UPDATE: This article was updated to include a June 6 statement by the Housing Assistance Council.
A long list of groups working on rural issues across the country released statements about protests prompted by the killing of African American citizens by police.
Those statements are below, along with photographs from vigils and demonstrations that have occurred in small cities and towns around the country. We found many of the photos via a Twitter thread by Ann Helen Petersen of BuzzFeed.
Housing Assistance Council
This has been a terrible week, full of pain and protest. Though further from the headlines, protests in small towns across America have erupted in recognition that racism and injustice must be rooted out of every corner of our country. The Housing Assistance Council (HAC) fights for equity and dismantling racism alongside people marching the rural streets of Whitefish, Palatka, Gunnison, Taylorville, Ruidoso, Cairo, Harlan and countless other places.
HAC believes that peace cannot be found where injustice also resides. We have an obligation to call out the systemic and structural inequities we witness in our work that are cutting short black and brown lives. We will keep a close watch on our own organization and programs to address bias and compensate for inequitable outcomes. We are committed to doing our part to dismantle racism and racist housing policy in partnership with the rural communities where we live, work, and invest our capital.
National Rural Health Association
The National Rural Health Association stands in solidarity with communities of color as we fight against the systematic, individually mediated, and internalized racism deeply embedded within our country and its institutions.
Structural racism is a public health crisis, and its effects are detrimental to the physical and mental health of all individuals and communities. It is an underlying condition contributing to health inequities and the disproportionate burden of morbidity and mortality borne by racial minorities.
We stand against the racial injustices that continue to plague our country, and we are committed to our mission to advocate with all communities of color, especially those in rural America.
Center on Rural Innovation
Each of us must respond to the deep racial inequity in America by recognizing it and standing in solidarity with those risking their lives for change. But we also must honestly face our own failings, and commit to bold new action for the cause of racial justice. If individuals and organizations do not make real change, these tragedies will persist.
We founded the Center on Rural Innovation three years ago with a commitment to creating an economy inclusive of rural America. As we learned early on, part of our job is to push back on narratives that treated America’s small towns as uniformly white. Rural America does not equal white America, and the stories and experiences of the 10 million rural people of color must be told. Rural black poverty rates are the highest in the country, and many of the most disadvantaged places in America are in the black rural South. Racial discrimination and inequality are as corrosive in rural places as they are in urban.
Rob Larew, President, National Farmers Union
The killing of George Floyd was an abuse of power and a horrifying act of violence– but what is even more horrifying is that this is not a rare or isolated incident. People of color are far more likely to be killed by police than their white counterparts; black Americans account for just 13 percent of the overall population, but 26 percent of fatal police shootings. But police brutality doesn’t occur in a vacuum. It’s just one of many examples of racism in our country – in criminal justice, financial services, health care, voting, education, and elsewhere.
If we stand idly by while our friends and neighbors suffer – as too many of us have done for too long – we are complicit in their suffering. Now is the time to step up, to heal these wounds, to build a just and equal society. This will not be a quick or easy task – to overcome the terrible legacy of racism in this country, we all must reflect on our own privileges and prejudices, rethink our institutions, and demand structural change. The road ahead of us may be long and uncomfortable, but it is our moral obligation to traverse it.
Dena Hoff, Northern Plains Resource Council, Western Organizations of Resource Councils, National Family Farm Coalition, Montana farmer
As a white American, I have struggled to reconcile the history I was taught all through 12 grades of school with the America founded on genocide and slavery. The myth of a colorblind classless society must be recognized as the obstruction it is to building a just, equal world where privilege means EVERYONE has equal access to opportunity as well as to a living wage, housing, education, healthcare, a clean and healthful environment, peace and safety. It is hard to believe we are living in the 21st century, and we appear to have learned nothing about the meaning of equality, justice, respect, responsibility to our Mother Earth and all who live by her tolerance. The change begins in each of us.
National Young Farmers Coalition
Breonna Taylor. Ahmaud Arbery. George Floyd. James Scurlock. David McAtee. Tony McDade.
It is unacceptable that these lives, and so many others, have been taken from our communities. It is unacceptable that the murder of Black people goes unpunished, and that elected officials condone these deaths with their inaction. We stand in solidarity with protests across the country and with the individuals who demand justice and accountability from law enforcement. We stand against the reactionary forces of white supremacy that deem these demands unreasonable and those who consider “Black lives matter” a debatable assertion.
We know these are hard times with crisis compounding crisis. We know that even in a “good season,” our farmers put in an awe-inspiring amount of work to bring food to our tables. The Coalition recognizes the immense additional labor being placed on Black farmers in this moment–emotionally, physically, and mentally. We value, support, and are here to advocate for Black farmers and all Black lives.
As a coalition, we will continue to advocate for anti-racist agricultural policy, to share resources to help our communities be more resilient, and to lead. We will amplify actions from Black-led partner organizations, as well as reflections and guidance from our staff and farmers. We call for white members of our community to join us in reckoning with this country’s long history of racial injustice, dispossession, and violence. To those looking to deepen their understanding of racism in agriculture, our Racial Equity Toolkit can be a starting place to orient you toward consciousness-raising and direct action. To be a farmer and an organizer in our coalition is to commit to an anti-racist farming future. Our Black farmers deserve meaningful change and transformation. Now, yesterday, and tomorrow.
Carlton Turner, Sipp Culture, Utica, Mississippi
From a June 1 blog post.
Everyone has a position to play, but white people cannot grant freedom to the Black community. No one is coming to save us. Freedom can only be achieved by organizing our power into formations that are community-based, community-accountable, and grounded in liberation practices. We have to work together to save ourselves. This starts with us working together to create the communities we deserve, to create jobs not for financial gain or the building of generational wealth, but to build on the purpose of being in right relationship with the environment that we need to live and thrive. Black capitalism will not save us. Capitalism of any color is intrinsically linked to the exploitation of people and resources, and whether black, white, Asian, or Latinx, a system based in exploitation is incapable of creating systems of equity or generational health and wellness.
Land Stewardship Project
This is yet another sickening example of how deadly racism is in America. The role of police officers and other public servants is to make our communities safer for everyone, no matter the color of their skin. Unfortunately, institutional racism is ingrained in all of our institutions, and it has yet again claimed a victim.
Our thoughts are with George Floyd’s family and the community. In this case, the local community where this occurred includes a neighborhood where Land Stewardship Project staff and members live and work. This tragedy has brought close to home an irrefutable fact: Racism is in direct opposition to healthy communities. Racism is real and deadly. It is present in Minnesota and across the country.
Part of the Land Stewardship Project’s mission is to develop healthy communities for everyone, no exceptions. Racist violence is a clear violation of our strongly held values that every person has value that cannot be earned or taken away. At the core of LSP’s work is our drive to create a society based on sustainability. Racism, along with the violence it spawns, is not sustainable. To see someone’s life held in such disregard is unacceptable and harms us all. We must continue to demand changes and call for accountability. We join our allies in calling for the officers involved in this deadly incident to be held accountable. We also demand accountability from the Minneapolis Police Department and all of our institutions which, directly or indirectly, create the environment where such tragedies are all too commonplace.”
National Congress of American Indians, Chief Executive Officer Kevin Allis
As someone who served in law enforcement for a decade and took an oath to protect and serve all of my fellow citizens, I am sickened by what I’ve witnessed over the past several days, first with the murder of George Floyd, and the inadequate response since to apprehend and bring to justice all of those responsible. This latest unjustifiable tragedy is a stark reminder that people of color face disproportionate rates of police brutality, a situation that merits a comprehensive national policy response. No one should be harmed or murdered simply because of the color of their skin.
Appalshop stands in solidarity with all those protesting the death of Breonna Taylor and David McAtee at the hands of the police in our homestate of Kentucky.
We stand with those protesting the horrific murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, Sean Reed, James Scurlock, and many, many others.
We offer our full-throated support as we say unequivocally that Black Lives Matter.
We redouble our commitment to our mission to amplify the voices of marginalized people — including black people in these mountains — and we invite you to join local organizers in our region, long-time partner organizations like the Highlander Center, The STAY Project, Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, and all those rising up to say that there can be “Not One More.”
Condemnation and outrage are not enough: let us work together and show up to dismantle anti-Black racism in Appalachia.
Rural Advancement Foundation International (RAFI-USA)
RAFI-USA stands against racism, police brutality, racist vigilante violence, and state violence. We mourn the unjust murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, and countless other black people, indigenous people, and people of color. As an agricultural advocacy organization, we recognize that the food and farming system in the U.S. was and continues to be based on the exploitation of marginalized people. We recognize that using racial violence to enforce power arrangements that benefit white people is written into the history of our agricultural system. This history comprises looting far more comprehensive, violent, and long-lasting than anything we could see in this week’s protests. We recognize that this exploitation does not end in the fields, but is present throughout all sectors of our society.
As an anti-racist organization, RAFI-USA is committed to continuing our work for justice, to listening to those who are most impacted by oppressive systems, and to building a world where everyone is respected, protected, and valued by society – not for what labor or benefit they can offer to build profits, but for their intrinsic worth as human beings.
Between the current pandemic and the recent protests erupting across the country over police violence and brutality, America is in a crisis. However, crises can offer us opportunities to unite around our shared values so that we can see in our suffering the roots of our humanity to work together and heal. May we all commit ourselves to listening, educating ourselves, taking action, and speaking up.
Jim Goodman, President – National Family Farm Coalition, Wisconsin farmer
I have struggled with these events, as well. It seems they never end.
I have wanted to write something for years, many years, but as an old white man (not rich, but otherwise in the category who has been in control way too long) I have always been hesitant. Growing up in Chicago in the early 60’s during the civil rights movement, I saw a lot of this unfolding, and while at that time I didn’t understand it, in hindsight things have not changed.
Rural Assembly (a project of the Center for Rural Strategies, which also publishes the Daily Yonder)
In this time of pain, despair, and division, the Rural Assembly is committed to building bridges, solidarity, and inclusion across all of our people and places. We are dedicated to fostering relationships across rural America that lead to better solutions and a less polarized nation. We believe people and places that have been historically excluded must be at the center of these relationships. In the coming weeks, we will be lifting up the voices of our diverse partners and allies who are fighting every day to build more inclusive, equitable, and safe communities across the nation. We are listening, we are learning, and we are committed.