairie, that is carried by 18 different print publications, writes and produce seasonal audio “postcards” from my ranch for different NPR affiliates. Her first book of essays, Accidental Rancher, was just selected as the Siouxland One Book 2023. Her writing on rural life has also been featured in the New York Times, The Guardian, and she is a regular columnist for The Daily Yonder, a national publication for and about rural people.
Cody and Alex are a duo out of the Appalachian mountains with their hearts in New Orleans. Alex Sharp, a New Orleanian transplant to Appalachia, loves to write and sing original songs about topics like home, mental health, and love. Cody Hensley plays the trumpet, piano, and many other instruments. You can check out their album Homesick as well as their single Jessica anywhere you stream music. Together, Cody and Alex found love in Appalachia, and now they share this love song with you.
Catwalk Party: Celebrating Counter Culture in Rural Minnesota is the story of the Catwalk Party, the first drag show in Fergus Falls, Minnesota. 
The Catwalk Party was born from The Year of Play, a Springboard for the Arts micro-funding initative to inspire play within the community.  Dominic Facio, producer, director and manager of the event and others from Fergus Falls share how Catwalk has grown and what it brings to their community. 
Brett Hill (Brother Hill) 
Musician and activist Brett Hill shares his From Ohio with Love campaign, a grassroots campaign with the mission of sending direct support from the people of Ohio to the people of Ukraine, via delivery of emergency medical supplies and the hosting of cultural support events. 

Rural Assembly Everywhere kicks off at 1 p.m. ET June 28th! Log on to join the conversation, hear the stories, and be inspired by rural leaders, artists, and allies who are working to build safer, more connected communities. 

Rio Grande reflections

Taneum Fotheringill shares her reflections on traveling to the Rio Grande Valley in South Texas — and how it changed her understanding of a region often misunderstood by outsiders.

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clipboard with stethoscope

A new series from the Rural Assembly to explore health disparities in rural communities​

The Rural Assembly is kicking off a series of blog posts which will explore the challenges faced by rural citizens with chronic health conditions, the consequences of limited healthcare access, and the urgent need for comprehensive solutions to bridge this healthcare gap. By addressing the unique challenges faced by these individuals, we can work towards building a healthcare system that is inclusive, efficient, and responsive to the diverse needs of all citizens. Bridging the healthcare gap is not just a matter of policy: it is a commitment to the well-being and dignity of every individual, regardless of where they call home.

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Drawing Resilience: Autumn Cavender

Wicanhpi Iyotan Win (Autumn Cavender) is Wahpetunwan Dakota and a midwife from Pezihutazizi K’api Makoca (Upper Sioux Community). Autumn is finding new ways to see, visualize and encode designs using traditional Dakota aesthetic and design processes. Her current practice explores quillwork Dakota methodology and its applications through ancestral, digital, and generative technologies.

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