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New RDLN Board Members

Four women have joined the RDLN Board of Directors, all with impressive accomplishments and with direct experience of the Rural Development Leadership Network. Two are graduates of the National Rural Fellows program, with which RDLN’s founding Board and staff were previously affiliated. Two have participated in the RDLN Rural Development Institute, National Network Assemblies, and international meetings.

Unita Blackwell
The Honorable Dr. Unita Blackwell was born in Lula, Mississippi and picked cotton in her youth. Her life was transformed when she became a civil rights leader with SNCC and a pioneer in registering to vote. As Mayor of Mayersville, MS, she was the first African American woman elected mayor in that state. She has chaired the National Council of Black Mayors, headed the U.S. China Peoples Friendship organization and worked with the National Council of Negro Women and other groups. As a National Rural Fellow, she earned a Master’s in Regional Planning from the University of Massachusetts. She is a Fellow at the JFK School of Government Institute of Politics at Harvard University. A MacArthur Fellow, she was a member of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party that challenged the Democratic Convention in 1964. Her autobiography Barefootin’, co-authored with Joanne Prichard Morris, has just been published by Crown.

Anita Laran
Anita LaRan is Executive Director of Helping Hands/Mujeres Unidas in Mora, New Mexico. She was recently elected President of the Sangre de Cristo Livestock Growers Association and she serves on the Board of the Rural Community Assistance Corp. She is president of the Guadalupita Water Association. Previously she coordinated a regional workforce program under the umbrella of SER, bringing computer training and other services to many low-wealth people in the process.

Mily Treviño-Sauceda
Mily Treviño-Sauceda was born in Washington and grew up in a migrant farmworker family. She became an organizer at the age of sixteen with the United Farmworkers Union. Later she formed a group of farmworker women in the Coachella Valley, a forerunner of Organización en California de Lideres Campesinas, a statewide farmworker organization which she co-founded and heads. She sits on many boards and has received an Alston/Bannerman sabbatical and 100 Heroines of the World and Leadership for a Changing World awards, nominated by RDLN. She obtained her Bachelor’s Degree in Chicano Studies with a Minor in Women Studies, from California State University of Fullerton.

Maria Varela
Maria Varela is founder of Ganados del Valle and Tierra Wools, model community economic development projects in New Mexico which grew from her field work in the National Rural Fellows program. A MacArthur Fellow, she heads The Rural Resources Group. and serves as Coordinator of Colorado College SWS Regional Research Initiative. She teaches at the RDLN Rural Development Institute at the University of California at Davis. A SNCC leader during the Civil Rights movement, Maria also worked with Reis Tijerina in the Southwest. An accomplished photographer, co-author of Rural Environmental Planning, she has served on the boards of National Rural Finance Corp., Coop Bank, the Ms. Foundation, and many others.

New RDLN Staff

Shirley McClain
Shirley McClain has joined the RDLN staff as Issues Director, working on a part time basis. She is past Executive Director of the North Carolina Hunger Network and in that capacity she worked with low-wealth women around the state on advocating for issues that affect them. Her work included leadership and skills development, and she brought resources like computers and computer training to the women, as well as an RDLN writing workshop for advocacy. She has traveled extensively with RDLN and other groups and plans to work in Africa in the future.

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