Doesn’t it feel good when you know you’re not alone in fighting for some sort of community change? Mine focuses on farm bill policy and lack of adequate resources to the Black Belt Region — counties from Virginia to Texas that house a large population of African-Americans. A rural, farming problem, it’s one I’ve dedicated more than two decades to help find solutions to.
Refreshingly, my academic research in agriculture is a hot topic across the nation. Other community leaders, land researchers and local farmers have taken on different approaches and perspectives to our rural challenges, which brings me to my most recent opportunity. “The Homecomers.” This original podcast by journalist and New York Times best-selling author Sarah Smarsh will air Tuesday, Sept. 3.
It became an interesting opportunity for me to tell my part to rural America’s untold stories through the voices of its residents and advocates. Sarah is also a fifth-generation Kansas farm girl. She invited me to participate in this 2019 podcast series. It shares intimate conversations and corrective to misleading stereotypes about class, race, policy, labor and wellness of the working-class, working-poor of rural communities. I’m one of six “homecomers” talking about my fight for areas where the common narrative of American success would have people of the Black Belt Region pushed out of society.
Below is a little more information about each episode featured on “The Homecomers:”
1. Political scientist Veronica Womack on the richness of rural America and a new generation of farmers in the Black Belt;
2. Labor activist Leydy Rangel on her childhood among immigrant farmworkers in the Central Valley and her advocacy work today;
3. Documentary-maker Elaine McMillion Sheldon on getting the story right about Appalachia and the opioid epidemic;
4. Conservation leader Brett Ramey on environmental justice, generational legacies and connecting to the earth;
5. Former Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius on access to health care in rural areas; and
6. Journalist Debbie Weingarten on the mental health crisis among agricultural workers.
“The Homecomers” was produced with support from the Ford Foundation and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Sarah developed the project as a research fellow at the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy — part of Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. The term “homecomers” was coined by Wes Jackson, co-founder of the Land Institute.
Visit TheHomecomers.org to stream all episodes.