Carolina Democracy

Listening to Change Lives & Communities!

April 15, 2024 JD Wooten Season 3 Episode 14
Listening to Change Lives & Communities!
Carolina Democracy
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Carolina Democracy
Listening to Change Lives & Communities!
Apr 15, 2024 Season 3 Episode 14
JD Wooten

Welcome back to Carolina Democracy! Today, we welcome back Cynthia Wallace, co-founder and Executive Director of the New Rural Project to talk about the NRP's work in rural communities to increase civic and electoral engagement. We caught up on all their great work over the last several years and what to expect this election cycle!

If you haven't heard the original New Rural Project interview from 2022, check it out here:

Learn More About The New Rural Project:

Contact Us:

Follow Us:

Support the Show.

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Show Notes Transcript

Welcome back to Carolina Democracy! Today, we welcome back Cynthia Wallace, co-founder and Executive Director of the New Rural Project to talk about the NRP's work in rural communities to increase civic and electoral engagement. We caught up on all their great work over the last several years and what to expect this election cycle!

If you haven't heard the original New Rural Project interview from 2022, check it out here:

Learn More About The New Rural Project:

Contact Us:

Follow Us:

Support the Show.

Cynthia Wallace: Because of all of that listening, we honed in on those four critical issues of education, health care, public safety, and voting rights. And then we ensure that all of our work has some connection to those issues that people care about and they feel can change their lives and their community.

[music transition]

JD Wooten: Welcome to Carolina Democracy. I’m JD Wooten, and today we’re joined by one of the co-founders and the Executive Director of the New Rural Project, Cynthia Wallace. Cynthia, along with her fellow co-founder Helen Probst Mills, were some of our earliest podcast episodes back in 2022, and it was a delight to have Cynthia back with us to catch up on what the New Rural Project has been up to over the last several years. They just recently celebrated the third anniversary of their founding, and they’ll be having a big event in Charlotte on April 29th to celebrate, so visit their website or socials to learn more and join the celebration. As you’ll hear in the interview, they have taken on quite of bit of deep engagement in a few targeted counties in North Carolina, and I remain very hopeful that they will continue to see amazing results and perhaps their support base will grow enough over time to allow the to spread their wings to many of the other counties where their programs would be so incredibly helpful as well.

Before getting to that interview, I don’t really have much to share on updates. Word on the street is that the General Assembly is likely to face a massive budget shortfall, which Representative Clemmons alluded to last week, but the public details on that seem to be a little lacking. At the same time, Speaker Moore has suggested there’s a strong appetite to put several hundreds of thousands more dollars into the Opportunity Scholarships, further diverting resources that could be going to help our woefully underfunded public schools. We don’t have details on that yet either, so I’ll be interested to see how much that push ends up being and how they offset the projected budget shortfalls. The typical GOP answer for everything is deregulation and lower taxes, and in honor of tax day I’ll admit I dislike taxes as much as the next person who has to pay taxes, but they’re a trade off for services we desperately need for society to function. Unfortunately for the GOP, one of the top issues a tax cut cannot plausibly address is a budget shortfall.

And of course this week kicks off the first criminal trial of a former president in our nation’s history. Setting aside the specifics of this trial, and this defendant, it’s a solemn and dark day in American history. Never before have we had a former president credibly accused of criminal activity and facing a trial. We of course had President Nixon, but he was immediately pardoned and had the good sense to go away from public life, at least for the most part. Instead, we have a former president currently facing 88 felony charges, and not only does his first trial start this week, he’s also the Republican nominee to be the president, again. Let that sink in, because I fear that we have become so normalized to Trump’s behavior, and this day has appeared to be on the horizon for so long, that it may pass without much thought for many of us as to how momentous this day truly is in American history.

On the other hand, perhaps that reality is starting to sink in a little as we see still more polling showing a tightening of the race between President Biden and former President Trump. The latest New York Time / Sienna Poll puts them within a point of one another. More importantly, this puts the shift in polling 1.4 points in favor of President Biden since the State of the Union. I’ll leave it to others to dive in to the cross tabs and all the speculation about what this poll means, or this question might reveal, and I’ve share my thoughts on that before. For me, and I would encourage you to adopt a similar approach if for no other reason than your mental health, just look at the trends. This is a good update on the trends. Now we keeping working like we’re 20 points down, but with a little confidence that the work we’re doing is moving us in the right direction.

Ok, and speaking of doing the hard work, let’s hear from someone on the ground in rural North Carolina doing just that, Ms. Cynthia Wallace of the New Rural Project. Hope you enjoy!

[music transition]

JD Wooten: All right with us today is the co founder and executive director of the New Rural Project, Cynthia Wallace. Welcome back to the show. 

Cynthia Wallace: Thank you, JD. It is awesome to be back with you.

JD Wooten: Well, I want to do a little background first, just because the last time you were on the show, I asked about your first memory of politics, as I do with most of my guests, and you shared about some of your early memories with your father, having helped co found the NAACP in your small rural town. And then later the fight for MLK day to be a holiday. This time I thought, what's your earliest memory of voting either for yourself or perhaps someone else? 

Cynthia Wallace: Oh, well, that's a great question. I know I went to vote with my dad. But my earliest memory is really my first presidential memory, I would say is actually going to date myself a little bit my first vote was when I was in college for president was in 1992. And of course, that was a pretty exciting race. I think we had a third party candidate that year, too. Just like in 2016. Might have had some impact. But really excited. Many of the folks that I voted for actually won their races. And I definitely have never missed a presidential election since.

JD Wooten: Let's see, 92 Ross Perot was kind of a spoiler on the Republican side, obviously 16 we had a couple of third party candidates that were some spoilers. 

Cynthia Wallace: Jill Stein, notably. 

JD Wooten: Absolutely. And we'll see how, we'll see how 2024 shakes up with some ballot access issues that are still being worked out at the moment, but lots to be learned from those elections. So last time we also talked briefly about your 2020 race as the Democratic nominee for North Carolina's ninth congressional district. The 9th has had some controversy over the year, from ballot harvesting in the 2018 election, and then having Dan Bishop emerge as the candidate and eventual representative, at least for that term. In fact, you were Congressman Bishop's opponent in 2020, and he's now the GOP nominee for North Carolina Attorney General. So any thoughts you want to share about what you learned in running against him that might be helpful this cycle? 

Cynthia Wallace: Well, I was definitely a part of that 2020 election and for the 9th Congressional District against Mr. Dan Bishop. But prior to that, I was the chair for the 9th Congressional District, which actually open the path for Mr. Dan Bishop to even be in Congress and run for re election. Mark Harris, as many may remember, you referenced the ballot harvesting. That happened in the 2018 Congressional election. I was the chair for the Democratic Party for the 9th Congressional District at that time, when Dan McCready lost that race by 905 votes. I mean, it was a crushing defeat. There was over almost 250, 000, I think votes in total. It was like less than 0. 5 percent difference in the two candidates. And one of the things, you know, when folks say, does every vote matter? Does my vote matter? 905 votes in a ballot harvested, impacted election cost Dan McCready a seat in Congress, which ultimately led to Dan Bishop being in Congress. 

JD Wooten: Yeah, and now we'll all get the pleasure of watching him run with his statewide race for the North Carolina Attorney General seat. 

Cynthia Wallace: Yeah, so Mr. Bishop, as hopefully many of your listeners know, or if they don't, they're going to learn today. Dan Bishop was the architect of the bathroom bill that cost our state millions of dollars when he was in the General Assembly before he went to Congress in 2019. In Congress, he's aligned himself with the Marjorie Taylor Green, Matt Gaetz, Lauren Boebert wing of the Republican Party. In 2020, when we were running against each other during, the historic pandemic, he voted against many of the bills that people needed during the pandemic to even survive.

As a first time candidate during the 2020 election in the middle of a pandemic, I didn't unfortunately have the kind of dollars that I needed to make sure that every single voter in the ninth congressional district knew Dan Bishop's record and what he was doing right at that moment, so I would say, running against Dan Bishop for North Carolina attorney general, one of the things that's important for his opponent is to not only, state their record, state their vision for North Carolina in that position, but make sure that everyone understands Dan Bishop's well documented record.

JD Wooten: Absolutely. Yeah, I can't echo that any better. And, not only, I think, is it on Dan Bishop's opponent to really air that, but I think each and every one of us can take up the mantle of a little bit of that in our communities, in our church, in our schools, in our workplace. Don't let Dan Bishop hide in the darkness of people not knowing. Make sure the whole state of North Carolina knows who he is. 

Cynthia Wallace: I think 100 percent. When I get asked, folks at the end of presentations or I'm on a panel and they're saying, what can you do? What can be done? And I always say to folks, you are part of this. You have to talk to your neighbors. You have to speak to your friends who might have multiple degrees behind their name, but they're not sitting here in a forum at 7:30 p. m. for the last hour and a half talking about the state of North Carolina, talking about politics. You know more than almost everyone so your job is to share that information with the people who trust you, and know you, that is all of our responsibility. You said that that is absolutely right. 

JD Wooten: And shameless self plug, if you're not sure what to say, just share this episode of the podcast. But you mentioned another name I want to come back to. So despite his involvement with the election fraud in 2018, Mark Harris is back. He decided to throw his hat in the ring for the seat that is now being vacated by Dan Bishop, since Dan Bishop is running for attorney general. Mark Harris went on to win the Republican primary. You're closer on the ground of that campaign, obviously than I am cause it's right there in your neck of the woods, but my understanding is he's adopted a lot of that revisionist history style that we've seen across the country in GOP politics. Does that sound about right? 

Cynthia Wallace: That is exactly right. As I mentioned a little bit earlier, I was the 9th congressional district chair back in 2018, 2019 when the state board of elections actually in an unprecedented move in 2019, tossed out the 2018 election results and required a new election. Well, Mr. Harris at that moment said on the stand at the state board of elections meeting, I actually attended at least one day of those hearings actually. And after his son basically said, my dad was aware that McRae Dowless had done some nefarious things in the previous election because I told him and he still hired him anyway. Mr. Harris at that point was so gracious and said you all definitely need another election and I'm out of it.

Well, it comes back in 2024, like none of that ever happened. Like those of us who sat during that hearing or watched it on TV didn't hear or see what we thought we saw or heard. And completely rewrote history from five years before. And unfortunately there were obviously enough people who did not remember or did not know what had happened in 2019 and he is the Republican nominee for the, I guess it's now the eighth, the numbers keep changing because of all this fun gerrymandering. So yes, he is on the ballot again as a Republican nominee after leaving in disgrace five years ago. 

JD Wooten: Yeah, it's a real shame that not everybody in politics these days feels the sense of shame that used to help drive certain decision making processes. But we'll see him again, and all we can do is do our best to help the candidates down that way and get out the word.

So let's shift a lot then, let's go to the New Rural Project. By way of introduction for any of our listeners who aren't already aware. The New Rural Project is a nonpartisan nonprofit organization that engages young and marginalized residents and rural communities to amplify their voices through increased civic and electoral engagement. Y'all also work to eliminate barriers to engagement by listening to rural stakeholders and working together to develop community driven solutions. So we'll get to your current programs in just a minute, but I did want to note y'all just celebrated your third anniversary, so first congrats!

Cynthia Wallace: Thank you.

JD Wooten: How's that journey been? I mean, just generally speaking, like I said, we can get to the exact programs in a minute, but yeah, three years of doing this, and making it work through that, that's that's huge. 

Cynthia Wallace: It has been an exhilarating experience. The journey that co founder Helen Probst Mills and I have been on has been exciting, it's been rewarding, and also tiring, of course. But we are both just so satisfied to see how far we've come based on our conversations that started in November 2020, after we both weren't successful in our races to represent folks in southeast North Carolina and the Sandhills. Those conversations we had about the real reasons we were running and the people we wanted to represent culminated in less than five months after that election in April of 2021, us co founding the New Rural Project. 

 as you said, we turned three on last Saturday, actually. We're only a few days past our birthday, and we always kind of reference ourselves in the journey of from a baby through those various stages. So we're in the toddler stages. So I guess we just left the terrible twos. So now we're in our threes, but we are just so excited. And one of the things that when we were even discussing this organization, we knew that what the community did not want was an organization coming to them day one saying, here's a voter registration form. I'm here to help you register to vote. 

We knew that people wanted folks that were there for them, not because of an election, but because of their real issues. And so as I'm sure we discussed a couple of years ago, we started our work taking the GOTV with the V being the vote model until it get out the vaccine model focused on reducing the health care inequities as a related to access to the COVID 19 vaccine and we did that. We created great partnerships along the way as well as trust of the community and taught people how to phone bank. We taught people how to canvas during that work. And so excited, one of the things that's about to happen J. D. in a little less than two weeks, we will actually be hosting an event at Common Heart in Marshville, North Carolina, which was the site of our very first canvassing event in June, 2021. So full circle in these three years, back to the start in the home of our work, which has always been centered on people, centered on listening, and we're just overjoyed about how this last few years have gone and the impact we're already making in the community.

JD Wooten: That's also amazing and wonderful to hear. And I think that's a natural transition then, I'll come back to some of those conversation series and programs specifically that you do in a moment, but the way you just framed that, I think we should highlight New Rural Project's approach has three major components: listening, civic engagement, and electoral engagement. And then you also have really focused in on education, health care, public safety, and voting rights in terms of issues. So, I'll let you take whichever one of those sides you kind of want first, but I'd love to hear more about both of those aspects, both the, the issue focus and the kind of approach component focus.

Cynthia Wallace: Okay, and they definitely work together. As Helen, and I have always said from day one of founding this organization is that our work must begin and end with listening. So doing that, we started in 2021, working with an amazing research firm called change research to do focus groups. We did focus groups of Black men and Black women who were infrequent voters. We did individual interviews with people from the Lumbee tribe, Hispanic folks. 

And also in 2022, when we still were doing our get out the vaccine work, we started to layer in a little more electoral focus. And we started our front porch conversations, deep canvassing. And we started going to the doors of folks who did not vote specifically in the 2020 election and we asked them, were the barriers that caused you not to vote in that election? One of the things we never do is blame the voters because there are always some barrier, be it transportation, knowledge, information, or even, frankly, believing that their vote doesn't count. So, we spent a lot of time in 2022 on those doors, listening to voters or infrequent voters, but high value folks, particularly in the Black and Brown community. We also have done community events like those vaccine events. We also ask them, what are the issues that are important to you? 

You know, In 2022, after the focus groups we did in 2021, we also did polling and we said, what issues do you care about? What would inspire you to get out and vote if you don't normally do so? And based on those two years worth of research and conversations on the front doors, we honed in to what the critical issues were that the community told us they cared about. That was, wanting their kids to have a good education and quality schools, being concerned about health care and having access to health care and knowing that their counties, because they're so economically distressed, are in the bottom of outcomes.

They care about crime. Every single focus group we talked to Black folks, Hispanic folks, Native American, all mentioned crime as something they were worried about day to day. And then we know what's happening in North Carolina, all of the changes that continue to happen in the lines, and as well as all the bills that passed last year, including the addition of the photo ID requirement for voting. Voting rights had to be a part of our civic education program. And so, because of all of that listening, we honed in on those four critical issues of education, health care, public safety, and voting rights. And then we ensure that all of our work has some connection to those issues that people care about and they feel can change their lives and their community.

JD Wooten: I think that's great that you were able to go out and ask what matters to you. But now that you've identified that you can draw it all back. I find it's so helpful to have those themes or anchoring issues because these conversations, even when I'm talking to friends, or colleagues, or the random person in the community, get on politics, get on civic issues, get on whatever, man, those conversations can kind of meander sometimes. But when we get those key engagement issues, I see a light come on in people's eyes, and I would hope that y'all are seeing that too. 

Cynthia Wallace: Oh, 100%. And our logo the O in Project actually has some dots and it was so amazing when the graphic designer, we were working with someone and they came back with that O with the dots and Helen and I frequently said we needed to connect the dots between voting and civic engagement with the issues that people care about, the issues that they think are keeping their lives and their communities from being what they think they need to be. 

JD Wooten: So if I understand correctly, one of the ways that y'all are doing that is through your various conversation series. You've got the barbershop conversation, the beauty salon conversations, young people's conversation, you mentioned earlier, the front porch conversations, even candidate conversations. How are those working out, and what's any one of those look like in practice? 

Cynthia Wallace: Yeah. So as we said, it was listening, but also being in dialogue. And so as you rightfully mentioned, all of our programs have the word conversations at the end, because this isn't just us having a one way, we're not just talking to people. We're having conversation with each other. And I would say two of the programs that we are the proudest, we're proud of all of them, but those that we're actually seeing some really solid results are our, is our barbershop conversation series and our beauty salon conversation series. We launched our barbershop conversation series called F.A.D.E., Fruitful African American Discussions on Empowerment in 2022. The name we love and back to that listening, actually, and making sure that we're centering the community. That name came from a 20 something year old from Anson County. He was working with us because we met him at a vaccine event and he was hanging out in Anson for a couple of months before he left for a big job in Texas. And we said, well, do you have any free time for next couple of months? He's like, sure. And we're looking for a name of the program. And he came up with that. And that part about who we are is so important. Meaning that we want to center the folks that we are looking to work with and support in every part of our program.

So I always love to say that Mr. D'Angelo Gatewood came up with that name when everybody comes has a huge smile on their face when we say the word F.A.D.E. as the name of our barbershop conversation. So, we launched that in 2022, and then we launched a sister organization in 2023. A beauty salon conversation series called C.U.R.L.S. -- Cultivating Unified Relationships with Ladies for Success. That name came from women in a beauty salon in Anson County. We did a listening session before we jumped into the community with the program to find out what topics do you want to see. We've done the men's program and the focus of those programs are kind of like that 18 to 40 year old range of Black voters who we've seen a major drop off between the high of 2008, 2012 when they were leading the pack in turnout to their lows from 2016 and 2020. And so we centered that work with them, and I've got the notes to show it. They started bantering around different names and acronyms, and they came up with that. We helped facilitate the conversation, but those women in Anson, they own that name. They came up with it. They created it inside of a beauty salon. 

And so what we do with those programs is we have a series of three to four weeks of Saturday or Sunday engagements inside of a beauty salon or barbershop where we talk about those issues that i've actually talked about earlier. We'll have one session that really focuses on civics and electoral engagement. And our amazing program director has created a really nice curriculum and does a lot of research work to say, who are your elected officials? When do their local bodies meet? When is the county commission meeting? When are the town council meetings? The school board meetings? And what are the open positions on the boards that actually make a lot of the decisions and the recommendations to those elected officials? And so we shared that in one session. 

We bring also folks who mirror that audience. So those young or multi generational Black men or Black women that are sitting in that salon or that salon or barbershop. We also invite their elected officials who are African American to come sit in that beauty salon or barbershop and actually do more listening themselves to what their constituents are talking about. So we basically bring their local government to them. So that's one session. 

We always talk about public safety and crime, meaning reentry programs or different things that people are concerned about in those specific communities. And then we talk about entrepreneurship and jobs, bringing resources and the know how of folks in their local community who have owned their own businesses.

And then the women said what they wanted to talk about was stress and wellness. So, we introduced that topic specifically for the women. And, I tell you, the conversations that we've had in those spaces are life changing for many of them and for us. I mean, I learned something in every one of these sessions that, , we're not just there imparting information. We're sitting here learning as well. 

And our most exciting result of the first barbershop we did in 2022 is that the chair of our barbershop conversation who always make a barber, barber or beauty salon owner, the chair of the program. So someone interested in the community. Well, Garrett Snuggs, who was our barbershop chair, our inaugural one, actually got activated by the end of 2022, started a male civic engagement organization himself, won a seat on the Wadesboro Council in November 2023.

He was a top vote getter. Wadesboro is 60 percent Black JD. And 1 of the things we always talk about is representation. Wadesboro and Anson County, 60 percent Black based on the last census had never had in the history of that town more than 1 of the 5 council persons being a Black person. After that 2023 election, so now serving right now, as we speak, that five person council has three African Americans on it, and the mayor is Black for the very first time. 

JD Wooten: So you've achieved proportional representation.

Cynthia Wallace: Proportional representation. And Mr. Snuggs is actually going to be with us at our third birthday party, which we're doing on April 29th here in Charlotte. And he's going to be talking to folks about what he's done and the impact that New Rural Project had in his trajectory, we've met with him a few weeks ago and he said, I'd never had any plans to be an elected official, but some things happened in his County in 2022 that got him fired up, but he'd also had a few months before the experience of that civic education in the barbershop.

JD Wooten: I love all of that. And I do want to circle back to one thing. I think I understood you were saying and this is, oh my gosh, so valuable. And I, I still need help kind of connecting the dots all the time on this. I think I understood you were saying you discuss not just the issues, and not just the offices on the ballot and the election, but really helping put them together. So, like if the conversation is about education and funding the schools, you say, well, here are the boxes on the ballot that matter for that issue, or if it's more like, how about the buildings and say, ah, well, counterintuitively in North Carolina, it's not the General Assembly, it's actually your local commissioners that are in charge of the buildings, that kind of thing. 

Cynthia Wallace: I mean, I couldn't have teed this up even better. That is literally a conversation we had in the Anson beauty salon. We were talking, it was our civic session and one of the young ladies in her 30s, she said, my brother has had substitute teachers all year. I'm so concerned about our schools. We then had a very intensive, it wasn't on our agenda, detailed conversation about how does funding work between the General Assembly and your local school board. And one of the things that we talked about was the fact that it's always easy to blame all of the problems in your schools to your local board of education. But do you realize the General Assembly has a big role to play in funding and funding of your teachers and the raises they get or don't get? 

And the other thing we talked about was the fact that, I love rural North Carolina, born and raised in rural Georgia. So I'm a country girl at heart. I live in Charlotte, just 10 minutes from Union County where our work starts. But in Mecklenburg, we're one of the wealthier counties in the state. And we were able to talk to them about the fact that a county like Mecklenburg actually has the money to add incremental salaries for these teachers. A county like Anson, which is in the bottom ten among the poorest counties, you guys don't even have the tax base to even add that incremental funding for teacher salaries.

So it's your General Assembly who you really should be talking to, to increase funding for teachers. And you could see the eyes kind of opening and the fact that many folks, probably most folks in that salon, never had that kind of conversation about the concerns they had with their educational system in Anson and how it ties to the folks in Raleigh that feel like they're thousands of miles away.

JD Wooten: And also important but even more difficult to try and explain is oh, by the way, there's this long running court case that tries to help equalize some of this. And oh, by the way, your judges matter in this too with things like Leandro case and where that funding is going. And don't be confused by the opportunity scholarships that are taking money out of that pool. Man, we could go into a lot of stuff. 

Cynthia Wallace: That's a whole session, but speaking of Leandro that has definitely been one of the issues that we have actually taken a leadership on in terms of advocating for getting local folks to be a part of the advocacy efforts. We actually have fact sheets on every single one of our counties that we share during these beauty salons or barbershops that shows them if they're not If Leandro was fully funded, here's what it would mean for your county.

And so that is definitely a critical piece that we've been working on and advocating for, and we were so excited at the end of 2022. And then, like you said, it all is connected. Unfortunately, there were some devastating losses in the North Carolina Supreme Court that changed the makeup of the court and all of a sudden, the progress we thought we had to fully fund Leandro went away within, what, four or five months later. 

JD Wooten: Yeah, that shift of personnel on the Supreme Court at the beginning of 2023 after the 2022 elections has had some pretty massive long term ramifications on the direction of North Carolina. And yes, this is just one of those that, this is one of those that, let me put it this way. I greatly appreciate the fact that y'all are doing some of that hard work of trying to help people understand the importance of those judicial races and how much they truly do impact, even if it's not today or tomorrow, but it's a lasting impact, all of these issues.

Cynthia Wallace: Yeah, every seat on your ballot is important and this is going to be a long one too It's going to be a long one in in 2024. So we've got to get people prepared to stay through that ballot.

JD Wooten: Buckle up. Don't forget to turn it over. 

Cynthia Wallace: Don't forget the judges as we like to say, don't forget the judges.

JD Wooten: Amen. Okay, so being a little more forward looking then, what is the new rural project's focus for the rest of this year, this election cycle? I mean, we have a huge election coming up like you were just talking about. It's going to be a long ballot. Where are y'all putting your focus and how are you approaching this election cycle?

Cynthia Wallace: So as I, , talked about before, I don't think I've said it yet. I always love to say the counties that we focus in, there's seven. We focus in Union, Anson, Richmond, Scotland, Robeson, Hoke, and Moore Counties. And that's where we do our work. And because of our size of our staff, we can't focus in a deep electoral way on all seven. So this year, we have decided on four that we'll get our closest attention as it relates to being on the doors, canvassing, door knocking. And that is going to be Union, Anson, Scotland, and Hoke Counties. And so we're at two on the Western part of our counties, and then two on the East, and we will be canvassing, knocking on doors, we'lle be phone banking, we'll be text banking. We will do and be doing our candidate conversations. We will be also rolling out our C.U.R.L.S. program in a couple of those places where we have not done that yet. So, Scotland and Hoke, if you're listening, a C.U.R.L.S. Beauty Salon conversation is coming to you soon. So we're looking to do that. 

One of the things that we also , as we talked about the issues earlier on and healthcare being one of the critical issues for us, we did a lot of advocacy for Medicaid Expansion. So we were, going to events, encouraging our the folks in our counties having what we call urgent conversations about Medicaid Expansion before the General Assembly, at long last, after what, over a decade of which we gave away money that the federal government would have given us to provide for, to insure so many folks, but obviously it happened. So people could start enrolling in December. 

One of the other cores of our work is not hoping people will just find out about things. We then work on the ground to make sure they know about these amazing programs that are available. So back in February, a couple months ago, we hosted a health care fair where we brought in folks, navigators who could explain how to enroll in Medicaid Expansion. We also brought in the insurers that they would be able to select from if they got insurance. But we also layered in the board of elections, because we're approaching the primary. And so we had board of elections there, we were sharing election information. We canvassed a week before to make sure people knew about the health fair.

And so a lot of what we want to do this year as well is make sure that no one doesn't know they have an opportunity to finally long last, get healthcare. And so, and we do that by layering in these amazing, fun community events along with passing on some vital information. So healthcare is definitely gonna still be at the forefront as we do other events like that, bringing all of those pieces together. Actually on April 20th we're actually doing being a, a part of a health fair in Anson County. So we've done one in Union. We're doing one in Anson and hopefully if time permits, we'll be able to do a similar kind of health thing in Hoke and Scotland. 

JD Wooten: Sounds like a very busy 2024 on the horizon. 

Cynthia Wallace: A little bit.

JD Wooten: But I wish you all the best and all the great success with all of that because it's all such important work. So I want to be respectful of your time so let me ask this, where can people go to learn more about the work the New Rural Project is doing and help get involved?

Cynthia Wallace: Well, we are all over the socials. So first of all, our website is, and we're on Facebook and Instagram, both @NewRuralProject. We are on YouTube. We're on Linkedin. So yeah, so we're on all of those platforms. And so yeah, if you go out to any of those places you'll see us very active. And they'll be able to see us if you live in the Charlotte area, or you want to travel to Charlotte on April 29th, we will be celebrating our third birthday party with our amazing team, our board members, our community volunteers and donors here in Charlotte from 6:30 to 8 PM. So if you go to, like I said, any of our social media platforms, you'll be able to see the information or go to our website and subscribe to our newsletters. You will also get emails with that information. 

JD Wooten: Cynthia, it has been such a pleasure having you here today. Thank you so much for being with us today, and best of luck with all that hard work you're doing. 

Cynthia Wallace: Thank you. And thank you for what you do, getting the message out and informing folks about what's happening here in North Carolina.

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JD Wooten: Thanks again to everyone for listening today. If you have questions, comments, or suggestions for future episodes, send me an email at And as always, please subscribe wherever you get your podcasts and share this episode with a friend. Together, we can achieve a better North Carolina for everyone!