The Rural Assembly and the Rural Compact.

Today I came across an organization called The Rural Assembly and I am so excited about their work and I think you will be too. The Rural Assembly is a part of the Center for Rural Strategies, an amazing organization whose fingers are all over most of the rural sustainable movements going on these days.

The Rural Assembly

According to their webpage, “The National Rural Assembly is a movement of people and organizations devoted to building a stronger, more vibrant rural America.” At the core of their work is the Rural Compact: “The National Rural Assembly encourages individuals and organizations to endorse the Rural Compact, a basic statement of principles for building a stronger rural America that improves opportunity for all of us.”

The great thing is, the Compact is as specific as it is open-ended. The compact supports specifics such as making sure broadband is available in all rural schools, assuring preventive health care is available to all rural Americans, and supporting financial and structural investments in rural communities that can help keep youth from having to choose between leaving their homes and finding a job and/or make a decent living. The Compact also focuses on greater environmental protection while also supporting job creation, understanding that the two need not be mutually exclusive.

One of the things that really stands out to me is that in the context of the Rural Assembly’s Compact the term “rural” or “small town” is not defined in that devise way Sarah Palin revived during her Republican National Assembly speech (Although it was certainly around long before her speech). Rural is, instead, a diverse collection of places across this nation where we have rich cultural heritages but also poor incomes. Where we have beautiful mountains or valleys or prairies but we also have large companies who do a great deal of damage to this land, and we often find ourselves forced to work for these companies if we want to remain here. In a lot of rural communities there are just no jobs at all, even though rural areas are full of creative thinkers, inventors, artisans, writers, etc. We have the resources. We just have to put those resources to work.

Rural, this diverse collection of places, is not homogenous and it’s for sure no Utopia. But it is a beautifully diverse place just as important to this nation’s success as any other.

So, what I really like about the Compact is it does away with any mention of rural as being some sort of pastoral, racist, or time-warped collections of places—a stereotype that is so counterproductive to doing anything to address the beauty and problems in rural America— but instead embraces “rural” this way:
“Rural America is more than the land. It is a way we are connected in culture, heritage, and national enterprise. While it may be vast, it is far from empty. Sixty million of us live in the American countryside, and far more grew up there. Rural Americans reflect the full diversity of the country in who we are, what we do, and what we want to achieve.”

To read the contract in full and to add your name go here:Read and Sign the Compact.

You can also see who else has signed it, which is a great way to find out people in your area to work with.

At this past year’s Assembly meeting, videos created by rural youth were screened. The videos address areas of concern such as “Education,” “Environment,” “Heath”, and “Investment.” These videos are great because in our media world we hear so little from rural youth about how they perceive their lives and their futures and opportunities and lack thereof. Somehow in much of popular culture rural is almost synonymous with elderly people. But that’s so far from true. To see the videos go here and scroll down near the end of the page.

These videos reminded me how important media production opportunities are for young people. I am so excited to think about the possibilities of getting documentation opportunities available in our own rural area of central Arkansas.

Maybe you have already heard about the Rural Assembly or have worked with them. I would love to hear about it.

Please consider joining the contract! And if you live in the central Arkansas area, I am waiting on a response from them as to how we can get our area more involved in the Assembly. I will keep you posted!