Rural Cinema is a training institute and community engagement program aimed at supporting rural leaders across the United States in using films as a resource in their work. The program supports participants in holding live community events that engage their communities and advance their goals over the course of one year. This year’s program has a special focus on serving individuals and organizations working for environmental justice and protection in areas directly impacted by polluting industries or transitioning from being economically fueled by natural resource extraction to adopting other more sustainable approaches.

Whether through virtual screenings, drive-ins, or — once the pandemic has passed — face-to-face gatherings, these events will create spaces for residents to come together, discuss issues affecting their communities, learn and be inspired by the visual content and one another’s experiences, and generate solutions that address their needs and priorities.

We are thrilled to announce that the 2020 Rural Cinema cohort will include: Center for Coalfield Justice (Pennsylvania), Citizens for a Healthy Community (Colorado), Good Stewards of Rockingham/Dan Riverkeeper (North Carolina), Iniciativa de EcoDesarrollo de la Bahia de Jobos (Puerto Rico), Menīkānaehkem (Wisconsin), Native Movement (Alaska), and the Rural Organizing Project (Oregon).

Center for Coalfield Justice

The Center for Coalfield Justice is a 501(c)(3) environmental justice nonprofit in Pennsylvania whose mission is to improve policy and regulations for the oversight of fossil fuel extraction and use; to educate, empower and organize coalfield residents; and to protect public and environmental health. Their approach for working with area residents values their knowledge about the land, waterways, and communities. We provide community members with detailed information about proposed projects and potential impacts so they can make informed decisions on individual or collective actions. Their recognition of local expertise is grounded in the belief that people who live with the daily impacts of fossil fuel extraction should be treated with the utmost respect. Center for Coalfield Justice’s work is informed and directed by how local people think these industries should be held accountable for impacts. By blending organizing and legal work, we seek to create an expanded set of options for achieving justice than might be produced by following solely a legal or organizing approach.

Lisa DePaoli is an ecological anthropologist whose interest in the relationship between humans and nature has brought her from teaching and research to doing applied work. She is the outreach coordinator for the Center for Coalfield Justice, working with communities on the frontlines of fossil fuel extraction in Appalachia, witnessing political ecology at work in real life once again. She is excited to be a part of the Rural Cinema program and looking forward to engaging CCJ members and supporters with the materials!

Kristen Locy graduated from Allegheny College in 2018 with a degree in Environmental Studies. After a brief stint in Scotland working on a sheep farm, she came back home to Washington County, Pennsylvania to work for the Center for Coalfield Justice in the summer of 2019. Her passion lies in environmental justice and storytelling. Photographs and documentaries have inspired her activism since she was a child and she is excited to help to inspire others through the Rural Cinema initiative.


Citizens for a Healthy Community

Citizens for a Healthy Community (CHC) is a grassroots nonprofit organization of 1500 visionaries dedicated to protecting the air, water and foodsheds within the Delta County region of Southwest Colorado from the impacts of oil and gas development and paving the way for a renewable, clean energy future. CHC was established in 2009 by a group of citizens who were concerned about the risks of large-scale oil and gas development to the community’s health.


Natasha Léger is the Executive Director of Citizens For A Healthy Community (CHC). Her work in empowering the community has led to withdrawal of projects and leasing proposals that threaten the community, and widespread resistance to oil and gas development in the North Fork Valley, which serves a unique role in Colorado’s food supply, recreation economy, and biodiversity. She is an international trade attorney, turned independent business consultant, turned editor of a location intelligence magazine, turned author, turned accidental activist.

Marissa Mommaerts serves as Project Assistant for CHC. She also serves as Director of Programs for Transition US, a network of communities transitioning away from fossil fuel dependence toward local resilience. She previously worked for the Post Carbon Institute and The Aspen Institute on communications projects related to sustainable development. Marissa has a Master’s Degree in International Public Affairs from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she co-founded a sustainable development project in partnership with UW students and an island community in Lake Victoria, Uganda. She is also a writer ( and speaker on the topics of community resilience and sustainable global development, as well as an avid gardener, homesteader, community organizer, and activist.

Good Stewards of Rockingham/Dan Riverkeeper

Good Stewards of Rockingham is a grassroots environmental organization committed to protecting their region from polluting industry. Good Stewards founded the first Dan Riverkeeper in mid 2019 to further their protective reach into their vast water resources and support community rights to a clean environment.

Steven Pulliam has served as President of Good Stewards since 2018 and as Dan Riverkeeper since July 2019. He and the Good Stewards have set focus on equity and inclusion, to protect and involve the communities most impacted by environmental pollution and deregulation. With the assistance of Steven‘s leadership, Good Stewards has grown exponentially in their mission to serve and protect their watershed through community engagement and leadership development.

Stesha Warren is a 2014 founding member of Good Stewards of Rockingham and currently serves as Secretary. With a Bachelor of Science in Agricultural Education, a minor in Agriscience and a love for the outdoors; she develops and teaches classes on foraging, mushroom production, forest farming, and homesteading skills at her farm and Rockingham Community College. Her love of all things nature is closely intertwined with her need to protect it.


Iniciativa de EcoDesarrollo de la Bahia de Jobos (IDEBAJO)

The Iniciativa de EcoDesarrollo de la Bahia de Jobos (IDEBAJO) is an environmental organizing support hub for various grassroots groups in the Jobos Bay area of southeastern Puerto Rico. Members are committed to environmental, climate, and energy justice, rooftop community solar, supporting youth leaders, and other capacity-building and anti-pollution efforts. Rural Cinema participants are members of IDEBAJO and also have affiliations with the Casa Comunitaria de Medios/Community Media House. This communication project focuses on the creation of audiovisual media to advance popular education. The House also advocates for different mutual aid initiatives, rooted in community empowerment.


Hery Colón is a 25-year-old resident of Salinas, Puerto Rico and is passionate about audiovisual production. He also facilitates community engagement in the Casa Comunitaria de Medios, through art and other community activities.

Mabette Colón is 20 years old and an environmental justice activist who lives in southwest Puerto Rico. Her work includes EPA public hearings, congressional meetings, and youth camp organizing. For these efforts, she won the 2019 CEHN youth leadership award.


Catalina de Onís is another member of the Iniciativa de Eco-Desarrollo de la Bahia de Jobos. She is participating in the Rural Cinema workshops and has facilitated the process of amplifying the vital work of Puerto Rico-based environmental justice community change-makers, like Hery and Mabette..


Menīkānaehkem, Inc is a non-profit organization located on the Menominee Indian Reservation in Wisconsin. Much of Menīkānaehkem is operated by indigenous organizers who take the lead on a number of different initiatives that Menīkānaehkem works on. Menīkānaehkem is driven to promote a cultural way of life while revitalizing indigenous identity and language.

Menīkānaehkem has the following initiatives: Women’s Leadership Cohort, Energy Sovereignty, Back 40 Mine, Food Sovereignty, Culture Group, Youth Leadership Cohort, and Menominee Men. Menīkānaehkem works on bringing unity to their community by using hearts and minds as one.

Maria L. Haskins, Boozhoo, Nayezhigookwe is an activist and community organizer with Menīkānaehkem, Inc. Maria has earned her masters degree in social work and has worked in different level positions where she has been able to see the injustices that occur within her community and people. Maria is using the experience she has gained with her career to advocate for social and environmental justice focusing primarily on indigenous people.

Anahkwet (Guy Reiter) is a traditional Menominee who resides on the Menominee Reservation. He’s the Executive Director of Menikahnaehkem. He’s also a Community organizer, activist, author, amateur archaeologist and lecturer. He is a member of the Menominee Constitutional Taskforce. Anahkwet has organized a lot of events that have uplifted the human condition and demonstrated how enriching the Menominee culture is. He has lectured at Universities on the connection Menominee Indians have to the Menominee River. He’s also written articles for Environmental Health News and other publications. When Anahkwet isn’t working, you’ll find him enjoying time with his wife and children. Anahkwet is an advocate for indigenous people everywhere.

Native Movement 

Founded in 2003 out of Arctic Village, Alaska, Native Movement’s initial campaign was to help build a collective Alaska Native voice for the recognition of Indigenous hunting and fishing rights. By 2007 Native Movement had become formally incorporated as a 501c3 non-profit and grown to a west-coast collective. Native Movement has provided leadership and support for grassroots-led projects that endeavor to ensure Indigenous Peoples’ rights, the rights of Mother Earth, and the building of healthy and sustainable communities for all. They believe in building equitable and respectful community organizing practices, getting to the root of the matter, uplifting intersectionality, and furthering a healing path. Understanding the impacts of the power and privilege structures of colonialism, racism, patriarchy, and capitalism is essential. Native Movement also recognizes that committing to healing practices both in our work and our lives is essential to the longevity and joy of the work before us.

Native Movement trainings, workshops, and camps are not exclusive to Indigenous peoples; rather their leadership model is shaped from an Indigenous worldview, which emphasizes deep acknowledgment of place-based knowledge and the joy and responsibility of building community.

Sara Siqiñiq Thomas is raising her family in Utqiaġvik, AK, her home since she was 10 years old. Since completing a B.A. in International Relations at the University of Hawaii Mānoa, she has worked in education, stakeholder relations for oil and gas, and workforce development. Through the UAF Rural Development M.A. program she figured out how to combine her passions: community-building around land, air, and water for community wellness, and Iñupiaq language and culture revitalization.

Brandon Hill lives in Homer, Alaska and is a graphic designer, photographer and digital organizer. He has been a videographer on a film series documenting mega-dams and Indigenous land rights in Malaysian Borneo, and co-produced the film “Chuitna: More than Salmon on the Line,” winner of Best Environmental Film at The International Wildlife Film Festival in 2015. His most recent short documentary film about Alaska’s Pebble Mine premiered as part of the official selection at the Wild & Scenic Film Festival in 2020. He holds a B.A. in Natural History from Sterling College in Vermont and is Alumni of the ReFrame Mentorship.

Rural Organizing Project

Rural Organizing Project (ROP) is a statewide organization that supports a multi-issue, rural-centered, grassroots base of over 65 groups across small-town, rural, and frontier Oregon. ROP works to build and support a shared standard of human dignity: the belief in the equal worth of all people, the need for equal access to justice, and the right to self-determination. Their mission is to strengthen the skills, resources, and vision of primary leadership in local autonomous human dignity groups with a goal of keeping such groups a vibrant source for a just democracy.

ROP began in 1992 as a response to the Oregon Citizens Alliance’s Abnormal Behaviors Initiative, which targeted gay and lesbian Oregonians for legalized second-class citizenship and intentionally built up a base across rural Oregon. Today, ROP and ROP’s member groups lead campaigns and programs at the intersections of economic, racial, gender, and climate justice, centering human dignity and democracy while tackling detentions, deportations, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement contracts, resourcing and connecting rural media-makers, challenging the anti-democratic Right, and organizing for the long haul vision of a rural Oregon where everyone can live their lives fully with safety and dignity. Check out their podcast Rural Roots Rising to hear about ROP members’ work in their own words!

Jess Campbell is the Executive Director and an organizer with the Rural Organizing Project, co-author of Up In Arms: A Guide to Oregon’s Patriot Movement, and a small farmer based in Southwestern Oregon. Over the last decade, Jess has worked with some of the most rural communities in Oregon to fight for the commons from post offices to libraries, to organize and counter organize in frontline communities reeling from vigilante and state violence and white nationalist organizing, and to advance experimental campaigns at the intersections of racial, economic, and social justice.
Emma Ronai-Durning is an organizer with the Rural Organizing Project based in Central Oregon. Her work focuses on supporting volunteer-run human dignity groups to demystify and participate in local public budgeting processes, bolster community-owned rural media, and break the ties between local law enforcement and ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement).


Rural Cinema is made possible with generous support from the Kendeda Fund, Putnam Foundation,
Wyncote Foundation, and the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation. 

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