Image of five KPU members talking at the base of a bridge outside.

Group Organizes around Rental Housing Issues in Northeast Kentucky

The Appalachian People’s Union wants to bring people together around shared concerns. That’s the first step in creating change, says one of its organizers.

“When community organizers started knocking on doors in Boyd County, Kentucky, they were ready to listen to what people had to say about the biggest issues in their lives. What surprised the canvassers was how ready residents were to talk.

“It was just house after house after house of people talking to me for 20 or 30 minutes,” said Beth Howard of organizing efforts in the northeastern Kentucky county of 48,000 residents.

“It was just very clear from the beginning that they wanted to talk about what was going on in their lives.”

About two-thirds of residences in Boyd County are owner-occupied. But most of the people Howard and others talked to were renters. Since housing issues were at the top of their list of their concerns, the Appalachian People’s Union, the organization that grew out of the door-to-door canvassing, will start with working on those issues. The hope is to add more issues later.”….

By Liz Carey at the Daily Yonder

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About a dozen people standing on bright green grass with KPU signs.

The Emerging Movement to Build Multi-Racial Power in Rural Communities

“Despite the predominate national narrative, rural America is not a monolith of whiteness. Like the rest of the country, it is growing ever more diverse, with people who identify as Black, Latino, Native, Asian and multiracial comprising up to 24% of the rural population. Nearly one third of all young people in rural areas 18 and under (32.5%) come from racial or ethnic minority populations.”

“Rural places get labeled as red and conservative, but they are disenfranchised places that are being left behind. People are complicated. So when you knock a door, most people are not going to fit into political parties the way that we’ve defined it.

Rural organizing does this by building bridges across difference. When we started building the Kentucky People’s Union in April 2022, we had our first meeting in May and 11 people came, 10 white people and one Black man. In April of 2023, we had 55 people show up to a meeting. It was multiracial, multi-generational. working class, queer, disabled, and powerful. And that didn’t just happen. That happened because of intentional organizing, because we saw that we have a self-interest in being a multiracial, working class and queer led organization.” – Celina Culver, Eastern Kentucky Organizer, Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ)

This article is based on a Netroots Nation panel conversation between Michael Chameides, communication director of Rural Democracy Initiative (RDI) and an elected supervisor in Columbia County, New York, and featured three rural organizers: Danny Diaz, the program manager at the Rural Youth Voter Fund, a project of RDI; W. Mondale Robinson, the mayor of Enfield, Halifax County, North Carolina, and Founding Principal of Black Male Voter Project; and Celina Culver, with Showing Up For Racial Justice, who is building a local organization called the Kentucky People’s Union in Ashland, Boyd County, Kentucky.

article by Joel Bleifuss, Barnraisers

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