Alumni Newsletter - Summer Issue 2020
Dear Alumni,

This year marks the 30 th anniversary of the Rural Economic Development Institute (REDI), and I want to invite you to join me in reflecting on the incredible power of a leader.

I think a lot about leaders like the Greensboro Four—Joseph McNeil, Franklin McCain, Ezell Blair Jr., and David Richmond—the young Black students at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University who staged the Greensboro sit-ins. These young men demonstrated how strategic and bold action has been used to bring about momentous change. Although they did not sit in a traditional position of privilege or power, they led the charge for integration that marked a turning point in North Carolina’s history.

In our REDI curriculum, we often talk about leaders as “spark plugs” who ignite local innovation and foster a community will for collaborative leadership and a collective stewardship for the future—and The Greensboro Four were the “spark plugs” that ignited social change. Without their vision for a more just, inclusive, and equitable North Carolina, our communities—and our nation—would not be what they are today. It is our charge now that we honor their work, build upon it, and inspire others to do the same.

We are proud of our legacy of training North Carolina’s leaders, but as we look around, we see that things are rapidly changing—and we must also change. We have made a firm commitment to define our racial equity framework in our leadership and engagement programs. As an organization, the Rural Center has convened an equity leadership team of staff and is committing time and resources to develop this frame and practice of equity. Our “building blocks” of economic development have been revised to include the guiding principles of equity and inclusion. We have added Sterling Freeman to our core leadership faculty. Sterling has more than 25 years of experience and expertise as a powerful change agent and will invite REDI participants to explore how race, power, and privilege impact community economic development and leadership.

While these steps are just the beginning, we are moving forward with the vision of a more just and equitable North Carolina, and it will require steadfast and engaged leaders like you.

Bronwyn Lucas
Director of Leadership
Reflections From Dr. Yo
[Above] - Retired REDI core faculty, Dr. Yolanda Burwell, reflects on the overarching themes of REDI and just how relevant they are 30 years after its first class.
In Memoriam: Dr. Andrea Lynette Harris (1948-2020)
“Andrea Harris was a trailblazer who never stopped fighting for social and racial equity in our state. When doors were intentionally shut, she broke through for women- and minority-owned businesses to succeed, modeled excellence in advocacy, and mentored scores of freedom fighters. She left an indelible impact on North Carolina’s business and African American communities, and she will be missed.”
- Hon. Governor Roy Cooper
[Above] - Andrea Harris (REDI 1989) presenting current Vice Chair of the NC Rural Center Board of Directors
Andy Anderson with his REDI graduation certificate.
"Andrea graduated from our first Rural Economic Development Institute (REDI) class in 1989, and she gave more than a decade of faithful service to the Rural Center board. All her life, Andrea empowered change in North Carolina’s small business sector and uplifted minority-owned businesses. 

She came in a small package, but she was powerful and unmatched in her commitment to economic and social justice—and we owe so much to her."
Patrick Woodie, President, NC Rural Center
Read more about Dr. Andrea Harris and her lifetime of service below.

Andrea Harris, Statewide Business Pioneer, Has Died
The North Carolina Institute for Minority Economic Development, which Dr. Harris founded in 1986, recently announced plans to merge with North Carolina Community Development Initiative. Read their press release below.

The Institute and the Initiative Announce Plans to Merge
PRESS RELEASE - Kevin J. Price, The Institute
Alumni In Action
When McDowell County community advocate, Debra Workman, reached out to Paula Swepson-Avery (REDI 2017) in the wake of the killing of George Floyd, they knew they needed to take action. Swepson-Avery, who is the executive director of the West Marion Community Forum, worked alongside Workman and other community leaders to organize a ‘Shine the Light’ vigil. The vigils, held in both Marion and Old Fort, were attended by more than 400 residents and aimed to promote unity while shining a light on hate, racism, and injustice.

While the vigils have helped start a community conversation, organizers are hoping to go one step further by raising money to offer Racial Equity Training to residents. Please use the link below to support this work!
Read more about Paula and the 'Shine the Light' vigil below, which also features REDI alumnae and Marion community leader, Dawna Goode-Ledbetter (REDI 2018).

Vigils in Marion, Old Fort seek to shine a light on hate, racism, injustice
The McDowell News
Lee County minister and REDI 2019 alumnus, Jarrod Davis, authored an opinion piece for Medium detailing his upbringing in rural NC and why as a young adult he retired his confederate flag.

Why I Put Away My Confederate Flags
Are you or another leader in your community actively engaged in making your community more equitable? If so, we'd love to hear your story. Please share at
Alumni Spotlight - Andy Anderson (REDI 1992)
Throughout his career Andy Anderson has maintained a tireless commitment to his congregation, his community, and his state. Anderson, who is the current Vice Chair of the Rural Center's Board of Directors, also serves as the disaster recovery advocate for Disability Rights North Carolina and is the pastor of Father's Cup Overflow Ministries. In the wake of the killing of George Floyd in May, Anderson helped spur a faith-based protest and civic conversation in his home, Columbus County.

Q: What motivates you to get up every day and do the work you do to serve your community?
A:   Since I was a kid, I have had this motivation to make others happy. As far back as I can remember, I was always with my grandmother, Sadie Jones, at some function of the Grade Mothers or Garden Club in our segregated community. She was always serving in some way and she dragged me around with her to do the same. 

Now, I find myself most fulfilled when more people get good things--that has become my personal mission statement. So whether I’m serving as pastor, protesting in Columbus County or Raleigh, working as an advocate at Disability Rights NC, or on a Zoom call with the Rural Center Board, I feel most fulfilled when I am working towards positive change.
Q: In light of the COVID pandemic, racial health inequities, and the elevated community focus on race, how have you demonstrated leadership? What tools and skills have you used? 
A: These are times like none I have ever experienced. My toolbox sometimes feels exhausted! During COVID and the fight for equity and justice, I have served as a sounding board, moderator, activist, writer, convener, conveyer, agitator, preacher, consultant, parent, husband, and son--just to name a few roles.

I have used the skills that I picked up years ago in my REDI training, along with the challenge that was given to me to “never stop learning.” Empathetic learning, strategic collaboration, plans of work, and cultural inclusion are all concepts that I have found essential in my courageous conversations about race, my work with our community’s response to the COVID-19 crisis, fights for economic parity, closing the digital and educational divide, and more.
NC Rural Center Hosts First Alumni Trivia ( virtually)
Whether you've been working from home or social distancing with your colleagues in the office, we can all agree that its nice to take a break and de-stress. Last month, we did just that with more than alumni joining us virtually for the Rural Center's first Leadership Alumni Trivia.

Thank you to everyone who joined, and special congratulations to the winners, listed below!

  • 1st - James Barrett (REDI 2019)
  • 2nd - Amanda Young (REDI 2014)
  • 3rd - Sonja Marston (REDI 2014)

Know of any other fun and innovative ways for alumni to connect virtually? - contact us !
Alumni in the News
UNC-TV, NC Impact

Featuring Noran Sanford (REDI 2016)
Southeastern Community College

Featuring Chris English (HGL - Asheville)
Institute for Emerging Issues

Featuring Keith Sutton (REDI 1995)
Institute for Emerging Issues

Featuring LB Prevette (REDI 2019)
Triangle J Council of Governments

Featuring Bryan Thompson (REDI 2008)
Roanoke-Chowan News Herald

Featuring Weyling White (REDI 2015)
Partner Events & Resources
NC Counts Coalition - 2020 Get-Out-The-Count Grant RFP - deadline July 24
Dogwood Heath Trust - June 2020 Funding Guide and COVID-19 Grants
Institute for Emerging Issues - BAND-NC Digital Inclusion Grant
ReCONNECT NC: Call for Communities - Mental Health and Well Being - RFP deadline July 27
Aspen Institute - COVID-19 Resources Useful for Rural People and Communities
Workforce Opportunity for Rural Communities: Grant Initiative for Appalachian Region
Reminder: Census 2020
The 2020 Census will be used to determine political representation, federal funding allocations, as well as informing decisions on local infrastructure investment and community and economic development. That said, it is imperative that every North Carolina resident complete their census.

North Carolina currently ranks 34th in the nation in census response, with many rural counties significantly lagging behind both state and national response averages.

Together we must ensure #RuralCounts by sharing the importance of the census with our family, friends, and neighbors.
How to Respond to the Census

Online:  The 2020 Census is the first time that households can complete the census online. You can complete the census  online  using a laptop, tablet, or smartphone.

By Phone:  You can also complete the census questionnaire by calling (844) 330-2020. (Customer Service Representatives are available every day from 7 a.m. to 2 a.m. Eastern Time.)

By Mail:  Mail your completed, paper census form to: U.S. Census Bureau National Processing Center at 1201 E 10th Street, Jeffersonville, IN 47132.
If you have an upcoming event, noteworthy news, or other information that you would like to share with your leadership alumni network please contact Miles Kirksey, engagement coordinator, at   or 919.250.4314