Staff Picks from 2020 Rural Assembly: All the People, All the Places

2020 Staff Picks

Happy New Year’s Eve, friends. As we bid adieu to this challenging and historic year, our team is celebrating some of the Rural Assembly’s best moments of the year – the conversations, writing, and performances that gave us hope, comfort, and courage. 

Prairie Rose Seminole: Hope & Caution

Prairie Rose Seminole, trainer with Vote Run Lead, speaks about native visibility at the Rural Women's Summit

I want to go to the before times… before grabbing a beer with a pal was social disobedience, before the only way I saw our kids was on a video call, before so many friends lost their jobs and businesses, and before hundreds of thousands of Americans died. The post with Prairie Rose Seminole from early February brought back her powerful speaking at the Rural Women’s Summit and strikes the right balance between hope and caution.” — Marty Newell, Chief Operating Officer, Center for Rural Strategies

Kyshona Armstrong: More in Common

It was easier than ever to feel our divides in 2020. The space between us weighed heavily on the heart and mind. On the one hand, there were the ways we stayed physically isolated and apart to keep one other safe. On the other, there were the deeper cultural differences in how we responded to the coronavirus pandemic, cries for racial justice, and an unprecedented kind of presidential election. When Kyshona Armstrong kicked off day four of Rural Assembly Everywhere with a performance of her song “More In Common,” it gave me so much of what I needed this year (and some genuine goosebumps to boot). It offered a reminder about the power of live music and the performing arts, and it renewed my hope that we can come together and bridge our divides, so long as we don’t despair. – Adam Giorgi, Director of Digital Strategy, Center for Rural Strategies  

Pádraig Ó Tuama: A voice of peace

The interview the Rural Assembly’s Whitney Kimball Coe conducted with Pádraig Ó Tuama made a lasting impression on us.

“It’s hard to put into words sometimes, but there are people you meet, or hear talking, and they bring you a sense of peace, or hope. They seem to be able to slow down the very rotation of the world, making you sit down, even relax. I found that in the conversation with Pádraig Ó Tuama  and it’s the one that stayed with me.” — Jan Pytalski, Associate Editor for The Daily Yonder

When we’re doing our daily work in life, we tend to bore straight ahead. A great poet takes a look from the side, or behind us, and helps us all understand better the world around us and the work we do. I felt lucky to be listening to that interview, and I feel luckier still to have it tucked away in my memory.” — Chris Poore, Rural Assembly marketing coordinator  

Rural Assembly Everywhere: Old & New

Rural Assembly Everywhere

Rural Assembly Everywhere was a great chance for me to see and hear from some old pals like former Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius and Danielle Allen, who is now thinking about running for governor of Massachusetts. But I also felt like I made a new friend listening to Whitney’s conversation with Irish poet Padraig O’Tuama. – Dee Davis, President of Center for Rural Strategies 

Jackson: Covid, BLM, & the Mississippi flag

There were so many lovely, moving moments from the past year. One that stands out for me was the conversation between EB Blakney and Senator Robert Jackson.  It took a close look at how the pandemic has affected communities of color, the Black Lives Matter movement, including the work of Rep. John Lewis, and the replacement of the Mississippi state flag. There was no other media that captured and connected all those stories like the Rural Assembly and Daily Yonder did.” — Teresa Collins, Operations Coordinator, Center for Rural Strategies 

Broadband problems and possibilities

2020 was the year we saw the full implications of rural America’s expensive and inadequate broadband. The Rural Assembly’s broadband panel showed us the problem and possible solutions. — Tim Marema, Editor, The Daily Yonder

Poets, dancers, singers and more

“My favorite thing was all the interstitial videos at Rural Assembly Everywhere that gave a platform to voices that are rarely heard.” —Joel Cohen, Rural Assembly multimedia coordinator.  Enjoy this performance from Becky Hill and Rui Fu and catch up on many other short readings and performances interspersed throughout our Rural Everywhere videos. 

Video: Brady Piñero Walkinshaw 

Earth Alliance CEO Brady Walkinshaw talks about changing mindsets about the climate crisis — and why he thinks rural communities will play a critical role in solving it.

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Video: Citizen Power with Jonathan Blair + Sam Schimmel

Hear from Sam Schimmel and Jonathan Blair, co-creators of the ongoing documentary media and public engagement initiative from Citizen Film titled American Creed: Citizen Power, that explores American idealism and activism from a range of young adult perspectives. Learn how they are working to build safer, more connected communities, the barriers they face, and their advice for other young rural community organizers.

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Illustrated photo of Nancy XiáoRong Valentine

Drawing Resilience: Nancy XiáoRong Valentine

A conversation about resilience, art, and culture with Nancy XiáoRong Valentine. Valentine is a 2024 Rural Regenerator Fellow with Springboard for the Arts and was awarded a 2023 Creative Support for Individual Grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board and a 2023 Legacy Individual Arts grant from the Lake Region Arts Council.

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