The Echo Project is committed and dedicated to challenging and overcoming the fears that separate us, to telling the truth, and bringing people together.
Who We Are
The Echo Theater is a formerly segregated movie theater located off the courthouse square in the historic district of downtown Laurens, South Carolina. It is most well known for its association with the KKK, the American Nazi Party, and the 25th Aryan Nations World Congress. Between 1996 and 2012, the Echo Theater was the site of the "World Famous Redneck Shop," a white supremacist storefront and KKK Museum.
After decades of diligent community activism, the building is now owned by the New Beginning Missionary Baptist Church(NBMBC). –the very people who led protests against "The Redneck Shop". Today, the Echo Theater is transforming into an education center, museum and multi-use community space. The new Echo Theater is a project of The Echo Project (TEP) -- a nonprofit created by Reverend Kennedy, members of his congregation, and local citizens dedicated to standing against hatred, addressing racial inequality and healing racial division. The Echo Project and its work to restore the Echo Theater has been supported by thousands of volunteers and donors from around the world.
Lead architect Michael Allen of MOA Architecture Inc. (moaarc.com), a business leader in Greenville, South Carolina, is donating his services to ensure the integrity and historical significance of the building is preserved. The team also includes Paratus Group (ParatusGroup.com) for ownership representation, and MASS Design Group (MASSDesignGroup.org), our Exhibit Designers inside the Echo Theater.
With its partners, The Echo Project is creating an educational, cultural, and economic hub for a rural Southern downtown that will serve as a beacon of hope for the world.
About Rev. Kennedy
Reverend David E. Kennedy, son of John and Mary Kennedy, was born and raised in Laurens, South Carolina. He grew up in the midst of the Civil Rights movement in the Deep South, which helped shape his ideals of equality, freedom, and spirit. Graduating Magna Cum Laude from Benedict College with a B.S. in Religion and Philosophy, he began preaching in 1972 under the pastoral leadership of the late Reverend L. C. Sanders.
He established the New Beginning Missionary Baptist Church in 1984 and, soon after, its six standing community programs, including the Laurens County Soup Kitchen. Under his leadership, the church purchased several properties throughout Laurens County, including “The Redneck Shop”. His experience closing the Redneck Shop was interpreted into the 2018 Sundance Award-winning film BURDEN, starring Forest Whitaker as Rev. Kennedy.
Rev. Kennedy serves as President of The Echo Project and continues to use his blessings from God to fight against injustices of all of God’s children.
Our Board of Directors
About Our Staff
Ours is a community effort to bring change and healing to the nation by connecting the history of Laurens, South Carolina, with the experiences of people around the country.
Regan Freeman serves as Executive Director of The Echo Project and is a native of Laurens County. He is a graduate of the University of South Carolina. Regan co-founded The Echo Project along with Rev. Kennedy and members of NBMBC. He is driven by a passion for civic service, the fight against injustice, and a hope for a better South Carolina.
Lela Riis Usry Agnew has broad philanthropic expertise with thirty years as an executive director, development professional, education and public health curriculum specialist, social justice community organizer, youth leadership advocate, and strategic communications professional. As senior advisor to the TEP Board of Directors, she supports fundraising, public programming, communications, and building design strategy.
Historian Advisory Committee:
Dr Vernon Burton
Judge Matthew J. Perry, Jr. Distinguished Professor of History, Professor Computer Science, Clemson University
Dr. Nicholas Gaffney
Center for African American Studies, University of South Carolina Upstate