It's been a busy and rewarding summer for STAY! In July, over 60 incredible young folks from across Appalachia, including STAY Project alumni, joined us at the Highlander Center in New Market, TN to reflect on and rejoice in 10 years of youth organizing in Appalachia for our STAY Summer Institute!
We celebrated a decade of the STAY Project by doing what we have always done–– making space for young folks to gather, connect, play, share skills, and challenge each other so that together we can challenge systems of oppression and envision the world we want to build in Appalachia and beyond.
The youth-led workshops and discussions included a conversation about navigating college as a first generation college student, a workshop on affordable home-buying, a brainstorm on building an LGBTQIA student support network in West Virginia, friendship bracelet making workshop, and even an astrology 101 workshop!
But as important as the workshops was the time we got to spend just building relationships with one another; there were late nights spent talking in the dorm, there were meals shared, there were moments to be in quiet community in the healing justice space, there was an excellent rendition of "Landslide" sung around the fire, there was a lacroix mocktail bar, and there was a talent show for the ages.
We were also excited to welcome the All Access Eastern Kentucky interns from Whitesburg to share the documentaries about access to reproductive healthcare in Eastern Kentucky that they worked on this summer. This was followed by Sexy Sex-Ed ––a fun and holistic popular education sex-ed program developed and facilitated by STAY Project alum, Tanya Turner.
In our full group workshops the Highlander Appalachian Transition Fellows used the "machines & lifeforms" activity from Highlander's Economics & Governance Curriculum to guide us through not only naming capitalism, white-supremacy and unrepresentative democracy as systems of oppression, but also through actually visualizing alternatives to those systems.
An important aspect of building our future is knowing the foundation and context we are building on. Together we learned about our histories of resistance and resilience in Appalachia. The histories we aren't told in school like how the first Abolitionist Newspaper in the Country was in Jonesborough, TN or how the Harlan County Youth Liberation group protested Sen. Robert Kennedy's "poverty tour" or how the West Virginia Mine War is the largest labor uprising in US history. Learning these histories got us thinking about how their erasure reinforces the systems of oppression we are trying to dismantle.
We also were able to go deeper into STAY's history during the Alumni Circle where current STAY Project Members were able to hear from Elandria Williams, Ada Smith, Tanya Turner and Rachel Garringer about how the STAY Project came to be. Holding that history and knowing that we come from a long history of radical youth organizing provides us and future generations of Appalachian youth with the context and knowledge we need to shape the future of STAY.
With this knowledge STAY Project members will continue the conversations started at the Summer Institute at strategic planning session in the Fall of 2018.
If you want to hear directly from our members and alumni about their experience at the STAY Summer Institute and as STAY Project members. Be sure to check out the beautiful radio story by STAY alum Rachel Garringer that aired on WWMT's Mountain Talk. That story can be found here: https://www.wmmt.org/mtn-talk-10-years-of-stay/
Finally, a special thanks to Brian Sohn, KFTC, Watauga Consulting and the Sierra Club Tennessee & Virginia Beyond Coal Campaigns for their generous support that was crucial in making the STAY Summer Institute happen!
If you too are interested in supporting us so we can keep creating spaces to empower young Appalachian leaders you can make a donation to the STAY Project here.
In kinship & struggle,
The Stay Together Appalachian Youth Project
Callin' Appalachia: an Appalachian Peoples Assembly
Highlander Center and the STAY Project invite y'all to gather with Central Appalachian communities that are directly impacted by state violence, ecological and economic exploitation, systemic racism, and disenfranchisement from democracy, in order to create alternatives that our people deserve.
The Appalachia People's Assembly will be from 9:00am - 5:00pm on Friday, September 14th as a part of Highlander's 86th Annual Homecoming Celebration.
With this Central Appalachian Peoples Movement Assembly, organizers, community members, artists, youth, elders, and folks are converging to construct the world we envision. Together we will build #SouthernPeoplesPower. Will you join us?
Since you're coming for the Appalachian People's Assembly, why don't y'all stay for Homecoming? The theme is "The Future Is..." and the weekend will feature workshops, performances, and discussions that will lift up folks' visions for transformative justice in their communities and the strategies and success stories that are building the future of collective liberation we are all working toward.
You can register for both the Appalachian People's Assembly and Homecoming Here. If you have any questions or want to talk about registration fee or travel compensation, please don't hesitate to reach out to us
Wanna join the STAY Project? We’ve added a membership form to our website! If you are between the ages of 14-30 and living in Appalachia and want to be a member of the STAY Project, head on over to ourmembership pageand fill out the form.
If you are a current member go ahead and fill out the form to update your information.
Come be a part of the movement for youth and by youth that is working towards a just, sustainable, and equitable Appalachia!
Support the STAY Project!
We are a project for Appalachian youth by Appalachian youth, so any donation to help move our work forward is greatly appreciated. Here are a few ways you can support our work.