Who We Are

The Echo Project was founded in 2019 by Rev. David Kennedy, members of New Beginning Missionary Baptist Church, and residents of Laurens County.

Inspired by the decades-long saga of Rev. Kennedy and his fight against (and eventual ownership of) “The Redneck Shop”, we are committed to telling the truth about our past, standing against hatred, and building a better future for all people.

Our journey to fighting injustice starts at the Echo Theater: a former segregated movie theater, home to the most infamous white supremacist store in America, and our namesake. We are working to transform this former house of hate into a place of truth, diversity, and remembrance.

Inside will be exhibits that connect the story of the Echo Theater to the larger story of the struggle for justice and civil rights in American history. We will use the story of the Echo Theater — from segregated theater, to KKK museum, to soon being a place of healing — to leave visitors with a lasting message of the power in standing against hatred, the impact in healing division in our communities, and that change is possible.

These exhibits and our research will be the factual backbone of a diversity center on-site that fosters conversations around justice, forgiveness, and reconciliation through community-driven education and leadership initiatives, both locally and across the country.

The Echo Project will redefine the story of the Echo Theater and of Laurens into one of resiliency, justice, and hope. We hope to share the impact of that change with 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

Rev. David Kennedy – President Harry Agnew – Vice President Janice Kennedy – Secretary Christopher Williams – Treasurer Frances Williams Pamela Barksdale Russell Smith

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.

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Mailing Address

The Echo Project
PO Box 8
Laurens, SC 29360