On a warm and clear Monday evening in late March, about 20 cars gathered in the parking lot of a church in Northampton County, N.C., for a socially distanced meeting of the local NAACP chapter. The president and other chairpeople praised successful local food drives, thanked beloved members, and spoke out about potential voting rights issues. Health department representatives discussed COVID-19 rates and the importance of getting the vaccine.

A few minutes in, as the sun started to set and the sky turned purple, the president offered me the microphone to talk about information access in the county, which has…


How Southerly is telling local stories alongside community members

Two years ago, I launched an independent, nonprofit publication, Southerly, with a series of stories on failing wastewater infrastructure in Lowndes County, Alabama, and the people who are working to find engineering, policy, and economic solutions to address it.

The first story centered on Pamela Sue Rush. A soft-spoken and compassionate woman, she was one of few folks willing to speak out about how she was forced to straight-pipe sewage directly from her mobile home into her yard. Rush struggled with her health and was unable to work, so she couldn’t afford the thousands of dollars it would cost to…


How community members help us do better journalism

Northampton County is one of six counties in North Carolina without a newspaper, according to a University of North Carolina report on expanding news deserts. Belinda Joyner, who lives in Garysburg, once told me that most people she knows get their news from word of mouth or from Facebook, and sometimes through the Daily Herald, based in neighboring Halifax County. Reporters from the News & Observer or other state outlets will sometimes cover major news or events— but it’s not consistent, which makes it difficult to provide context, history, or for reporters to get to know local people.

That also…


Two years ago, I launched my independent, nonprofit publication, Southerly, with a series of stories on failing wastewater infrastructure in Lowndes County, Alabama, and the people who are working to find engineering, policy, and economic solutions to address it.

Pamela Sue Rush was the center of the first story. A soft-spoken and compassionate woman, she was one of few folks willing to speak out about how she was forced to straight-pipe sewage directly from her mobile home into her yard. Rush struggled with her health and was unable to work, so she, like many rural Americans, couldn’t afford the thousands…


The new publication seeks to amplify the diverse voices of the American South while covering ecology, justice, and culture

Nearly two years ago, I returned home to report on the American South, not only because I wanted to tell stories about the region I am passionate about, but also because I wanted to become a better listener.

The South is filled with people who are rarely given an opportunity to speak for themselves and places that are sorely misrepresented or overlooked. When national media parachutes into this region to tell a story, it’s usually written before the reporters hit the ground. …


How one community set the stage for local energy production in Western Colorado.

A photovoltaic training course at Solar Energy International in Paonia, Colorado. Photo: SEI

During his final semester at Delta High School, on Colorado’s Western Slope, Zac Carter enrolled in a new course called Introduction to Photovoltaics, where he could learn the basics of the solar industry. Some of Carter’s family works in the energy industry, and he’s always been interested in electricity. This year, though, he’s watched close family friends struggle to find jobs after being laid off by the nearby West Elk coal mine. By the time he turned 18, he knew a future in fossil fuels wasn’t viable.

After passing the course, Carter was eligible for an entry-level job as a…


In the San Luis Valley, migrant workers build community around student success.

A truck carries freshly harvested potatoes near Center, Colorado. Photo by Nick Valdes

Jasmine Rodriguez stood in a conference room in Washington D.C., before dozens of her peers. For an entire week last April, the 17-year-old high school junior, who’d come to the nation’s capital from Center, Colorado, had been debating student after student from around the country, defeating nearly every opponent. But this round made her uneasy: Her task was to argue against immigration. This was particularly difficult because Rodriguez, who grew up in Mexico, was surrounded by the children of migrant workers.

She argued the case, and felt great when she stepped off the podium. Afterwards, a woman from Georgetown Law…


To build a new generation of farmers, one nonprofit wants states to forgive student loans.

While new farmers make an average of just $2,000 per year nationwide, land costs around $3,000 an acre. Photo courtesy of Kacey Kropp.

Casey Holland didn’t decide to pursue a farming career until she started an internship with a food justice organization during her last year at the University of New Mexico. After graduating in 2012, she hopped around local farms, apprenticing until she found a home on Red Tractor Farm, a small vegetable spread in the South Valley of Albuquerque.

Today, Holland wants to buy land in Albuquerque and run her own farm. But that goal feels like a pipe dream. Because of her high student loan debt, she lacks sufficient credit to even think about buying land or starting a business…


“If you live in a wooded suburb of Boston and treasure the preserved lands next door, if you live in the dense neighborhoods of Boulder, Colorado, and like to go to Rocky Mountain National Park for your summer hikes, your relation to the land is secure, a privilege enshrined in law. But if you love the hills of southern West Virginia or eastern Kentucky, if they form your idea of beauty and rest, your native or chosen image of home, then your love has prepared your heart for breaking.” — Jedediah Purdy, After Nature

One afternoon three years ago, I…


Three years ago to the day, I was basking in the Florida sun with six of my beautiful friends. Photos of the trip find me every once in a while and always give me a laugh — they’re on Facebook, in a frame or two in our homes, floating in the Apple cloud somewhere.

This morning, they’re sprawled across my kitchen table. It’s strange to see photos printed out anymore — it seems like the only time memories are tangible like this are huge episodes in life. Weddings. Birthday parties. Baby showers.

And of course, after a death. Preparing for…

Lyndsey Gilpin

Editor-in-Chief, Southerly southerlymag.org

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