Think back to the last time you saw an Appalachian portrayed on TV, in the national media, in a book or a cartoon. Often, when people talk about Appalachians, they portray us as white, or poor, or ignorant — or all three. But when you dig beneath the surface, and challenge the stereotypes that are often used to misrepresent people who live in our region, the story becomes much more honest, and interesting…
BY EMMA PEPPER, DIRECTOR OF STRATEGIC NETWORK COMMUNICATIONS, THE HUB
The Beckley-Register Herald shared a story recently about the first roadside marker going up in Alderson, WV through the Legends and Lore Marker program, run through the William G. Pomeroy Foundation and West Virginia Humanities Council’s Folklife Program.
The deadline to apply for the next round of this program is October 1! Check out more information on the WV Folklife Program website »
“A new roadside marker commemorating the famed Alderson lion, ‘French,’ will be dedicated… The marker will be placed near a striking metal sculpture of the lion that was created and installed in 2017 by Michael Loop.
Local residents are well-versed in the story of the circus lion cub that was rescued and raised by an Alderson woman in the 1890s. As the lion grew, he occasionally wandered away from his home and strolled the streets of Alderson, much to the dismay of townsfolk. After he frightened a salesman into jumping into the Greenbrier River to escape, the town council passed a law requiring “all lions” in Alderson to be properly leashed.”
The National Endowment for the Humanities recently awarded the West Virginia Mine Wars Museum a $30,000 challenge grant for The Blair Centennial Project, a plan to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Blair Mountain in 2021.
The NEH grant committee called the Blair Centennial Project “a bold and collaborative effort to use the humanities to foster cultural tourism and give a challenged community hope for the future through respect for the past,” according to a news release.
The Battle of Blair Mountain was the largest armed insurrection in the United States other than the Civil War…
BY KENZIE NEW, DIRECTOR, WV MINE WARS MUSEUM
The West Virginia Mine Wars Museum is spearheading a campaign to commemorate the 100th Anniversary of the Battle of Blair Mountain, a project funded by the National Endowment of the Humanities. The Battle of Blair Mountain was a five-day battle and the culmination of two decades of conflict and violent unrest for labor and civil rights in the coalfields of southern West Virginia.
Set for Labor Day Weekend in 2021, a core planning committee has already begun planning for the Centennial Commemoration and is enlisting volunteers and organizations to host events in their own communities.
The museum conducted their first wave of organizing for the event series in September 2018, where they held a Blair Kick-Off Meeting for the Centennial Commemoration in Historic Matewan. Dozens of organizations across the state and region answered the call to contribute ideas and participate in the Centennial.
The next inspiring chapter in Blair Mountain’s 2021 Centennial will take place on May 4th at 1:00pm at the Historic Oak Hill High School in Oak Hill, West Virginia. A collaborative session led by the Mine Wars Museum staff and core planning committee will set the stage for partners to share concepts, resources, and launch their own creative vision for sharing this crucial period of American history.
Teachers, community leaders, historians, museum staff, and other members of the public are invited to participate in the planning process. Please RSVP by contacting Museum Director Kenzie New at 304-923-4027, visiting wvminewars.com, or by emailing email@example.com.
The West Virginia Mine Wars Museum is located in historic downtown Matewan. The West Virginia Mine Wars was a twenty-year period of labor violence in southern West Virginia, in which coal miners fought company forces for their constitutional rights and the right to form a union.
Like the courageous miners of West Virginia’s not-so-distant past, a new generation of rednecks is rising to meet a challenge: this time, to ensure that this American struggle for dignity and basic human rights takes its rightful place in the nation’s memory. March with us on May 4th!
The West Virginia Folklife Program at the West Virginia Humanities Council is partnering with The William G. Pomeroy Foundation to bring the Legends & Lore Roadside Marker Grant Program to the hills of West Virginia. The program promotes cultural tourism and commemorates legends and folklore as a part of our cultural heritage.
The Folklife Program has a call out right now for applications for ideas for these roadside markers.
The first round of applications is due May 1!
From the organizers:
Selected applicants will receive an attractive, well-crafted metal road sign, resembling a historic marker, to commemorate a story, figure, or tradition important to their community’s cultural heritage.
The Pomeroy Foundation will cover the costs of manufacturing the marker, the pole, and shipping. Grant recipients will be responsible for the installation of the marker (and, if required by their local transportation department, for the cost of a breakaway pole).
This program recognizes traditional customs and practices, tales and stories (whether based in historical fact or fiction), sayings, foodways, music, dance, and art or craft forms shared and passed on by a community.
In this week’s episode of Inside Appalachia, we’ll explore why communities with a culture of volunteerism, and strong support systems, are more resilient. This episode features several stories that all have one thing in common — they’re about the impacts of community, and social interactions, have on our ability to thrive.
We’ll learn about “bright spot” communities in Appalachia, which have better than average health statistics, despite also experiencing economic challenges…
Applications are now open for the 5th round of the Create Your State (CYS) Tour in West Virginia. Five towns will be selected to host the program started by the founders of the RiffRaff Arts Collective in Princeton on May 13-17. The CYS Tour inspires and empowers arts-centric community development.
Interested individuals and groups can access the application to host the CYS Tour at createyourstate.org. The deadline to submit applications is February 10. For more information about the CYS tour, stay tuned to that website, send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 304-320-8833.
History of the program
The downtown area of Princeton, West Virginia is in the midst of a dynamic creative renaissance on its way to becoming a vital regional tourist destination known for its blossoming arts district. Early pioneers and catalysts of this revitalization Lori McKinney and Robert Blankenship began working toward this vision nearly a decade ago when they established the RiffRaff Arts Collective in the heart of downtown. Featuring an art gallery, artist studios, performance venues, a recording studio, a music school, and more, this vibrant collective has brought color and life to a turn-of-the-century structure and its surrounding neighborhood. Over the years, partnerships with local government and universities, local non-profit Community Connections, the Princeton-Mercer County Chamber of Commerce, volunteers and more, have amplified their work and sparked a sweeping movement to renovate Mercer Street, the town’s main thoroughfare, now home to many new business and community-building celebratory events such as an annual arts parade and various holiday-themed street parties including the “Downtown Countdown,” a New Year’s Eve ball drop a la NYC’s Times Square. Downtown Princeton once again has a thriving pulse!
Since 2012, McKinney and Blankenship, along with their music ensemble Option 22, have been traveling around the region to leadership conferences, entrepreneurship summits, and places of education to present a multimedia production called “Create Your State” that inspires citizens with their story of arts-based community revitalization and empowers other civic leaders, entrepreneurs, and creatives with tools to transform their environment and boost their local economy. Teamed with Community Connections, The Create Your State Tour was awarded a major grant in 2016 by the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation to take the show on the road around West Virginia. Twenty towns have received the program and are now making strides towards public art projects, establishment of arts festivals, arts-co-ops and more. Five additional WV towns will be selected to participate in the 2019 tour based on their interest, drive, and need for this type of development.
About Create Your State
The CYS program features live music, visuals, and a compelling exchange about the arts-centric revitalization of Princeton, providing inspiration and insight for the replication of this work. The music of Option 22 is full of hope and uplifting messages. The visuals—both video and still shots—are colorful and impactful, reflecting on building renovation, arts events, public works of art, parades, community garden creation, public space beautification, and more. The program is a stage show complete with professional sound and lighting, which creates an exciting, engaging setting for experiential learning. The web portal createyourstate.org is full of information, step-by-step instructions, webinars, and more, so that communities will have ongoing access to the information and a direct line of communication with the CYS founders. The generous funding provided by Benedum will allow McKinney and Blankenship to further elaborate their existing CYS curriculum, provide richer learning materials to participants, and offer ongoing support and mentorship as development plans get executed in communities throughout the state.
The mission of The Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation is to encourage human development in West Virginia and Southwestern Pennsylvania through strategically invested resources. The foundation honors Michael and Sarah Benedum’s belief in “helping people help themselves” by creating “opportunities to cultivate the creativity of people and communities.”
CYS project manager and presenter Lori McKinney says, “This is a project ten years in the making. We have worked so hard for so long and we are incredibly thankful to have this opportunity to contribute to communities around the state, sharing what we’ve learned and inspiring people to transform their environment. The tour last year was impactful, and we have loved providing ongoing coaching to the wonderful teams that are working all around West Virginia. We are extremely grateful to Greg Puckett and Community Connections for all the support they have given us over the years to develop our work, and this opportunity is something we’ve been waiting for—to share what we have learned and give back at a bigger level. Many, many thanks to Community Connections and the Benedum Foundation for enabling this project!”
Greg Puckett, Executive Director of Community Connections says that, “We are exceptionally pleased at this amazing opportunity. Statistics show that when you change the physical design of a community, followed by an infusion of cultural diversity, it provides a vision of hope, innovation, and dedication from the community at large. This hope builds new partnerships and truly changes perception of negative, to overwhelmingly positive.”
BY MICHAEL AND CARRIE KLINE, FOLKLORISTS, TALKING ACROSS THE LINES
What happens when football stars from the Class of 1966 at Mount Hope High School in Fayette County, WV hire a couple of folklorists to document their lifelong friendships across racial lines? Michael and Carrie Kline, the folklorists, like the chicken who crossed the road, get to the other side and down the rabbit hole, taking listeners and viewers tunneling through stories of black school burnings, forging a consolidated school, mourning the loss of black cheerleaders and black culture as passed along by devoted teachers and local adults, tales of black and white boys getting their homemade kites stuck in trees and sharing sleeping bags on camping trips.
Listeners will find themselves cheering along the sidelines, not only at interracial championship football games, but also for the brave high school students who defied their principal’s threats and paved the way for black cheerleaders, and for the ways that Mount Hope youth, when left to their own devices, played together, stayed together and formed lasting bonds.
- Game Changer: Football as a Catalyst for Peaceable School Integration is the first installment in the Hope podcast series, commissioned and directed by the Mountain of Hope Organization, (MOHO) supported by the West Virginia Humanities Council and produced by Talking Across the Lines, LLC, available through https://soundcloud.com/talkingacrossthelines or wherever you get your podcasts.
- Dollars & Cents: Race and Class in the West Virginia Coalfields is the second installment in the Hope podcast series, commissioned and directed by MOHO, supported by the West Virginia Humanities Council and produced by Talking Across the Lines, available through https://soundcloud.com/talkingacrossthelines or wherever you get your podcasts.
Watch and listen deeply to Talking Across the Lines’ current enterprise, Hope, on YouTube and podcast sites. Hope is an interracial documentary project conducted over the past two and a half years focused on Mount Hope, WV in the heart of the New River coalfields. Michael and Carrie Kline, along with their apprentice O.H. Jackson Napier, have collected more than 40 life story interviews from sons and daughters of coal miners. The stories come alive in conversational episodes interweaving lively music and spoken memories from 60 hours of field recordings.
Singing the Blues: Nat Reese of Princeton, WV is the most recent installment in the Talking Across the Lines podcast. This West Virginia bluesman describes the span of his career throughout the southern coalfields. His dad came from Virginia “to shake that money tree,” but precious little shook loose.
The Talking Across the Lines podcast and YouTube channel carry visitors inside the kitchens and living rooms of west Virginians through the intimate lens of folklorists Michael and Carrie Kline. Podcast episodes include The Homeplace, visits with West Virginia musicians and a widow from the Mannington Mine Disaster, produced with WV Humanities Council and Augusta Heritage Center support. PayDirt airs a variety of views and music delving into the soul and complexity of the current day gas rush.
Stay tuned for a rollicking seven-part series, Voices from the Staunton-Parkersburg Turnpike, beginning with Native peoples and running through the Great Depression in the Allegheny Highlands and foothills of northcentral West Virginia. These hour-long episodes of conversational history are seamlessly mixed–spoken, sung and played in the music of people living along the historic route.
BY EMMA PEPPER, DIRECTOR OF STRATEGIC NETWORK COMMUNICATIONS, THE HUB
Berea College’s Loyal Jones Appalachian Center is putting out a call for Appalachians to tell their story about how they thrive in the places they call home.
The narratives that are told about Appalachians, and West Virginians, on the national stage frequently do not reflect our lives as we live them today. The Loyal Jones Appalachian Center’s goal is to help new and different stories be told and heard by fellow Appalachians and across the nation.
They are asking for submissions for an essay contest that will shed a light on new and different perspectives of Appalachia.
Contest organizers share:
“Submissions should provide the author’s compelling life story that illustrates the challenges of coming of age, working, and living in the realities of family and community. If your narrative features personal success in the face of adversity, it will be advantageous to acknowledge the impact of community, community institutions, and societal factors on your life. The same applies in the other direction: family stories or stories chronicling a community often will benefit from a deeper look at your personal struggles and triumphs. We also welcome essays that link one’s personal story to social issues and solutions in the region and nation.”
The winning submission will receive a prize of $1,250, with a second place of $750, and a third place of $500.
Winners and finalists will have the option of being published by the Loyal Jones Appalachian Center on their website.
The contest will be judged by Silas House, an award winning, best-selling novelist and the NEH Chair of Appalachian Studies at Berea College.
Many have heard of, or lived through, the Water Crisis that happened in the Kanawha County, WV area in 2014, when the Elk River was contaminated with the chemical MCHM, leaving 300,000 people without access to clean water. The event received national attention and was featured in multiple news articles and films, through fictional short stories, investigative journalism, and documentaries. Two of those films will be featured in Lewisburg this weekend.
The WV premiere of Crick on the Holler, a fictional short story set during the Water Crisis will be screened and will be followed by a Q&A session with the filmmaker and WV native, Ursula Ellis.
What Lies Upstream, a documentary/political thriller featuring the water crisis, will also be featured.
To learn more about this chapter in WV history, head to the Lewis Theater in Lewisburg, WV this Saturday, June 9th at 7pm.
The event is free, and is sponsored by Greenbrier River Watershed Association, Friends of Lower Greenbrier River, and Indian Creek Watershed Association.
View the trailer and interviews with the filmmaker for Crick in the Holler »