State of the South presents:

True South Series

True South Series

State of the South has been, and always will be, a key to achieving MDC’s mission of equipping Southern institutions and communities to advance equity and improve economic mobility; it is a tool MDC uses to move from thought to action.

MDC’s 2022-2023 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. We will dive deep into topics like health equity, educational equity, and debt and wealth accrual. We will highlight the work of MDC partners and friends who are meeting the unique challenges of this moment, considering community strengths and systemic failures, examining barriers built into systems, and finding ways to acknowledge and remove them.

Our aim is not to define a True South, but to capture a bigger picture of the region than is typically depicted in our country’s dominant narratives. True South will include voices from all over the geographic, social, and power map and will incorporate different ways of knowing and exploring themes—not just policy and practice, but also through art and personal narrative. In this series, we will strive to be honest, brave, and vulnerable as we reckon with our past to improve our present and create a better and truer South in the future. We invite you to come along with us.

Read below for more (including details and registration) on our upcoming series events.

February 21, 2022, 5-6:30pm, Chapel Hill, NC

Omar ibn Said’s story illuminates the historical and geographical relationships between Black Muslim religious empowerment, forced and chosen migration, and labor. As we think of the future of the South—as well as its present—understanding this history is essential to imagining economic systems rooted in equity.

Join us for a dialogue between Dr. Youssef Carter, an Assistant Professor of Religious Studies and the Kenan Rifai Fellow in Islamic Studies at UNC-Chapel Hill, and Dr. William Spriggs, the former Chair of the Department of Economics at Howard University and Chief Economist to the AFL-CIO. This dialogue will be moderated by MDC Senior Program Director Kerri Forrest. Together, we will explore and bear witness to the historical conditions of slavery faced by Ibn Said, while envisioning how we might realize systems that value humanity.

This is joint program with Carolina Performing Arts and MDC’s State of the South.

Watch video from this event below.

March 16, 2023, 11:30am-1:30pm, Charleston, SC

Join us for a conversation on the changing nature of Charleston and the need to protect Black families and communities from further displacement. We’ll explore the economic drivers leading to current displacement and identify policies and investments needed for communities to thrive.

We’ll begin by hearing from our panelists about their experiences and then engage in small group discussions to identify necessary interventions and how they can produce better outcomes.

This dialogue will inform MDC’s next State of the South Report to help us understand how this trend impacts southern communities.

Session Panelists:

  • Richard Habersham, Phillips Community Association President
  • Nashonda Hunter, Executive Director, The Charity Foundation
  • Bernie Mazyck, Founder/President/CEO, South Carolina Association for Community Economic Development

Opening and Closing Poetry by Marcus Amaker. Marcus Amaker is Charleston, South Carolina’s first poet laureate. He is also an opera librettist, electronic musician, and an award-winning graphic designer. 

March 16th, 6pm

Join our partners at Lowcountry Action Committee at the Avery Research Center for: What is Community Control?

March 30, 12:00-1:15pm Eastern (ONLINE EVENT)

Under the traditional service delivery model, people who need help—with food, shelter, education, job training, and more—struggle to get the help they need because available supports and services are not well coordinated or aligned. MDC and its Build Up Initiative foster Integrated Services Delivery (ISD) Networks with and in communities to empower people and families out of poverty and economic insecurity. These Networks “flip” the traditional services model (fitting people into programs) and instead use ISD to plan withand wrap services aroundpeople and their families to help them achieve major economic outcomes. These include increased levels of education, employment, income, and financial stabilitysocial determinants of health that drive upward economic mobility.  

Join MDC and its Build Up partners as they share insights from the development of the first ISD Network (Guilford Success Network) and how community organizations, philanthropy, governments, healthcare systems, and health insurers can partner with MDC and Build Up to create ISD Networks with and in more communities. 


April 19-20, 2023, Berea, Kentucky

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 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.

Wednesday, April 19th

  • 3:00pm: Welcome and Dialogue on Appalachian History & PolicyHow 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?
  • 7:00-8:30pm: An Evening of Music and Storytelling

Thursday, April 20th, 8:30am -4:00pm

  • Plenary: Equitable Rural Economic DevelopmentHow 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?
  • Connecting past and present policy decisions to current realities: A Data Walk with Duke Social Science Research Institute
  • Concurrent Sessions
    • Strengthening Support for Children and Families
    • Inclusive Disaster Recovery & Resilience
    • The Economic and Community Impact of Incarceration
  • Closing Town Hall