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APR. 19-20 | True South Central Appalachia | April 19, 2023

Join us in Berea, Kentucky, for candid conversations on the past, present, and future of Appalachia. What would the South look like if equity became a shared Southern value? Over two days, we’ll gather to deepen long-standing relationships, develop new partnerships, and discover areas for working together to create economic security, racial equity, and community well-being.

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Wednesday, April 19th

1:00pm: Registration opens

Event Center at Historic Boone Tavern, 100 S. Main St. North

3:00pm: Welcome and Opening Dialogue on Appalachian History & Policy

How has history shaped today? What significant events and policy decisions have influenced how communities thrive or left people at the margins? How can we redesign and advocate for more inclusive policies that support everyone in our communities?

  • Dr. Chris Green, Director of the Loyal Jones Appalachian Center and Chair of the Appalachian Studies Department, Berea College
  • Dr. Jessica Klanderud, Associate Professor of African & African American Studies and Director of the Carter G. Woodson Center, Berea College
  • Ann Miller Woodford, Visual Artist, Designer, Entrepreneur
  • Moderator: John Simpkins, President, MDC

4:30-5:15: Shaping Appalachian Narrative, Organized by South Arts

How are artists in Appalachia using their voices to create new, more inclusive narratives about the past, present and future of the region? What can these new narratives teach us about liberation and freedom? What are some of the ways that artists are in dialogue and partner across sectors to center these new narratives?

  • Malcolm Davis, Playwright and Community Theatre Practitioner
  • Gale Greenlee, Writer, Scholar, and bell hooks Teacher-Scholar in Residence at Berea College
  • Lacy Hale, Artist and Creator of “No Hate in My Holler”
  • Moderator: Charles Phaneuf, Vice President of Strategy, South Arts

5:00-7:00pm: “Americans Who Tell the Truth” Exhibit

Berea Arts Council, 444 Chestnut St.

Stop by the Berea Arts Council from 5-7pm to view portraits of courageous citizens from Appalachia’s past and present. The exhibit is a partnership with “Americans Who Tell the Truth,” a not-for-profit arts and education organization that utilizes portraits by Robert Shetterly to craft educational and community experiences that illuminate the ongoing struggle to realize America’s democratic ideals and model the commitment to act for the common good.

5:30pm: Catered Reception for Participants

Rebel Rebel Studio and Lounge, 440 Chestnut St.

7:00-8:30pm: An Evening of Music and Storytelling at Rebel Rebel, featuring:

  • Frank X. Walker, the first African American writer to be named Kentucky Poet Laureate, Frank X Walker is Professor of English and African American and Africana Studies at the University of Kentucky in Lexington where he founded pluck! The Journal of Affrilachian Arts & Culture.
  • Cornbread & Tortillas, a collective of Appalachian and Latino artists based in Kentucky whose mission is to build community by sharing art, music, dance, and cultural heritage.


Thursday, April 20th, 8:30am -4:00pm

7:30am: Coffee and pastries available

Event Center at Historic Boone Tavern, 100 S. Main St. North

8:30am: Equitable Rural Economic Development

How should Appalachian communities evaluate economic opportunities to ensure that local residents benefit? How does economic development need to be re-thought or re-designed to create quality jobs for the region? What investments and policies will generate quality jobs and produce better immediate and long-term community outcomes? What government and philanthropic investments are needed to support long-term economic prosperity?

  • Shane Barton, Downtown Revitalization Coordinator, University of Kentucky Community and Economic Development Initiative of Kentucky (CEDIK)
  • Peter Hille, President, Mountain Association
  • Haley McCoy, President/CEO, Kentucky Association for Economic Development
  • Moderator: Donna Daniels, Executive Director, Brushy Fork Leadership Institute, Berea College

9:45am: Connecting past and present policy decisions to current realities: A Data Walk with Duke Social Science Research Institute

10:30am: Break

10:45am: Reshaping Philanthropic Investment in Appalachia

How is philanthropy evolving to meet the changing needs of our region? In what ways are funders embedding equity into their grantmaking and operations? What are the roles for foundations in helping bridge growing cultural and ideological divides? How are funders working to increase support for rural communities? Philanthropy Southeast’s new report, Leading with Courage: Reshaping Southern Philanthropy for a New Era, examines the cultural, social, and political forces that are influencing Southern communities and provides an in-depth look at the ways foundations and other philanthropic institutions are adapting to meet unprecedented challenges ranging from a global pandemic to environmental disasters to heightened political polarization.

11:30am: Lunch around town

We invite you to enjoy lunch at a local restaurant of your choice. Recommendations within walking distance will be provided.

1:00pm: Concurrent Sessions: Transforming policies and systems for a more equitable South

Each concurrent session will begin with a panel discussion and Q&A. Following the panel, participants will engage in facilitated table conversations and use “radical imagination” to identify solutions to pressing challenges.

  • Concurrent 1 / Skylight Room: Strengthening Support for Children and Families: How do we reimagine systems of support that will break the intergenerational cycle of poverty and set families up for long-term success? How do we give families a voice in shaping those systems so that they’re truly responsive to families’ needs? What are the larger policy barriers keeping people in poverty and what will it take to change them?
  • Concurrent 2 / Coyle Room: Inclusive Disaster Recovery & Resilience: How can public, private, nonprofit, and faith organizations in Appalachia work together to ensure equitable access to resources before, during, and after disasters? How do disaster-impacted communities reckon with the possible reality of recurring natural disasters? How does the region build and sustain vibrant communities and economies that are resilient to future disasters?
  • Concurrent 3 / Event Center: The Economic and Community Impact of Incarceration: What is the impact on communities from current investments in incarceration? How has the carceral system become a means of job creation and economic development in Appalachia? What is the correlation between poverty and incarceration?
    • Natalie Cunningham, Outreach Director, Kentucky Center for Economic Policy
    • Amelia Kirby, Project Director for Justice Revisioning Project, Foundation for Appalachian Kentucky
    • Dr. Judah Schept, Associate Professor, School of Justice Studies, Eastern Kentucky University
    • Moderator: James Gore, Senior Program Officer, The Just Trust

3:00pm: Break

3:15pm: Town Hall: Making Equity & Opportunity a Reality in Central Appalachia

  • Moderator: Calvin Allen, Vice President for Partnerships and Programs, MDC

4:00pm: Closing Reflection


Partnering Organizations

Brushy Fork Leadership Institute, A Strategic Initiative of Berea College

Duke Social Science Research Institute


Program Sponsors

The Kresge Foundation

The Just Trust

Philanthropy Southeast

South Arts


True South

For 25 years, MDC’s State of the South has shown the importance of creating a South that is unflinchingly true to the past, courageously true to the present, and unfailingly bound to a future in which all Southerners thrive. MDC’s State of the South series, True South, will weave together community conversations, artistic expression, online content, and a series of reports to explore how—and if—Southerners are reckoning with this moment of economic, social, and environmental upheaval.

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