Rural Cinema is a program that trains environmental justice organizers to use film screenings to bring people together and solve challenges facing their communities. The program provides grassroots groups and organizations with film screening equipment by EPIC Outdoor Cinema (projectors, screens, speakers), solar batteries to run the equipment, and funding to host a film series that can inform and inspire people to get involved in their efforts.
Recognizing the importance of documentary storytelling to prompt civic dialogue and action during a time when rural areas across the country are increasingly devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic, climate disasters, and polluting industries, Rural Cinema will help organizers create much needed spaces for building community.
We are excited to announce the five rural-based organizations working towards environmental justice across the United States that were selected for Rural Cinema 2022: Faith in Place (Illinois), NAZO Society (South Dakota), Camas to Condors Project (Idaho), Our Future West Virginia (West Virginia), and Rogue Climate (Oregon). Check out their missions and the representatives who will be taking part:
Faith In Place
Since 1999, Faith in Place has empowered Illinois people of all faiths to be leaders in caring for the Earth, providing resources to educate, connect, and advocate for healthier communities. As a statewide, multifaith 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, Faith in Place serves Illinoisans of diverse races, ethnicities, religions, genders, ages, socioeconomic conditions, and geographic regions. Our strong commitment to justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion derives from our environmental justice mission and reflects the diverse communities we work with and serve.
Wade Halva grew up in Raleigh, NC at the end of a half-mile long dead end dirt road. The back property line was a creek, and Wade’s early playground was the woods. His roots in the forest continue to ground his care for creation. Wade received his BA in history and religious studies from the College of Wooster, a Master’s in Divinity from Columbia Theological Seminary, and a Master’s of Arts in Christian Education from Union Presbyterian Seminary. He has served in parish ministry in the Presbyterian Church (USA) in Illinois and Utah. For rest and relaxation, Wade enjoys the mountains and the beach, the forests and the bluffs, and Malawi, Tanzania, and Zambia hold a special place in his heart.
Camas to Condors Project
Camas to Condors is a restoration and conservation project encompassing the Blue Mountains ecoregion, the Bitterroot Mountains, and the Salmon, Clearwater and Tucannon River Subbasins, all of which are contained within the Nez Perce Tribe’s usual and accustomed areas. It is a tribally-led, collaborative, multidisciplinary response to the dire threats climate change is bringing to places, species and lifeways in our shared home. Our mission is to build culturally relevant conservation power in the Nez Perce homelands. Develop and share a holistic vision for climate + cultural + ecological resilience. Grow an ethical, inclusive, and adaptive restoration economy/a healing economy. We envision a shared home where the time-tested Indigenous relationship with the land is honored as a model of resilience; where land protection is restitution for past harm; where land restoration is an arena for eco-cultural healing and a foundation of the regional economy; and where stewardship priorities shape land management that is responsive, holistic, and just.
Meadow Wheaton (Nimiipuu) grew up in Willamette Valley of Oregon. She is currently finishing her AmeriCorps VISTA service with the Nez Perce Tribe Climate Change Program and moving on to finish her undergraduate at the University of Idaho in Broadcasting and Digital Media. She hopes to start a career in film making with a focus on communicating environmental science, and traditional ecological knowledge.
Tiyana Casey (Wasq’u, Yakama, Umatilla, Nimiipuu) uses science to perpetuate the values of her indigenous culture; advancing the understanding and management of her ancestral territories for both tribal and non-tribal people. As a life-long advocate for tribal youth, she has been responsible for the cultural transmission and education of indigenous youth across the PNW with the intention of offering healing pathways to professional spaces. The synthesis of her education, research, and leadership roles with the invaluable education she has received from tribal elders, hunters, gatherers, and community members informs Tiyana’s current roles both professionally and in her community.
‘NAZO’ means to “sound or blow the whistle in alarm” in Lakota. Nazo was formed in 2019, when a group of women came together on the Cheyenne River Reservation to discuss the threat of the man camps which would accompany the TransCanada KXL Pipeline. It has since evolved into a safe space for people to share experiences and community concerns. NAZO seeks justice for women/ children/ relatives who experience sex trafficking and those who are targeted. We aim to educate our communities in preventive action regarding the hazards of the extractive industries that are currently targeting our lands in South Dakota. We organize to build awareness, patrol our rural reservation communities and offer educational presentations to our schools. We also host self-defense training. Our reservations in South Dakota have long been targeted by extractive industries. Indigenous people around the world are on the front lines in fighting against environmental destruction. Women have long held powerful leadership within these resistance movements; a fact that is often unrecognized by larger society. When we fight for the earth, we are fighting for our own survival.
Marcella Gilbert is the daughter of Madonna Thunder Hawk and a Lakota and Dakota community organizer with a focus on food sovereignty and cultural revitalization. She earned a Master’s Degree in Nutrition from South Dakota State University. Gilbert was a 2014 Cohort of the Bush Foundation’s Native Nations Rebuilders Program.
Ryia LeBeau is Lakota and Diné, belongs to the Two Kettle Band at Cheyenne River, and grew up on the vast, open lands of the Oceti Sakowin. She is studying Indigenous and American Indian Studies at Haskell Indian Nations University, founded in 1884 as an Indian Boarding School for children. When not studying, Ryia works as a media and oral history apprentice for the Warrior Women Project, a collective that works at the intersection of media, history and Indigenous matriarchy. She is also a part of Nažó Society, describing her role as “a niece and granddaughter; I listen, I observe, and learn by doing—honoring the stage of ‘wikóškalaka’ (the ‘young woman’ phase of life) learning the very “how to” from my elder women.”
Our Future West Virginia
Our Future West Virginia meets folk where they are, helping communities build local power to upend oppressive systems around them. We envision a West Virginia where EVERY person has the justice, dignity, and equity needed to thrive. Our Future West Virginia is a statewide non-profit, working on local and state issues of Civic Engagement, Education, Healthcare, and Environmental, Racial, Economic, and Social Justice. We work to change the balance of power through grassroots led policy change, developing local leadership, and bringing diverse voices together.
Kathy Ferguson is a community advocate from the unincorporated district of Institute, WV, where she’s been using her 25 years of experience working in social services within the criminal justice system to inform her activism and organizing work. Currently serving as the Interim Exec. Director at OFWV, she continues to demonstrate a clear commitment to helping those who are in most need and giving voice to those who are disenfranchised. An agent for change Ms. Ferguson is a believer in social justice and equality for all and dedicates both her professional and personal time towards this end.
Traci Phillips holds a B.S. in Communications from Bowie State University and has worked for companies such as C-SPAN, CBS Newspath, BET Nightly News, Radio-One Inc., XM Satellite Radio, Fox 5 in Washington, DC and WCHS-TV in Charleston, WV. She is an on-air personality for WSVQ 92.1’s Charleston’s Voice for Equity and Empowerment, an initiative of the Partnership of African American Churches and is an active member of the Charleston, WV NAACP. She is currently the Interim Communications Director with Our Future West Virginia. Traci and her husband Justin have 3 children and live in Charleston, WV.
Rogue Climate’s mission is to empower Southern Oregon communities most impacted by climate change, including low-income, rural, youth, seniors, and communities of color, to win climate justice by organizing for clean energy, sustainable jobs, and a healthy environment.
Blanca Gutierrez is the Leadership Development and Cultural Director at Rogue Climate and works to build leadership with the Latinx community in the Rogue Valley. Raised in Southern Oregon she grew up with a family who worked hard as farmworkers and in warehouses for little pay. After seeing and experiencing the disparities that appear in every space of the nation, she engaged in organizing for climate justice and the well-being of future generations, especially low-income folks and communities of color who continue to bear the brunt of climate chaos, the housing crisis, and more. Blanca believes that art in the movement and in life are crucial and continues to make art as part of daily life.
Russell Zook is Rogue Climate’s Operations Director as well as a multi-faceted Artist and Producer. Russell’s role at Rogue Climate is to build and maintain infrastructure and systems to support Rogue Climate’s staff and community leaders. He has lived in the Southern Oregon Rogue Valley since 2015 and worked at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival where he was charged with producing and managing engagement programs; the Living Ideas: Art and Community Dialogue Series, and various programs for groups, patrons and community members. During this time, he co-created an immersive experience that combined live storytelling and emerging technologies entitled Take Them Into The Dirt and subsequently directed a documentary film on the making of the project.
Rural Cinema is made possible with generous support from the Kendeda Fund, Perspective, Putnam Foundation, and the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation.