Shirley Sherrod has dedicated her entire life to civil rights. At the age of 17, Sherrod’s father was murdered by a white farmer over a disagreement involving livestock. It was at that point that Sherrod made the commitment to work towards economic and social improvement in southwest Georgia. Sherrod has continued community building since leaving her U.S. Department of Agriculture position as the Georgia State Director of Rural Development following Andrew Breitbart’s release of a video clip from a 2010 NAACP event including her comments, which were later found to be taken out of context. ESSENCE.com invited Sherrod, who will speak at the ESSENCE Festival, to reflect on her passion for community service, her former U.S. Department of Agriculture role, and her Courage to Hope memoir.