Listen to Kendra Bozarth and Jhumpa Bhattacharya discuss how disrupting false and reductive narratives about rural America can support more inclusive and responsive policy change.
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“We have all these big ideas happening right now…but policy change cannot be real until we change the way we talk about policy and people.”
Rural America is home to a vastly more diverse population – with varied perspectives, needs, and goals – than prevailing political narratives, as well as public policies, represent. Kendra Bozarth, communications manager for the Homecomers with Sarah Smarsh podcast, joined Jhumpa Bhattacharya to discuss the importance of breaking down reductive stereotypes that serve to erase and exclude rural voices and communities.
“We’ve really reduced entire communities, entire regions, to these really flawed and, I feel, offensive political headlines,” says Kendra. “In doing so, we’re blanketing over the real experiences of real people. When we paint Kansas, for example, with these broad strokes of red, we’re erasing tons of people, and now we can’t provide them with real solutions.”
As a Black woman who considers Kansas her home, Kendra shares her story of drawing inspiration from her rural roots in her work for progressive policy change, and she highlights revealing takeaways from the Homecomers with Sarah Smarsh podcast, which tells untold stories of rural and working-class America through the voices of its residents and advocates.
Kendra is the communications director and chief editor at the Roosevelt Institute, a New York-based think tank that promotes a progressive economic and political worldview. Previously, she worked on state budget and tax policy in Kansas, as part of the Center on Budget’s State Priorities Partnership.