Rural Cinema is a training institute and community engagement program resourcing leaders from rural areas and small towns across the United States to use films in their work for environmental justice and protection. The program supports participants in holding screening events that engage their communities and advance their goals over the course of one year. Rural Cinema creates spaces for residents to come together (in-person or virtually), 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.

This year, we will be working with five organizations in communities that are directly affected by polluting industries or are transitioning from being economically fueled by fossil fuels to adopting other more sustainable approaches. We are excited to announce that the 2021 Rural Cinema cohort will include: The Center Pole (The Crow Indian Reservation, MT), the Missouri Rural Crisis Center (Cooper County, MO), Mountain Watershed Association (Melcroft, PA), Partnership for Southern Equity (Fort Valley, GA), and the Rural Utah Project (Grand County, UT).

The Center Pole

The Center Pole is a Native non-profit organization founded in 1999. The campus is located at the foot of the Little Big Horn Battlefield National Monument on the Crow Indian Reservation in Montana. Originally a youth development organization, The Center Pole has expanded their work to include projects for a stronger Crow community. The expansion includes an alternative energy demonstration project, work in the area of food sovereignty, a digital archive, an indigenous media and education center and a radio station to give the Crow people a voice.

Mila Big Hair’s Crow name is Holy Water Drum. Mila grew up on the Crow Indian Reservation in Montana and is 33 this year. Mila participates in the Crow sun dance and other sacred ceremonies and speaks the Crow language. Mila grew up at the Center Pole, her mother Peggy Wellknown Buffalo’s non-profit, and has worked there for about 10 years. Mila attended Guilford College in Greensboro, North Carolina, and the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Mila is a visual artist and sees film as an important tool to build knowledge, justice and awareness in her Native community. She believes her community is her teacher.

David Driftwood’s Crow name is Child of the Sundance Whistle. David was born in Wyola, Montana, on the Crow Reservation and has lived there all his life. He is 24 years old. His father died when he was 12. His father instilled a work ethic in him and he began to be industrious, self motivated and interested in helping others at a young age. He grew up assisting his uncle, a filmmaker and teacher, to produce films for Little Big Horn College. He works at the Center Pole, Peggy Wellknown Buffalo’s community organization in community development, particularly in the area of food sovereignty. He has four children: 6, 5, 2 and 1 who are the lights of his life.

Missouri Rural Crisis Center

The Missouri Rural Crisis Center (MRCC) is a statewide farm and rural membership organization founded in 1985 with over 5600 member families. MRCC’s mission is to preserve family farms, promote stewardship of the land and environmental integrity and strive for economic and social justice by building unity and mutual understanding among diverse groups, both rural and urban. MRCC carries out this mission through its programming areas, each with its own specific role in advocating for family farms and rural communities. Their innovative approach to family farm organizing includes challenging corporate control of the food supply, creating sustainable alternatives to the current farm and food system, and generating community participation to create a just, democratic society based on equity and fairness for all people.

MRCC fights to preserve family farms and independent family farm livestock production, promote stewardship of the land and a safe, affordable high-quality food supply, support social justice and economic opportunity, and engage rural Missourians in public policies that impact their farms, food, families and communities. In addition, MRCC plays leadership roles in national and international efforts for fair farm and trade policies.

Jamie Blair is a longtime resident of Audrain County, Missouri,  hobby gardener, mom, and amateur potato scientist. She became Rural Organizer and de facto Digital Organizer with Missouri Rural Crisis Center in early 2020. She is passionate about MRCC’s mission to curtail corporate control of our food systems and restore the natural relationship between farmers and the land. She is especially devoted to the role that sustainable farming can have on our environment through carbon sequestration, decreased runoff, and responsible water use. She wants to see a day where we can start to achieve carbon drawdown as well as a fair price for the farmers who put food on all of our tables. She loves nothing more than talking with other rural folks and finding ways that we can help them meet their needs and conquer the unique challenges that come with rural life.  She also enjoys snuggles from friendly cows, horses, and llamas but makes do with her two dogs and cats for everyday affection.

Erich Arvidson is a Loan Officer in Mid-Missouri. He grew up in Delta, Missouri and now resides in rural Cooper County. He has a boundless curiosity that has led him to master a variety of hobbies and skills such as restoring antique cast iron and vintage video games, as well as soap making and bee keeping. Erich is also the type of volunteer that can be counted on and has given his time to the Special Olympics, the Mid-Missouri Food Bank, the Cooper County Democratic Committee, The Missouri Democratic Party State Committee, and MRCC. Erich became involved with Missouri Rural Crisis Center and our Rural Healthcare work as a Medicaid Ambassador after losing both parents in the gap between Medicare and Medicaid in 2019. He made it his mission to make sure another family didn’t have to struggle to make vital healthcare decisions based on cost. He was an integral part of our effort to expand Medicaid in the state of Missouri and stayed involved with our work on healthcare education, racial justice, and environmental justice. He brings enthusiasm and versatility to our Cooper County Rural Cinema project and is personally invested as a resident of Cooper County

Mountain Watershed Association

Mountain Watershed Association works to preserve, restore, and protect the Indian Creek and greater Youghiogheny River watersheds. These watersheds are located in the Appalachian foothills of Pennsylvania, a region known as the Laurel Highlands. Mountain Watershed Association organization has a unique approach in that they pursue on-the-ground restoration of past coal mining damage while we also advocate to protect our communities from the impacts of continued extraction for coal and, more recently, natural gas. Their work blends environmental monitoring, legal advocacy, and community organizing in order to empower local residents to take action to defend the waterways and communities they love.

James Cato is a Community Organizer with Mountain Watershed Association. He lives in Pittsburgh, PA and he graduated from Oberlin College in 2020 with a degree in Environmental Studies. His organizing work focuses on the impacts of the petrochemical buildout in the Ohio River Valley. In his off time, he publishes speculative fiction about rural environmental issues, hoping to contribute to a greater narrative movement.

Stacey Magda is a community organizer with Mountain Watershed Association and lives along the Chestnut Ridge in the Laurel Highlands. She focuses on engaging communities around coal mining developments, fracking waste stream impacts, and defending the celebrated and endangered Youghiogheny River. Her deep appreciation of the area and natural resources feeds her passion for this work. When she isn’t hosting community meetings and working on environmental impacts, she enjoys exploring rivers and trails with her young daughter and family.

Partnership for Southern Equity

Founded in 2009, the Partnership for Southern Equity (PSE) advances policies and institutional actions that promote racial equity and shared prosperity for all in the growth of Atlanta and the American South. PSE advances its work through an Equity Ecosystem to grow the momentum for change. The Equity Ecosystem uses equity as the lens to propose and pursue just and equitable solutions. Through Values-Based Organizing, community engagement, coalition building, and leadership development, PSE works with communities to promote just energy policies in Georgia and across the American South. A big part of that is helping people understand where their energy comes from, how that affects them, and how they can get involved. Racial equity is utilized as a framework for mobilizing advocacy around energy equity issues. Mobilization takes on many forms including the Just Energy Circle, which is made up of like-minded frontline community organizations and individuals looking to advance a “New Southern Agenda” in the fight against climate injustice.

Marsha Gosier is the Central and Southwest Georgia Organizer for the Just Energy issue area within the Partnership for Southern Equity. Born in East Point, Georgia, and proudly representing her hometown Fort Valley, Georgia, Marsha is a natural born organizer, changemaker, influencer and strategist. She dedicates her passion and time to ensuring equity, with a special focus on racial equity matters through the lenses of environmental justice and economic development. In her role at PSE, she has facilitated values-based racial equity and environmental equity trainings, created hubs and organized around environmental justice issues throughout Georgia, including Peach, Houston, Taylor, and Lowndes counties, and in metropolitan areas including Columbus, Macon, Warner Robins, Fort Valley, and Albany. Marsha is passionate about ensuring that just, fair, and equitable policies for low-income and urban communities are attainable throughout the South, and her work is an intentional work of love.

Keta Lucas is one of Marsha’s partners in community. Keta is currently participating in Just Energy’s 2021 Just Energy Academy, which advances energy equity in formal and informal leadership positions. This program was designed to provide cohorts with the knowledge, skills, and tools to effectively engage stakeholders regarding community concerns and policies that impact their communities; in particular, energy equity and climate justice issues. Marsha and Keta have partnered together within their community while supporting one another’s organizations, including Culture 64 and Sankofa Speaks. Keta is a community advocate with the objective of encouraging and inspiring the members of her community to reach their potential. Her work is dedicated to advocating for the underserved families in the Fort Valley community.

The Rural Utah Project

The Rural Utah Project is dedicated to increasing civic engagement in rural communities across Utah. We’re a young organization and are motivated to build a powerful movement with our neighbors that fights for a more just and sustainable future for rural Utah’s communities and landscapes. We seek to expand civic participation by breaking down barriers to the ballot box and providing organizing tools to local communities.

Nate Vosburg is a community and labor organizer having worked for political campaigns and unions across the country. Now based in southeastern Utah, his work with the Rural Utah Project focuses on voting rights and civic engagement, economic justice for workers, and just transition advocacy.

Krystyna has lived and worked on the Colorado Plateau since 1992, first in Grand Junction, CO, now in Moab, UT. After ten years teaching high school and middle school mathematics, she refocused her energy on public lands, community development, and the environment with Public Land Solutions as Executive Coordinator and Technology Manager. An avid hiker, trail runner, and explorer, she holds a B.S. in Physics, an M.A. in Education and is currently working on a graduate degree in Natural Resources from Utah State University. She recently joined the board of KZMU 90.1, a local radio station, and volunteers with other organizations in the area. On the weekends she can be found roaming the desert with her dog, Beau.


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

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