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WEEK twelve


artist:susan leist

poem:"Clinton II" by frank x walker

from susan:

If there is one thing, I’d like people to know about me is that I am a proud Appalachian who was born and raised in West Virginia. I’ve traveled to other parts of the U.S. but my favorite places are in the Appalachian mountain range. I can trace my heritage back generations in my hometown and state and can even go further back to Germany and Wales. I feel very intertwined with my past and the traditions of those who I descend from. I have an accent, especially when I’m mad or excited. I like to garden and can my produce. I love to sew and read history and sing ole timey hymns and ballads. I love to be able to find a connection to so many people by saying I’m Dorothy or Charlene’s youngest granddaughter, or you are from Logan county? Well, my great-grandmother was a Johntson, are you kin to them? We have the home farm in Salt Rock which is 65 acres and is still in the family today. To many, I am what a stereotypical West Virginian is – a white, overweight, opinionated woman who wants to cook for you and talk your ear off. With all that is going on in our world, I am blessed enough and smart enough to know that my story isn’t the only one that makes Appalachia special and strong. There are people of every race, gender, sexuality, and origin here in these hills and hollers that feel just as strongly as I do about this land, their church, their family, or neighbors. I was introduced to one such group via a podcast I listen to called Inside Appalachia which is produced by WV public radio and NPR. I love to listen to this podcast while I travel for work so I can still feel the connection to home no matter where I roam. There is a group of Black Appalachian artists who called themselves Affrilachians. I fell in love with their story and feel such a respect for their strength in letting us in to see this place and way of life I love from a different perspective. You can find the Affrilachian Artist Project on Facebook. I found this poem in the book, Affrilachia by Frank X Walker, a wonderful poet from my neighboring state of KY. I feel his pull to want to hold on to the knowledge of his family’s past and I acknowledge the (maybe more) important stress for him since so much history has been stolen away from so many Black people in our country. I live in a very white community in a very white state so I personally haven’t been touched as much by racial strife but I can see how hurtful it has been for others throughout the south and all of this country and so if I can at least say, I see and hear you. Your roots in this land as just as deep and valid as mine, I will do so. I hope and try to strive to do more in my corner of this world to make my community a more fair, equal, and respectful place. In case anyone hasn’t caught on, I will be blunt and add this West Virginian believes that Black Lives Matter, we should abolish ICE, Everyone deserves the freedom to love and marry who they want to, and we should be changing to renewable resources because we are more than just coal here.


I also feel a special love and bond to the LGBT+ community and the Native American peoples here in my area of Appalachia (Shawnee and Cherokee nations) so I included songs in my list that have touched me and made me think outside of my own narrow perspective of the world. I hope all this helps you do the same.

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