Around The South
October 2020 Vol. 16, No.9
In This Issue

SRDC Items of Interest

SRDC's Russ Garner Graduates from the Delta Leadership Institute Executive Academy

SRDC congratulates Russ Garner, an Extension/Research Associate for the Center, on his graduation from the Delta Leadership Institute (DLI) Executive Academy in partnership with the Delta Leadership Authority (DRA). Garner is among three graduates from the state of Mississippi to participate in this program. The year-long DLI Executive Academy is a leadership development program that brings together public, private, and nonprofit sector leaders from DRA’s eight-state region. The program empowers fellows with the tools, experiences, and networks to address local and regional challenges, improve decision-making and policy development, and strengthen leadership capacity and mutual understanding of regional, state, and local cultures and issues.

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Life in a Pandemic: Finding Balance between Personal and Professional Lives

Oct. 28, Nov. 4, 11, 18th @ 12pm CT/1pm ET

Join Extension professionals across the nation in a 4-week webinar series on balancing personal and professional lives!

  • Oct. 28 – The Significant Seven: Balancing Your Work and Personal Lives during a Pandemic
  • Nov. 4 – Parenting in Pandemic Times
  • Nov. 11 – Help for the Helpers: Accepting Support and Adjusting Expectations
  • Nov. 18 – Mindfully Maintaining Your Emotional Health

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All Land is not Creating Equal: Unleashing Family and Community Wealth through Land Ownership

November 18, 2020 @ 12pm CT/1pm ET

In celebration of the Center’s 15th anniversary we invite you to learn about the role of land in wealth inequality, about heirs’ property and fractionated land, and about strategies and policies that can address this issue to build rural regions and urban communities that are more inclusive and resilient. Join us for any or all of these insightful-and-action-provoking sessions! All registrants will be sent an agenda and Zoom links to join each and every session.

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Research Article - Digital Inclusion and Parity: Implications for Community Development

This paper introduces the concept of digital parity – similar levels of connectivity, devices, and skills between groups – that can lead to more digital inclusive communities. Utilizing a household survey measuring digital inclusiveness and ANOVA analysis, findings suggest that there are different levels of digital inclusiveness between groups. Differences in internet use and benefits are larger between younger and older groups. There are also differences between urban and rural areas. A statistically modeled digital parity scenario still finds uneven levels of digital inclusiveness, though urban and rural differences disappear, implying deeper and more complex inequality issues are at play. Future research should gather nationally representative survey data and see if findings hold. Regardless and as shown by COVID-19, community development practitioners need to incorporate digital inclusion strategies to ensure their communities transition to, adapt, and prosper in a sustainable way in this unfolding digital age.

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Regional Spotlight

Black and Landless in the United States – Florida A&M University

Since the promise of 40 acres and a mule after emancipation, African Americans have hung on to the value of property ownership. However, in the past 160 years, we have seen the dramatic rise and loss of property by black families, especially in the South.

In 2010, I came face to face with the prospect of losing property that was in my family since 1948. When my grandmother died at 100, she left us 4.33 acres of land. Her will didn’t specify who would get what and where. Her three children and I, whom she adopted, were left to figure it out.

That sent me, the youngest and most educated of the four, on a journey of discovery into the legal maize known as family heirs’ property (FHP). Since emancipation, this often-overlooked issue has resulted in perhaps billions of dollars’ worth of property loss among generations of African Americans. My encounter with FHP in order to secure my and my family’s inheritance bequeathed another kind of inheritance. It gave me the knowledge and dispatched me on a mission that became my Ed.D dissertation and now my life’s work to help others avoid a fate that has befallen too many Black families in Florida and elsewhere.

Family Heirs’ Property
FHP is real property such as land and or a homestead that is also dead capital. It lacks a clear title of ownership and use rights, so heirs are unable to identify which piece of the inherited property they own. FHP snuffs out the equity base that is real property. Thus, it has become a leading cause of significant and persistent poverty for millions of Black Americans in the Southeast. According to state law, FHP occurs when an individual dies owning land, but does not leave a will (intestate). I found that other factors also create FHP. For example, a will exists but it does not identify heirs. A will that does identify the heirs but does not specifically describe each heir’s inheritance is also problematic. Each state and county may have some variation of the rules governing intestate succession, but essentially it creates the same result.

Without a will or having a faulty will, heirs don’t have the information needed to develop a legal document, such as a deed that allows them to transfer ownership and use rights (i.e., title) to a separate piece of the inherited property to each heir. Given this circumstance, in most cases state laws designate that the heirs inherit an undivided, fractional ownership interest in the land, because each co-owner has an individual, partial interest in the whole property, according to Thomas Mitchell, a professor at Texas A&M Law School. Essentially, ownership and use right to FHP is ambiguous, thus preventing its use as a wealth-building tool. This situation is inconsistent with the economic purpose of real property in the U.S. Real property should have a monetary value. It is worth real money. I found that this transformation occurs in the local property appraiser’s office, where the property is assessed and valued based on its characteristics.

Economic Vulnerabilities of Family Heirs’ Property
FHP is beset by numerous complications no wonder so many families are losing valuable property. The property is owned by all heirs, whether they live on the land, pay taxes, have ever set foot on the land, know that the land exists or even know that they are heirs to the land. Often the land has been transferred over succeeding generations, further subdividing ownership interest in the same property.

The generational multiplication of FHP increases the number of heirs to the point that the property cannot be subdivided into usable parcels.

The situation is worsened because the generational multiplication increases the opportunity for close and distant relatives to be co-owners of the same property. All heirs have equal ownership and use rights regardless of whether they contribute to upkeep, taxes, insurance, and other expenses. This causes ill-will and fosters family disagreements. In order for FHP to be used, as collateral, lease, and sale, it requires the signature of all heirs-some of whom may not know they are heirs. And given the level of animosity that often results among heirs, reaching any agreement to use the property for any purpose could be a herculean task.

FHP creates an opportunity for owners to make uninformed and, in many cases, selfish and self-defeating decisions about the inherited property. Decisions where one or more heirs sell their percentage prior to talking with other family members and getting legal advice. The buyer becomes a percentage owner with the power to initiate a forced partition sale in which all of the property is sold to the highest bidder. Our ancestors’ hard-earned legacy could be lost in an instant. At other times, some heirs decide to stop paying property taxes without seeking assistance to figure out an affordable way forward.

The vulnerabilities inherent to FHP have dire economic consequences. It is hardly surprising then that FHP results in land loss. Nor is it surprising why FHP is rendered useless for collateral, sale and leasing, which blocks its wealth building capacity.

Land loss through theft, forced partition sales and unpaid taxes is an erupting volcano destroying Black land ownership. It is an existential threat to Black wealth building. It necessitates a call to action for practical and forward-thinking financial literacy and succession planning for all families. It is essential that churches and other civic organizations that serve African Americans play a greater educational role regarding FHP.

Aging parents and their children must be proactive in creating wills adequate to ensure property is passed down, unencumbered. Their heirs will thank them for it.

Sandra Thompson, Ed.D. is the State-Wide 1890 Program leader and Specialist at Florida A&M University, College of Agriculture and Food Sciences in Tallahassee, Fla. Dr. Thompson is also Founder of Legacy Communities of North Florida, Inc. She can be reached at sandra.thompson@famu.edu, lcnfinc@gmail.com.

Job Opportunities

Assistant Professor & Extension Specialist – Texas A&M AgriLife Extension

Deadline to apply: Oct. 30, 2020

We are seeking a dynamic, forward-thinking individual to lead the area of Employee Development and Continuous Learning with the Organizational Development Unit. Interested candidates for this position should know about Extension Programs and the ability to develop and implement professional development programs for adult learners. Also, applicants should have the ability to create effective partnerships across a broad range of organizations. Candidates should also have the ability to understand and work within the complexities involved in the relationships between a wide variety of people.

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Grant Connections

Sea Grant National Federal Partnership Liaisons Competition

Deadline to apply: November 3, 2020

In an effort to increase collaboration and effective use of federally-funded ocean, coastal and Great Lakes research, the NSGO is looking for proposals to develop National Federal Partnership Liaison positions in coordination with other federal agencies or programs whose project goals align with and support national Sea Grant focus area or vision plan goals. We expect to fund 2-3 liaisons at up to $100K of Sea Grant federal dollars annually for four years. State match of 50% of NSGO funds and ‘substantial’ federal partner funding required.

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Centers of Excellence Program at 1890 Institutions

Deadline to apply: November 18, 2020

The intent of the 1890 COEs Program is to provide support for Centers of Excellence that were originally established in 2015 in conjunction with the 125th Anniversary of the Second Morrill Act of 1890. The 1890 COEs are hosted by 1890 Land-Grant Institutions with the goals of: 1) increasing profitability and rural prosperity in underserved farming communities; 2) addressing critical needs for enhanced international training and development; and 3) increasing diversity in the science, technology, engineering, agriculture and mathematics (STEAM) pipeline.

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2020 Rural Workforce Development Southern Region Summit: Innovation in Times of Change

November 5-6, 2020

The 2020 Rural Workforce Development Southern Region Summit is a convening for rural partners to identify and share innovative practices, opportunities, and resources they can use to address changes in workforce dynamics. Created in partnership with the University of Arkansas Community College at Morrilton and USDA Rural Development Innovation Center Partnership Division, the 2020 Summit creates space for educators, business representatives, legislators, health care workers, nonprofit professionals, and public servants from the Southeastern United States to come together to share best practices and learn from others, both within and across sectors. Attendees will have the opportunity to meet potential collaborators and identify actions they can take in their own work and in their communities to improve local economies.

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National Urban Extension Leaders Conference

May 18-20, 2021 - Virtual

A virtual conference will take place in May 2021 while the face-to-face conference has been postponed until May of 2022.

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International Workshop on Agritourism: Burlington, VT

Postponed to August 31 - September 2, 2021

The 2020 International Workshop on Agritourism (IWA) will be held October 27-29 at the Hilton Burlington Hotel in downtown Burlington, Vermont, USA. The University of Vermont Extension local host committee is working on developing an exciting program for participants which will include educational sessions on pertinent industry topics, poster presentations, hands-on workshops and farm tours, networking events, and time with our exhibitors and sponsors. We invite you to extend your trip on either end of the Workshop to explore the bountiful farms, culinary experiences, arts, and other attractions in Vermont and surrounding states and provinces.

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Smart Regions Innovation, Recovery & Resilience Virtual Workshop

Oct. 29-30th @ 9am CT/10am ET

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Social Media Makeover Made Simple

Nov. 16th @ 11am CT/12pm ET

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Southern CRD Webinar Series 2020: 

January: The 2020 Census is Upon Us: What Can You Do?

Webinar Recording

March: The Georgia Initiative for Community Housing: Addressing Housing Issues from the Bottom Up

Webinar Recording

April: Rural Resiliency - How to Support Mental Health in Rural Communities

Webinar Recording

National CRD Indicators Team Webinar Series:

The “But for” Principle: Getting to Your Impact

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Data Visualization: Decision-Making Tools and Methods for Communities

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What’s Your Program Worth? Evaluation Strategies for Documenting the Dollar Value of Extension Programs

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Evaluating Community Development Impacts Using Qualitative Indicators

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Submit Announcements

Job announcements and other items of interest may be sent to Katherine Spiering for possible inclusion in future issues.

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