Dear STAY Members and allies,
Youth organizing in central Appalachia has never been more important than it is right now.
As the world waits and watches to see how this new chapter of American politics will play out, we already have a pretty good idea of what to expect here in the mountains. Conservative politicians who do not represent the interests of many of our members have swept positions of power across Kentucky, Virginia, West Virginia, Tennessee, and North Carolina, and threaten the safety and well-being of our communities, our access to healthcare, and our efforts to build a more just and sustainable Appalachian economy.
But this isn’t the end of the world. The majority of the people in our communities and our region have rallied behind big promises of returning jobs, restoring coal, and reverting to “better days,” and I can understand why they want those things. I just don’t believe that those promises will come true, and even if they do, at what cost to other parts of our communities and well-being? Either way, I don’t believe these old, white, cisgender men are the future we deserve.
And I think about the youth and children and next generations of Appalachians, many of whom weren’t old enough to vote, but who will be living in the world that is becoming our new reality. As my friend Charlsa Hensley said,
Adults will be fine. We can lean on our communities and a long history of struggle and survival. We can find the help we need and we can be the help that others need. But for the next four years, please remember to be a positive and loving force to all children. Children of immigrants and children from lesbian and gay households and children questioning their gender or sexuality and children in low-income households or school districts, and especially the children of bigoted parents. We're going to need all of them to fix our colossal mistake.
Empowering young people and working together to build the Appalachia we all believe in is exactly why the STAY Project exists.
This weekend, we will welcome four amazing new members onto the 9th STAY Steering Committee, and begin planning our next year of organizing and action. And that’s where you come in. As a grassroots organization, we need your voice and participation. Here are three ways you can take action today:
1. Hold loving space for yourself, your friends, your family, your community. We’re all different people in different places, and we’ll all process the coming days differently. Please take any space you need, and do what you can to get your needs met. If that means spending time with others or supporting them, then that’s just a win-win!
2. Tell us what you need. The more we know about what’s going on in your life and your community, what challenges you’re facing and what opportunities you see, the more effectively we can take action as an organization. If you hear about a job, send it our way. If you’d like to learn something, or if you have a skill to share, let us know, and we’ll see if we can make connections. The more we share, the stronger our network becomes.
3. Donate to STAY to help us continue what we do. In the last year, we stopped a Bathroom Bill in eastern Kentucky, organized a Summer Institute in North Carolina, led an Intersectionality workshop at the Appalachian Studies Conference in West Virginia, and supported with a solidarity action for Standing Rock in Tennessee. Any resources you can contribute will help us support our long-term strategy for youth in Appalachia and continue to take action.
Thank you for your strength in these times of change in our region, and thank you for being involved in our movement. If you want to learn more about STAY, find out how to get involved, donate, or get in touch, visit www.thestayproject.com, find us on Facebook, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Don’t stop dreaming. The future is ours, and together, we can make it better.
Izzy Broomfield & the STAY Steering Committee