Meet Our Guest Bloggers

Lora Smith
Beginning this month Southern Currents will be home to a group of guest bloggers representing MRBF grantee partners.  These dynamic Southern leaders will be sharing lessons learned, providing insights on successful strategies and new ways of working, and giving their perspectives on what's 'next' for their communities and organizations. 


Jason Bailey

Jason Bailey is Director of the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy and serves as Research and Policy Director of the Mountain Association for Community Economic Development. Since 1998 he has worked as a researcher and advocate addressing economic issues in the Commonwealth. Jason’s service includes the National Advisory Board of the Rural Policy Research Institute, the Kentucky Tax Reform Commission and the Kentucky Commission on Small Business Advocacy. 


 Carol Burnett

Carol Burnett is the founder and Executive Director of the Mississippi Low-Income Child-Care Initiative, a nonprofit organization working to improve policies and increase funding in Mississippi’s child care programs for low-income working families. Carol is also Executive Director of Moore Community House (MCH), a non-profit community center serving low-income families in east Biloxi by providing Early Head Start programs and Women in Construction, a job training program.  Carol is an ordained Elder in the United Methodist Church, one of the first women to become ordained in the Mississippi Conference, and the first to serve in a cross-racial pastoral appointment.  Currently, Carol is a member of the Boards of Directors of the Hope Credit Union, and Common Cause of Mississippi; and she serves on the advisory board of Mississippi Building Blocks. Carol is the recipient of the Ms. Foundation for Women’s Woman of Vision Gloria Award, Lighthouse BPW Woman of Achievement, Women’s MS Gulf Coast Woman of Achievement, the MS Religious Leadership Conference Founder’s Award, the V-Day Leadership Award, and the MS State NAACP Vernon Dahmer Award.


Alan Essig

Alan Essig is the Executive Director of the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute. His recent professional experience includes serving as a senior research associate with the Fiscal Research Center of the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies at Georgia State University, as well as deputy policy director for the Georgia Governor’s Office. Alan’s experience also includes serving as a committee aide for the Georgia State Senate and Georgia House of Representatives Appropriations Committees, assistant commissioner for the Georgia Department of Human Resources, director of the Georgia State Senate Research Office, deputy director of the Budgetary Responsibility Oversight Committee, and as a legislative budget analyst for the New York State Senate Finance Committee. Georgia Trend magazine named Alan one of the 100 Most Influential Georgians in 2011, 2012 and 2013. 


Charmel Gaulden

A native of Savannah, Georgia, Charmel Gaulden is the former Executive Director of the Gulf Coast Fair Housing Center (GCFHC).  During her tenure at GCFHC she raised over $1 million in funding and helped Mississippians recover over $100,000 as a result of leading 50 fair housing investigations.  A firm believer in education, she has designed outreach campaigns resulting in thousands of Mississippians learning their fair housing rights.  As a result of her leadership GCFHC served as a plaintiff in the lawsuit to ensure equal recovery from Hurricane Katrina for Mississippians, resulting in $132.8 million being provided for Mississippi housing recovery.  A 2011 New Organizing Institute New Media Fellow, Ms. Gaulden co-edits The Oyster Knife a blog dedicated to lifting up the voices of women working for social justice on the Gulf Coast.  When she’s not writing she practices law in Georgia and Louisiana.


Ethan Hamblin

Ethan Hamblin was raised on Gays Creek, KY deep in the heart of Appalachia. He values community action and emerging leadership. Ethan is currently a student at Berea College where he is pursuing a degree in Appalachian Studies and is one of the student workers for the Brushy Fork Institute. Ethan has served as an intern for the Foundation for Appalachian Kentucky where he helped establish the Youth Leadership and Philanthropy Initiative. In his spare time you can find him sitting on his front porch with a cup of sweet tea and talking nonstop with his fantastic family.


Rich Huddleston

Rich Huddleston has been with Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families (AACF) since 1995.  During his first 9 years with AACF, he served as Research and Fiscal Policy Director and directed the organization’s state fiscal analysis initiative (SFAI) and welfare reform projects before becoming Executive Director in July 2004.  Rich has an extensive background in research and advocacy on public policy issues impacting children, most notably state tax and budget issues, early childhood education and K-12 financing, and poverty/low income economic issues.  In 2012, Rich was named by the Arkansas Times Magazine as one of the 50 most influential Arkansans for his work on children’s advocacy.


Ashley Kerr

Ashley Kerr serves as Community Initiatives Manager for Collaborative Solutions, Inc. (CSI), and oversees the rural housing initiatives. In this role, Kerr coordinates rehabilitation activities on substandard housing, develops curricula, provides technical assistance to nonprofit service providers, and brokers partnerships between rural service providers and affordable housing developers. In addition, Ms. Kerr oversees the coordination and advocacy efforts of the Low Income Housing Coalition of Alabama (LIHCA), a statewide organization dedicated to increasing affordable housing resources for Alabamians living in poverty.


Nayely Perez-Huerta

Born in Guanajuato, México, Nayely Pérez-Huerta immigrated to the US in the year 2000. Like millions of other Mexican families, Ms. Perez-Huerta's family was displaced by the North American Free Trade Agreement. Nayely entered the world of immigrant rights at the age of 16, as an undocumented student, and became the first member of her family to attend and graduate from college. In 2009, Nayely joined El Pueblo’s Advocacy team, and in 2012 she transitioned to her current position as Regional Organizer for the Southeast Immigrant Rights Network (SEIRN). Nayely is passionate about immigrant rights and social justice issues.


Deborah Scott

Deborah Scott, Executive Director of STAND-UP, a “Think and Act Tank for Working Communities,” and founder of TRADE-UP, a model prep-apprenticeship and workforce development program, is a leading advocate for energy conservation, green development, and the creation of a 21st century American workforce. She is convener of Emerald Cities Atlanta and a leader in the Better Buildings Challenge, two national initiatives created to drive economic growth by retrofitting commercial buildings for energy efficiency. Ms. Scott is a recognized thought leader in community development, delivering products such as “The Fort McPherson Community Action Plan,” cited by the American Planning Association as exemplifying efforts “that create communities of lasting value.” Ms. Scott has successfully built coalitions among neighborhood groups, labor, business and students, by framing issues around principles of social responsibility, economic equity, entrepreneurship and environmental stewardship. Scott was honored by the White House as a Champion of Change for her innovative energy priorities and sustainable living practices making a greener community a possibility in any American city or town.


 Ashley Shelton

Ashley Shelton is the Director of One Voice Louisiana. Before joining One Voice, Shelton was the Vice President of Programs at the Louisiana Disaster Recovery Foundation (LDRF), where managed a system of integrated, value-added programs with the goal of creating a better Louisiana for all of its citizens in the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.  In her role at LDRF, she designed, initiated and coordinated a comprehensive policy strategy, which led to a systemic, multi-pronged approach to equitable policy development on a local, state, and national level.  Utilizing a participatory model, she is engaging local, state, and national partnerships to develop and nurture civic engagement throughout the state by providing leadership and key philanthropic knowledge of Louisiana-based organizations and issues.  Ashley has received many honors, including selection as a 2005-2006 Fellow in the Emerging Leaders Program at Duke University and the University of Cape Town, and was appointed in 2003 to the Foundation for the Mid South’s Commission to Build Philanthropy.



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