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February 9, 2011


It is with deep sadness that we are writing to let you to know that the Southern Rural Development Initiative (SRDI) will be shutting its doors on February 20, 2011.

Though prompted by the current economic crisis and the uncertain funding climate, we know that this is the time to end our formal work as an organization. 


For the past fifteen years, we have stood fast with rural leaders advocating for racial and economic justice.  We have supported their cause, worked to increase resources for their work, provided vital information and research, and learned with them about creating positive change in our region.


Our partnerships have produced much over the years, and we are proud to have contributed in some way to building:

  • a powerful sense of the possibility of a prosperous and racially just rural South;
  • more equal partnerships between philanthropy and federal funding with those local leaders building the new rural economy in the South;
  • a new definition and analysis  of rural community philanthropy that is inclusive and leads toward fundamental social and economic change; 
  • the power of grassroots organizations to effect social and economic change through expanded internal organizational capacity ;
  • an ongoing space where rural leaders can learn together as peers, making decisions that transcend their community borders; and,
  • a national voice injecting rural consciousness into mainstream discourse.

It is our greatest hope that you, our partners, and all allies to rural people continue these efforts and make deeper connections, stronger impact, and long-term change for the rural South.


We also thank the many people who helped us learn.  Through courage, critique, and candor, so many people helped us rethink, grow, adapt, and re-organize our work to truly live up to our values.  Achievement requires authentic relationship, and we appreciate those who thought enough of our mission, our organization, and our people to make our work better.


In the same spirit of our founders, the current staff has carried the mission and challenges of SRDI into new practices that echo the original intent of our founders.  We appreciate Alan, Calvin, Omisade, Jason, Jamilla, Tina, and Thomas’ tremendous skill, their integrity in the face of a difficult year, and their demonstrated commitment to the work of SRDI and its partners.  Please keep them in mind as job or consulting opportunities arise to provide them a soft place to land on February 21st. This crew has brought tremendous skill to SRDI in facilitation, organizational development, training, organizing, entrepreneurship, financial management, and policy research.


Also, be sure to check out our list of partners and the other SRDI resources on our website, and continue to interact with other rural leaders and allies through


Lastly, as this board of directors turns the page on this chapter of SRDI, we want to express what an honor it has been to be entrusted with this organization and to see our founders’ legacy blossom in local communities.  This decision, though difficult, is tempered with the knowledge that these and other partners will continue to support rural leaders and communities to succeed, even through these difficult days. 


In partnership,

The Board of the Southern Rural Development Initiative

Roland Anglin                            

Joe Brooks                                         

Paul Castelloe                                    

Alvin Dollar                                       

Andrew Foster                                               

 Tracey Greene-Dorsett                      

Savi Horne                                         

Felecia Jones

John Littles

Tim Marema

 Justin Maxson

Sandra Mikush 

Ines Polonius

Ines Polonius

Karl Stauber

Ray Williams

  Policy Director Jason Gray takes stand on farm subsidies in Colorlines Article - “There’s a place for supporting agriculture,” while benefiting communities, says Jason Gray, policy and research director at the Southern Rural Development Initiative. , “[Policymakers need to] ask: is the decision we’re making here going to result in more local capacity to … create a future? In the rural South, you cannot ask that question without having an honest discussion about the legacy of race.”  For the full article, click HERE 




  New Promotion for former SRDI Economic Development Director at Oxfam America - US Regional Director Minor Sinclair announced the appointment of Ajulo Othow as the Deputy Director of the US Regional Office.    Ajulo came to Oxfam from her post as Economic Development Director with the Southern Rural Development Initiative in Raleigh, North Carolina where she traversed the length and width of the US Southeast for over eight years.  Throughout her career, she has focused on building alternatives to the dead-end economy faced by so many young people in rural areas throughout the South.  Ajulo has a masters degree in International Affairs from GeorgeWashingtonUniversity, a bachelors degree from HamptonUniversity in Political Science and has completed fellowships at both DukeUniversity and PrincetonUniversity.

Many know Ajulo from her year with the US Regional Office as the Rural Policy Specialist.   Ajulo led Oxfam’s work with minority farmers as part of the Farm Bill Campaign, which resulted in an increase of $1.2 billion within the Farm Bill for socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers.  For the past five months, she has supported our GulfCoast team as the interim program lead for the Gulf Coast Recovery Program.

Ajulo brings a lot of talent, leadership and commitment to Oxfam’s work on domestic poverty and injustice and will be a tremendous asset as Oxfam strengthens its program in the US Southeast.  Like many in the USRO, one of her reasons for coming to Oxfam was to pursue a career in international development. 



   New Carsey brief identifies keys to today's rural economic development

Durham, NH and Raleigh, NC - Rural communities working to find strategies for success in today's economy need to rethink the tools they are using, notes Anita Brown-Graham and William Lambe in a new brief from the Carsey Institute at the University of New Hampshire, Measures and Methods: Four Tenets for Rural Economic Development in....

Brown-Graham is the executive director of the Institute for Emerging Issues and a policy fellow at the Carsey Institute. William Lambe is the associate director at the Community and Economic Development Program at the School of Government, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Read the brief.

Visit the
Carsey Institute.

Visit the
Institute for Emerging Issues.

The Carsey Institute conducts policy research on vulnerable children, youth, and families and sustainable community development. We give policy makers and practitioners the timely, independent resources they need to effect change in their communities.

The Institute for Emerging Issues is a public policy, think-and-do tank that convenes leaders from business, non profit organizations, government and higher education to tackle some of the biggest issues facing North Carolina's future growth and prosperity.

  SRDI Ten Awardee wins bid for SC House of Representatives




Anton Gunn, Executive Director of SC Fair Share, won a seat in the SC House of Representatives on Tuesday night.  With a vote total of more than 25,000 people, Gunn won by a margin of 54% - 46%.  In 2006, SRDI honored Anton for his outstanding work for rural issues in the South.  He notes, "This election is the first step in moving our state forward. I will not be able to do it alone. We have to continue to build a strong coalition of citizens that are concerned with the future of our state."

  Helping Rural Nonprofits: A President's Attention Could Make A Difference

Urban-centric federal programs make it hard for rural nonprofits to compete.  A president with a rural point of view could help.  Click here for more 


 Darien, GA, home of SRDI partner McIntosh SEED, awarded $1.3 million dollars through Community Development Block Grant

The Florida Times-Union reports that Darien was the big winner this week when Gov. Sonny Perdue announced the recipients of federal grants.  All told, Darien will get $1.3 million of the $36 million Georgia will receive in grants from the U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for the state's Community Development Block Grant Program and Community HOME Investment Program, Perdue said Thursday.

Pulling this together has been an incredible team effort,” said Darien Mayor Kelly Spratt.  “McIntosh SEED, the Rural Community Investment Partnership, the Old River Road Association, the Tidewater Development Company, Thomas Watson of the SRDI, volunteers from the Old River Road community, City Councilwomen Karen Clark and Eunice Moore, and the City Staff have partnered to accomplish something for our citizens that they have never had before.” 

McIntosh SEED works to provide quality education, better housing and recreational facilities, business opportunities and environmental protection and restoration. They are committed to creating and sustaining a healthy and diverse community through community development, community organizing, advocacy and direct service. MORE...


   SRDI Adopts Coastal Plain Strategy for work in the Southeast

 The SRDI Board of Directors adopted a resolution to focus “two-thirds of SRDI resources to expanding opportunity along the coasts of NC, SC, and GA” at its meeting in June.  Click here for more info. 

SRDI Staff helps to set the Rural Agenda at the National Rural Assembly in D.C.

The SRDI Director of Policy and Research served on the team that prepared  and presented the Investment in our Communities policy document for the National Rural Assembly on June 16 – 18 in Washington DC.  Read more...  



  Notes from the African American Heritage and Culture Summit, SRDI's First Community of Practice Event

In collaboration with its grassroots support organizing partners, the SRDI Community of Practice co-hosted our first peer learning exchange in coastal Georgia. The African American Heritage and Culture Summit held April 18-20 in Riceboro, was hosted in conjunction with a Gullah Heritage Gathering at Geechee Kunda Cultural Arts Center and Museum. There were over 40 participants in attendance from North Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, and East Tennessee including two SRDI board members, John Littles and Alvin Dollar. The weekend’s activities focused on relationship building, storytelling, information and resource sharing, cultural celebration and setting the stage for the next Summit learning exchange (Alabama 2011). Click here for more info.

Registration Opens for Online Rural Network

The Rural Innovation Network by SRDI is sponsoring info sessions on the features and functions of its online network for rural leaders and their allies on May 6 and May 8.  Click here for more.




  Picture Slideshow Movies of the African American Heritage, Culture and Tourism Summit Posted

*Part One:

*Part Two:

*Part Three:

*Part Four:

Southern Leaders in African American Heritage, Culture and Tourism Meet in Coastal GA

Leaders from NC, GA, AL, and TN met this past weekend to network, share insights, and problem-solve collaboratively. SRDI proudly supported the leadership’s direction through facilitation and coordination roles. SRDI's Program Associate Jamilla Hawkins premiered a digital video on CoastalGA there (see below).  Watch the video by clicking here. 

View SRDI Policy Director Jason Gray's article on the Daily Yonder:  "Rural Development?  Maybe in the Next Farm Bill"

Despite serious efforts on the parts of many, there is no increase in rural development funding in the current versions of the farm bill.  Click here for the article.

Coastal GA Partner Works With City to Submit a Community Development Block Grant

Darien Mayor Kelly Spratt:  “McIntosh SEED, the Rural Community Investment Partnership, the Old River Road Association, the Tidewater Development Company, Thomas Watson of the Southern Rural Development Initiative, volunteers from the Old River Road community, City Councilwomen Karen Clark and Eunice Moore, and the City Staff have partnered to accomplish something for our citizens that they have never had before.  If everything is funded, we will see over $1.5 million invested in our community."  Click here for more.

    African American Heritage and Culture Summit to be Held This Week in Coastal GA

Community partners from CoastalGA, AL, TN, and NC expressed the desire for on-site peer learning exchanges. To that end, SRDI is assisting with the implementation of an African American Heritage and Cultural Summit  that will gather rural grassroots leaders working on issues related to African American heritage and culture such as tourism as a vehicle for economic development, leadership and intellectual and cultural property rights.  Click here for more.

 Experience of SRDI Program Associates Highlighted Through "Digital Storytelling" 

SRDI is proud to rely on the assistance and skill of several graduate students this year.  One of them, Jamilla Hawkins, created a short film to capture their story.  Click this link to watch:  





Past Items:

Lessons Learned by SRDI When the Grassroots Met Business and Government

SRDI Partner McIntosh SEED's work with a local developer led to a groundbreaking agreement.  Read what we learned by clicking here.

SRDI Announces the New Members of its Board of Directors - click here for the story

  SRDI provides federal funding training in two multi-county areas of SC

SRDI conducted training for local leaders in Allendale, Barnwell and BambergCounties in SC on analyzing their federal funding by category and alignment with local priorities.  Additionally, training linking federal funds to Earned Income Tax Credits was conducted for neighboring Marlboro, Chesterfield, and Dillon Counties of SC on the following day.  Click here for more.

SRDI launches its Rural Innovation Network - for more click here

 SRDI announced its hire today of Omisade Burney-Scott as its first Director of Constituent Relations - click here for more

New SRDI Executive Director Named Today - click here for the story

Tom Harkin and National Coalition Leaders Use SRDI Data to Advocate for Rural Issues - click here for the story

Alan McGregor named SRDI Interim Director - click here for the story

Kellogg Foundation awards grant to SRDI - click here for the story

SRDI trains in Minnesota - click here for the story

SRDI welcomes Finance Director Tina Merrill - click here for the story

SRDI says goodbye to Debby Warren - click here for the story










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