Community Conversation: “How Did We Get Here, and What Can I Do? Democracy, Land, and Liberation”

RAFI-USA’s Come to the Table program presents “Spirit, Power, & Connection: Community Conversations.” Our hope for this series is that it will create opportunities for us to meet, learn from, and deepen our connections with each other as we work towards justice. We are hosting this series as a way to build connections between people, sectors, and ideas. We are excited to host speakers who have thought deeply on issues of justice in our food system, who are grounded in the work, and who can open a space to welcome the wisdom of everyone in the room.

Join RAFI-USA’s Come to the Table Program and NC 100 on September 14 from 6:00-8:00 p.m. for an online Community Conversation on the connections between land and the historic struggle for civil rights and liberation by Black farmers, and the struggle against voter suppression today.

Speakers La’Meshia Whittington of Advance Carolina and the NC Black Alliance, Courtney Patterson of Blueprint NC, and Pastor Antonio Blow of Smith Chapel Free Will Baptist Church will share their perspective and experiences. The event will also include small group discussions and resources to help attendees take action to support equal access to the ballot for all North Carolinians.

About Our Speakers

La’Meshia “LA” Whittington
Deputy Director, Advance Carolina (c4)
Campaigns Director, NC Black Alliance (c3)
Co-Convener, NC Black & Brown Policy Network

La’Meshia joins us as a descendant of “The Kingdom of The Happy Land”, a post-slavery settlement rooted in agriculture and forestry established in the North Carolina Appalachian Mountains. Lа’Mеѕhіа has made it a personal mission to advocate for agriculture, climate justice, economic justice, rural communities, and communities-of-color. Alongside her brother, they co-founded TW2 Inc 501(c)3, a non-traditional satellite Arts school.

She is also the co-founder of The Scale Academy of Performing Arts. La’Meshia lеаdѕ work nationally in policy/advocacy, community engagement, and rеѕеаrсh on the intersections of human rights, ѕосіаl rights, and еnvіrоnmеntаl juѕtісе, specifically environmental racism present in сommunіtіеѕ-оf-соlоr. La’Meshia is the Deputy Director for Advance Carolina 501(c)4 and the Campaigns Director for the 501(c)3 sister-org: the NC Black Alliance. She is the co-convener of the NC Black & Brown Policy Network, former National Democracy Campaigner for Friends of the Earth, Chairwoman of the FRENC Fund Administration, member of the Burke Women’s Fund in Western NC and the NC radio spokesperson on fair courts for the The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. After coordinating over 250 water and land rescues during the climate disaster Hurricane Florence and coordinating immediate supply drops to residents post-Hurricane Michael, Lа’Mеѕhіа became a founding board member of Democracy Green, a community-bаѕеd disaster relief organization.

Courtney Patterson
Eastern NC Organizer, Blueprint NC

Courtney Patterson is a native of Kinston, North Carolina he was educated in Lenoir County Schools, and North Carolina A&T State University majoring in Agricultural Economics.

Beginning his career as a Training Director for the Development of a Farmers’ Cooperative for the Halifax County Community Action Agency in South Boston, VA, he organized farmers in the formation of a farmer’s cooperative. The purpose of the farmer’s cooperative was to give low income farmers and many who were share-croppers, an opportunity to pool their purchasing resources in order to maximize their income and to diversify their farming operation by adding vegetable crops. In addition farmers were made aware of many federal farm services, such as Farmers Home Administration (FHA) where in the thirty-plus year history (1969) of this agency, no African-Americans had been granted a FHA loan of any kind.  By pooling their purchasing power, these farmers were able to buy fertilizer and farm supplies at lower cost. Through this effort a self-housing project was started that allowed many farmers to become home owners by pooling their labor and qualifying for FHA loans.

He was owner and operator of an Automotive Repair Shop, a teacher for Jones County Public Schools, director of a summer youth employment project (JTPA), Educator for the NC Department of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

Presently he is the 4th Vice president NC NAACP State Conference of Branches, Board Chair Lenoir County Board of Elections. He is a member of the Eastern NC WIOA Youth Council, Past Board Chair of Blueprint NC, Past Board Chair Kinston Community Health Center.

Courtney and his wife Jean are the parents of two adult children Kimberly Wesley and Andre.

Pastor Antonio Blow

Pastor Antonio Blow, a native of Greene County North Carolina, currently lives in Snow Hill, NC with his wife (Donna Lynne) and two children (Jacinta Lynne and Antonio Walker).  

He serves as Assistant to the Bishop, a District Elder of the Northwest “B” Conference and is the Pastor of St. Mary and Smith Chapel FWB Churches.  Pastor Blow chairs the Northwest “B” Conference Youth Committee and the J.E. Reddick Scholarship Committee and is a committee member for the Northwest “B” Ministers Examination Board.  He is the Director of Student Services in the Greene County School system.

Pastor Blow’s community involvement is extensive and includes the following; Homeless Liaison, Safe and Drug Free Schools Coordinator, Hearing Officer, Chair of the Greene County Democratic Party, Member of the Board of Directors for First Citizens Bank—Snow Hill, NC, Greene County Department of Social Services, Community Advocate, Board Member of the Boys and Girls Club of Coastal Plain, Chair of the Greene County Boys and Girls Club Advisory Council, Elected to Greene County Board of Commissioners in November 2016, Member of the Greene County Juvenile Crime Prevention Council, Member of the NC Association of School Administrators, Member of the NC School Social Workers’ Association, and Member of the NC School Counselor’s Association Legislative Committee.

Pastor Blow is an alumnus of North Carolina A&T State University and East Carolina University holding a Bachelor of Science and Master of Social Work, respectively. He has attended and presented at various workshops, seminars, conventions and conferences and has inspired many with his humorous and pragmatic approach.

Pastor Blow is someone who identifies with people from all backgrounds, ethnicities and nationalities. He is a motivator and a mentor for many young people within the religious and secular communities.  He is a 21st  Century preacher who’s roots are planted in the “Old Paths” (Jeremiah 6:16).  Pastor Blow is a relevant preacher for the times because he recognizes that the perfect or mature church is one who knows how to successfully incorporate biblical foundational truths in these contemporary times.

Merald Holloway, event moderator, is a passionate and dedicated advocate for economic empowerment and social justice within several North Carolina communities and business sectors. He is the Executive Director of NC 100, a non-profit focused on mapping and identifying opportunities for collaboration and change in Rockingham County, also serving as a partnership organization with Rural Forward NC. As a champion and advocate worker and purchasing cooperatives, he serves as the chairman of the North Carolina Employee Ownership Center (nceoc.org) and Regional Expansion Partner for the Community Purchasing Alliance in Washington, DC (cpa.coop).

This spring, Merald was named to the 2020-2022 cohort for the William C. Friday Fellowship for Human Relations, representing nineteen North Carolina counties. In addition to prioritizing place-equity considerations, class members were evaluated and selected based on their curiosity, creativity, connectivity, and courage as North Carolina leaders and learners.

Merald lends his time and expertise to support equity work in Rockingham County on the leadership team of their Racial Equity Learning Community, and is a member of the Board of Directors for the Rockingham County Partnership for Children and Greater Durham Black Chamber of Commerce.

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