Back to The State of the South


Date: April 19, 2023

Time: Two-day event, Apr 19-20

Berea College
101 Chestnut St.
Berea, KY 40404

APR. 19-20 | True South Central Appalachia

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.

Register Now


Wednesday, April 19th

3:00pm: Welcome and 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?

4:45-5:30pm: 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.

7:00-8:30pm: An Evening of Music and Storytelling 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

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: Shaping Southern Narrative, Organized by South Arts

  • 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”

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, using “radical imagination” to identify policy and systems change strategies to address critical challenges in the region.

  • Concurrent session 1: Economic State of the Southern Family: 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?
    • Alissa Taylor, Kentucky State Director, US Programs at Save the Children US
    • Tanya Torp, Speaker and Founder, Step by Step
    • Moderator: Alison C. De Marco, Advanced Research Scientist, Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • Concurrent session 2: 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? How to move forward with community economic development while in a recovery stage? How can community progress continue through disaster?
    • Pam Johnson, Chief Business Development Officer and Executive Vice President, Fahe
    • Misty Skaggs, Writer, Artist, and Community Leader, Eastern Kentucky Mutual Aid
    • Kristin Walker Collins, Chief Operating Officer, Foundation for Appalachian Kentucky
  • Concurrent session 3: 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?
    • Amelia Kirby, Project Director for Justice Revisioning Project, Foundation for Appalachian Kentucky
    • Kaylee Raymer, Policy Analyst, Kentucky Center for Economic Policy
    • Dr. Judah Schept, Associate Professor, School of Justice Studies, Eastern Kentucky University

3:00pm: Break

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

4:00pm: Closing Reflection


Partnering Organizations:

Brushy Fork Leadership Institute, A Strategic Initiative of Berea College

Duke Social Science Research Institute

Philanthropy Southeast


Program Sponsors

The Kresge Foundation

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. See upcoming True South events.

Date: April 19, 2023

Time: Two-day event, Apr 19-20

Berea College
101 Chestnut St.
Berea, KY 40404