Dear STAY membership,
Two years (and one extra month!) later, it is my time to go. So much has changed since fall of 2016, when I was elected to serve on the Steering Committee for the STAY Project. I’ve taught and learned, healed and struggled, and mostly, I think, figured out exactly why a youth liberation movement in central Appalachia is and has been crucial to me for so long. I’ve learned what it’s like to be heard and invested in, I’ve also learned when to step back and let others lead the way. I’ve helped to create a workshop about combating white supremacy and collective liberation in Appalachia, and dream to build a whole curriculum about how we- mountain youth, are the ones we’ve been waiting for, and we will be the ones to get us free. I hope you will take what you need from the work we’ve done for the last two years and leave the rest. I hope you will add to our work and make it better, stronger, and more resilient. STAY is about creating space, it is also about more than space, it’s a feeling, a movement, a thing you can carry with you wherever you go and take pride in being a young person who is trying to stay in this place (or about how you can leave the mountains, but your legacy will always touch down on and inspire your comrades here at home).
I hope you will apply to join STAY’s Steering Committee because we need leaders like you NOW. I can’t wait to see what you’ll do.
With love and solidarity,
WMMT’s Rachel Garringer sat down in the studio with founding STAY member, Willa Johnson, current STAY coordinator Lou Murrey, and new STAY member Katelyn Damron- who joined by phone to talk about their annual #appalachianlovestory campaign. Appalachian Love Week is February 12-18, 2018 and STAY asks folks to share their #appalachianlovestory online with this hashtag.
Listen to the story here: www.wmmt.org/mtn-news-reflections/
I’m finally ready and willing to start sharing photos/poetry/thoughts/reflections on my experiences as a player playing many parts in that great family feud, as it were, of 2017 that, unfortunately, is not yet quite over.
2017 - that whirlwind of a contemptuously impossible year - proved to be my greatest failure, my greatest disappointment, my greatest education, and, somehow too, my greatest hope. Firstly, that jaded, rundown kind of hope which mandates the belief that eventually, things were going to have to be okay. And, later (currently), a sanguine hope, reddened in the face from drunkenness on the precipice of full redemption of those things truly important - a hope that shines in the darkness and which leads wise folks hither; truth is righteous, truth is clarity, and truth is the way of the world (courts).
For catharsis, I took to writing this all down, scrawling the phrases as they popped into my head and piecing them together a little more artfully in the still quiet of many nights robbed of sleep.
Unfortunately, in this society, our standard of strength is wholly contingent upon the amount of abuse that one can endure. Who would I be without suffering all this BS? Probably someone having far fewer anxiety attacks, but at the very least, it makes for a good story about how good prevails invariably, probably. This is the first manifestation of that.
This particular set of photos signifies the preciousness and the seriousness of place - these are those couple hundred acres of red clay that someone once convinced me was home. These lands are held hostage and eerily quiet in the bonds of injunction, awaiting release. If stolen from me, they are stolen from everyone on this creek, farming families here hundreds of years, and their ancestors’ bones crushed under bulldozers of wealth. It is the latest, most personal iteration of the legacy of absentee land ownership, white collar theft, geographic pillage, and general abuse of the poor by the rich, the irrelevant, the outsider, in this area. But we are still fighting.
Katelyn Damron, 19, is a 2017-2018 STAY Project steering committee member from Tornado, WV.
Joe Tolbert is a native of Knoxville, TN, and former steering committee member of the STAY Project. Joe has brought his talents to the Highlander Center, the Carpetbag Theater, and is now attending Seminary at Union College in New York City. In this episode of Appalachian Love Stories, WMMT’s Rance Garrison speaks with Joe about race, spirituality, Joe’s experience in Knoxville as an urban Appalachian, and why he has decided to make his home in the region.
Carmen Davis is a recent college graduate, a musician, and a former member of the STAY Project’s steering committee. In this episode of Appalachian Love Stories, Bill Wireman of Seminary, Va. sat down to speak with her about experiences growing up in southwest Virginia, the sense of community that her work brings her, and why she has decided to stay in southwest Virginia.
Appalachian Love Stories is a series of audio portraits co-produced by WMMT & the STAY Project. STAY stands for ‘Stay Together Appalachian Youth,’ and is an organization of youth, ages 14-30, from throughout Central Appalachia who are all working toward stronger local communities and bringing about positive change in the region. This series profiles some of those young people, in their own words, with a special emphasis on low-income youth, youth of color, and the LGBT community.
Appalachian Love Stories