A strong group of close to 70 people from all over the South, (and a few from Washington, D.C., New York and California) convened in Thomasville, Ga. to identify a set of viable strategies and compelling messages to help low-wealth rural communities craft sustainable economic futures. For the first time the group engaged some traditional economic development institutions with the conviction that community economic development in the South must have creative and productive partnerships with this sector.
The 2003 Assembly: a valuable step in our learning process. SRDI, in partnership with a small group of community organizers, rural advocates, and economic development specialists, forged a learning community to address three broad, yet critical questions:
- What are the alternatives to industries of last resort for poor rural communities;
- What resources, relationships, and/or contextual supports promote the success of these alternatives; and
- How can these alternatives be articulated to effectively compete with industries of last resort for the resources and attention of decision-makers?
The Assembly provided an important learning venue and an open, productive and fun space for dialogue. This convening will be marked as a groundbreaking attempt to fully identify and bring together individual community economic development strategies into a collectively defined message; and an equally important effort to reinforce the vital link between community organizing and community development work in the South’s most distressed rural places.
On the SiteBytes Web site there is a special section on the 2003 Assembly. Three distinct pages have been posted:
Making the Assembly really HOP – actually it was eclectic jazz and hip-hop – was having the good fortune to have an incredible trio of cultural workers, musicians and storytellers. MUGABEE, Men Under Guidance Acting Before Early Extinction comprised of two brothers, Carlton and Maurice Turner out of Mississippi, together with Carolyn Morris, Executive Director of Alternate Roots, in Atlanta were fantastic. Using words from the participants, MUGABEE and Carolyn worked through the night to compose a song for the assembly’s closing day; it captures well the values and commitment of all the participants and the incredible skills of the cultural team. Technical limitations prevent SiteBytes from uploading the .mp3 of the song to its Web site, but if you would like to hear the song, please e-mail SiteBytes.