As the United States’ unique regional identities begin to shape society and public policy in unprecedented ways, the pattern of poverty in America’s most remote rural communities beckons our focus. Decades of economic disinvestment, isolation and systemic racism in these regions have culminated in alarming deficiencies in basic housing, health, education and employment among families and individuals. In May 2018, NPR’s Brakkton Booker even declared the state of rural poverty in the U.S. ‘an emergency’ in his examination of the country’s unfavorable world poverty ranking. Has the United States forgotten its countryside? What strength and resilience may yet be stirring outside our city limits?
Eighteen years ago, the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship established an initial 20-year commitment to the 20 poorest counties in the United States, and has been resourcing asset-based development in those counties ever since. Based in five ethno-geographic regions — Native American lands, the Rio Grande Valley, Mississippi River Delta, Cotton Belt and Appalachia — development personnel and local leaders continue to address the realities of rural poverty by focusing on education, health care, housing and social enterprise. After nearly 20 years of partnership, we visit these unique communities to examine the singular nature of poverty in rural America and tell the stories of development among its courageous and resilient people.
Alabama: Perry County is a series about holding a healthy tension between a perspective of scarcity and one of joy and strength. What, in all realities, appears to be extreme poverty may actually represent generations of strong, resilient families who have made a true home in Perry County.
This series will address the hope flickering in Perry County, the story of a resilient couple who finds a home, and video interviews of those connected to Sowing Seeds of Hope.
This series is written by Blake Tommey. Photos are by Lesley-Ann Hix Tommey. Videos are recorded and edited by Blake and Lesley-Ann Tommey.