John is on leave again this week, so we’re sharing the audio from the panel Chuck was on at the Appalachian Studies Association Conference earlier this month that focused on New Media in Appalachia and how we’re highlighting and amplifying Appalachian voices. The questions focused on code-switching, identity, and so much more.
On the panel (aside from Chuck):
MC: Hello. Welcome to our second and last plenary session. I’m so glad to see so many of you here. I think this is going to be an awesome session. I’m so excited about it. I am fangirling a little bit. This is so great. So this plenary is entitled new media and Appalachia empowering our communities through storytelling.
I’m so very excited to welcome our four panelists who will be discussing how they’re using new methods of storytelling to empower Appalachian people and change how the nation and the world perceive Appalachia. So I’m just going to introduce all of our speakers and I’m going to leave and hand it all over to them.
So first I would like to introduce Ashton Marra, who was so kind to organize this panel. I had the idea and I just asked Ashlyn if she would do it. So that made me very happy. Ash Shamar is a teaching assistant professor here at WVU and the Reed school of, oh, the Reed college of media, and the executive director of 100 Days in Appalachia.
She oversees the work of a team of editors, contributors, and reporters across Appalachia to create content by Appalachians for Appalachians. Ashton is also the co-founder of reporting on addiction, a collaborative project, working to train professional and student journalists in solutions-focused journalism methods and to help break the cycle of stigma often perpetuated through media coverage in our communities.
She spent more than a decade working as a professional journalist for both public media and commercial news outlets. And this is Ashton. Next, we have Chuck Corra, a native of Parkersburg, West Virginia, and an Appalachian ex-pat who spent the first 22 years of his life in the mountain state. You don’t look that.
Thank you. Here in his bachelor’s from shepherd university and J D from Michigan state college of law. After law school, Chuck spent several years in Nashville working on a progressive ad, working on progressive ag advocacy and public affairs campaigns throughout all parts of Tennessee and helping advise local political campaigns in Tennessee and West Virginia.
Chuck is the co-founder co-host and producer of the podcast Appodlachia. I’ve been practicing that one. I still don’t feel good about it which seeks to provide a counter-narrative to the negative portrayal and harmful stereotypes of Appalachia. He currently works in civic education, and advocacy, and lives in Northern Virginia with his wife, Kristen
Next here on our panel, we have Dr. Enkeshi El-Amin. She uses her voice as a cohost for the Black in Appalachia podcast. And as a lecturer at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, where she earned her Ph.D. in sociology, her research explores the link between race place and black practices and defines contesting and re-imagining place through this work.
She builds bridges between academia and local communities in response to finding feelings of displacement and loss of space for black communities in her research and Kashi found The Bottom in East Knoxville as a hub to build community, celebrate culture and engage in the creativity of black people through sharing resources, like the bookshop at the bottom and ongoing project projects like so at sell it.
Enkeshi has made space to welcome people in amplify black voices.
And last but not least we have Affrilachian writer and poet Crystal Good. This is the third time I’ve introduced crystal because she’s done everything for us. And she just told me I had to freestyle her introduction and I don’t do that.
Crystal Good is a writer, an artist whose work seeks to build a more inclusive and truthful narrative about central Appalachia, a native West Virginia. Good is the founder and publisher of Black By God the West Virginian, a print and multimedia publication, centering on Black voices to address the information.
She is also the author of a valley girl and holds what she says is a completely made-up totally sincere office of social media Senator for the digital district of West Virginia, which encourages digital and political literacy. Please welcome all of our speakers.
Ashton Marra: thank you. And thank you all for taking the time to join us this afternoon. Saturday. That was beautiful when it came in and now I think is raining. And so we’re glad to have you here. I want to make one announcement before we get started today. We are actually you’ve got a stage full of content creators, and so we are making content today.
We are recording this session and I’m hoping to take some audience questions near the end of the panel. So just keep that in mind. If you want to ask a question, I’m going to ask you to come all the way down here, so you can speak into this microphone and we can record the audio for potentially any of our platforms after the fact.
But we are making radio today. We are not making television, so don’t be afraid. So I want to start actually I’m going to be that person that starts their panel
MC: with a quote
Ashton Marra: Which feels like kind of cheesy, but I think it’s a really good one media magnifies. It also exposes those who have none, but that lack of power is only retold to those who don’t have it.
And crystal good is actually the person who wrote that
first book in what I think is an unpublished essay that you sent me a couple of months ago. But for us to think about framing this conversation, which I have to come back to you, cause we really need to publish that essay. But in that context of power, I’d like to start with each of you. Can you give us a brief introduction to your publications, your platforms and how, what you’re doing intersects with the power narratives of Appalachia and crystal.
I’m actually going to ask you to go first.
Crystal Good: This is working. Okay. Good. Black By God the West Virginian you can follow us on black by god.org. You can do it right now on your phone. You could just pull them out and go to blackbaud.org and sign up for the newsletter. I’m creating content.
They’re trying very hard to put an article out at least once a week, original content from West Virginia writers or from the diaspora. But also the newsletter that I started about two years ago. And that’s, what’s turned into the website and has turned into the print which maybe we’ll play a game at the end because I have few limited copies here.
Sometimes I laugh because it’s you have to be really pissed off to start your own newspaper. And then just drive it around the state or some delusional, so person but media. Is power. And that is why in West Virginia, we have just like the narrative in the country, white men own all of the media conglomerates look at you and this is just how it works. And then there’s a wonderful project that I really hope you all can look at. It’s media 20, 70, and it’s really looking at the Genesis of media and its roots in slave ads, right? Every major media publication has roots and built their empires right on the ads of humans, selling humans, finding humans.
And that’s one way to look at how the power moves through media, but in building black by God, the power moves in the community of the. That find a place and find an ear or to listen to their stories. And that to me is encouraging and beautiful as a creative, looking at media as a creative space to to build with people, to build stories with people, to exchange with people.
But also just I spent several years lobbying at the West Virginia legislature which you can learn a lot there. And I didn’t have a lot of power as a grassroots, environmental lobbyists, trying to fight for clean air and clean water and like women’s health and things like that.
No power in the sense of like funding and blah, blah, blah. But what I had and what we have is people power. And so I recognized very quickly. That I could send out a tweet or make a Facebook post and that you would share it and then you would share it. And then all the sudden, even though that might not translate directly into a lawmaker changing their vote, but they felt it.
And so I just, that is my inspiration because that’s what I know about people, power and what I know when people get information that I trust everybody in this room. If you know something, you will do something. So what we’re missing in that bridge building is how do we get the information to the people and black by God is seeking to just do that, to be a part of bridging the information gap, whatever that information may be from a COVID vaccine, and then centering it in the voice of the.
I don’t know what that really means, but I just mean as straight talk and centering it in ways that will speak to especially the black community in this. This is the project that I was in my hands right now, because one of the things that I keep top of mind is a quote from pastor Watson.
Some of you all may know him from Charleston and canal county. He says that even when the white reporters get it wrong, it’s all we have. And I don’t want to live in that paradigm anymore. Okay. I should, I can keep going, but I’m gonna just going to stop there
Ashton Marra: in Kashi. What does, what do those power narratives mean for black and Appalachia?
Dr. Enkeshi El-amin: For people who are not familiar with Black in Appalachia, the podcast is just one component of a larger project that is seeking to change how we think about Appalachia. What do we think about when we hear the term Appalachia. What we do is highlight the history and the stories of black people, the experiences of black people, historically, as well as contemporarily and bring them to the forefront as showing the ways that black people have contributed to what Appalachia is right.
So we intersect with power in so many different ways, right? When I was thinking about this question I could probably list several different ways that we intersect with power. But I think just in producing our podcast and just in doing our work, we are challenging power, we’re challenging white supremacy. And if you think about white supremacy, power is a cornerstone of white supremacy in just about everything, just about life in America, whether it be in Appalachia or elsewhere is shaped by race and racism. And power is central to that. So just in doing our work where. We’re turning this we’re turning white supremacy on top of his head. We’re turning the idea of what Appalachia is over. And we’re saying, Nah, let us tell you what Appalachia is. So we hang out in that space or it comes to power. But we also when we think about this depiction of Appalachia, again, as poor or backward or white or whatever that’s not coincidental, right?
It’s not by chance that this is how this region is defined. And so your tax questions, like whose benefit is this serving, right? Who’s getting paid, who’s getting paid because of this particular perception of Appalachia, right? Who’s getting paid again because of this perception of Appalachia.
And so when we tell the stories that we tell and we go deep, deep, is to bring these things to the forefront so that we can think about them collectively. And then there’s power building. Which I think is more so where. Where we find strength and where we want to be.
So in producing the podcast, like I said, it’s one thing to say when you hear things about Appalachia and you’re like, oh black and white coal miners went into the coal, went into coal mines together, but where were they living? Who was stuck on the side of a hill that was gonna fall down when the rain falls too heavily.
So in that sense, that’s one thing, but what are the stories of the communities, the black communities, they might be small. They might be few whatever, but they’re not insignificant. And there are amazing stories, right? Like just yesterday we were connecting to two small black coal towns in this region and just watching this connection was beautiful, right.
For us to sitting and watching these people talk to each other about how similar their places is their places are right. Like how powerful is that? How important is that? And it means so much for us. And to bring those stories to the airway so people can hear them near and far. But then, like I said, the power building is in young black people hearing about themselves on this podcast, it’s about watching something on our social media and being like, oh my God, that’s my grandmother in that picture from 1940s.
So I think that what does that do? Of course, it’s nice to see representation of yourself, but what is what about the empowerment? What about the the community building? What about the ways that this now makes you make you feel. Like I can’t challenge this shit. I can go to these legislators meetings and push back.
I can connect with somebody in a different town or a different city who who’s who has a similar story and we can push, we can change this whole thing. And so that’s important for us. It’s also important that when you think about again what Appalachia is that that we pull in from Knoxville and we pull in from Birmingham, we pull in from Pittsburgh because this is all Appalachia.
And the stories there are important. And are not only for how we, we ha not only for how we think about this region, but where we, where the power to change it comes from. I’m all jumbled and I can go on, but I’m also going to stop.
Ashton Marra: What is it? What is power? What are, what do you explore with Appalachia in those power narratives and in the region?
Chuck Corra: Yeah that’s a great question. And first of all, thank you for having me on the panel. I’m really honored to be here, especially among these two who are way more accomplished and impressive than I am as you’ll probably find out. But so like with Appalachia to give a little bit of background, we started my co-host John Eisner, and I started it in 2019 because we were tired of hearing one narrative about Appalachia, especially in politics.
And I’m an ex-pat. Now in Northern Virginia used to live in Nashville, and John still is in Parkersburg. So we have these to converging and diverging perspectives. And we were just thinking like, why are all these people, especially people who aren’t from Appalachia, trying to tell the story of Appalachia and trying to tell us like how people in Appalachia think and really what we were trying to do.
We aren’t trying to say that this is how all Appalachians think we just wanted another perspective. And so we started a podcast that was geared towards, around maybe debunking common stereotypes, but also being a more progressive voice in an atmosphere that’s often dominated. Either by progressive voices from the coasts or by very conservative voices from places in Appalachia.
And so our hope with that was to really be a challenge to that because one of the things that we saw I hate bringing up his name and I hope that I want to say it again, but JD Vance, or as I like to call him, John dammit Vance, because that’s, I want to think that’s how his mother would address him being angry with them.
That’s how my momma dressed me anyway. So with someone like him, that’s what a lot of people view Appalachia as, which is wrong obviously, but he had a massive platform. We wanted to try to chip away at that and that’s the hope with this. What we’ve tried to do is not just reach Appalachians who are still in Appalachia and not just Appalachia’s next paths, but people who aren’t from the region.
May want to like lend an ear and try to understand better, or at least see a different perspective. That’s really what we’re trying to do with it. And we’ve tried to really build a platform around that. And it’s not just for our voices. It’s for highlighting other people’s voices too, who may not be well-known outside of Appalachia.
That’s the goal with it. And that’s what we want to try to do to challenge that power dynamic. Because oftentimes I think has been mentioned in, alluded to here is that there are power dynamics, especially in me to exist a lot of times outside of Appalachia. And it’s people outside of Appalachia who is trying to tell the story of this region.
And so we want to push back against that. I
Ashton Marra: want to talk a little bit about code-switching I’m at 100 days and I’ve not been with the project. So it sits inception in 2016, but I’ve been there since 2018. And my first experience with anybody writing about code-switching was actually a teenager from Harlan Kentucky who presented us with a commentary about it.
How she’d experienced. She didn’t have the word for it, but as I read her narrative, I was like, that’s exactly what you’re doing. That’s exactly what you’re experiencing. And I think that comes into play probably with the entire region, with each of the communities that we are trying to serve in the communities we’re trying to target.
Chuck, can we start with your kind of personal experience with code-switching as somebody who’s spent some adult, some of their adult lives outside of the region have to imagine that’s been something you’ve recognized in yourself. And then how does that shape discussion on the podcast as well?
Chuck Corra: Yes. Thank you. That’s a, it’s a really good question and something that. I didn’t really understand until I left the region and got into different environments where there weren’t many west Virginians and Minneapolis options, but it’s something that I think oftentimes gets discussed with people’s accents.
But it also is discussed with just your vernacular that you use in common situations. I found myself. Like referring to my grandpa, his grandpa, not Pappa when I was in like DC or when I was in Michigan or Nashville because I was self-censoring like, oh, these people, they won’t take me seriously if I use that word.
And I look back on that and I’m honestly like ashamed of it. But one of the best examples I can pull from is actually an example of somebody else that we talked to a young woman at a, in Kingsport, Tennessee, who we did a like a virtual talk to, I think it was the Kingsport library.
And this was after we had done an episode on Appalachian accents. We’d collected over 110 different accents from all throughout the region and had a linguistics professor on to talk about it and talk about the important differences and accents and how they’re so beautiful and everything. And this woman talked to us and she said like that really meant a lot to me because I have suppressed my accent a lot of my life and.
Hearing that and seeing more people talk about how important, and beautiful they are really gives me the confidence to embrace my accent. And I think that’s something that we see a lot. There’s a lot of when you talk about code-switching, there’s a lot of people who, especially you leave the region like me or an ex-pat think and believe that they have to change their accent.
And I don’t blame them for that at all, because there are so many, there’s so much judgment around it. There’s so much unfair judgment around Appalachian accents about how they’re, it means you’re uneducated or unsophisticated, or you’re not a serious person. And so we obviously, we never blame anybody for losing their accent because of that, because that’s sometimes all you have to survive, but at the same time, one thing that we’re really trying to do is showcase how important and how uniquely special and honestly, like really cool Appalachian accents are and just Appalachian culture in general, so that we hope that we can change the narrative, not just among the Appalachians about that, but.
Further, reach further beyond that, I think everybody in this room would agree with me when you say that the perception of Appalachians and especially around Appalachian accents is an unfair one when it comes to that. And so that’s something we’ve really tried to do. I never viewed myself as someone who had a really thick accent or anything like that.
And people have told me that I’ve had one, but it wasn’t something I ever felt the need to suppress, but I have felt the need to change the way that I talk around people when I was in like a quote-unquote business setting or a professional setting. And looking back at that I’m not going to recount what I did.
I guess I don’t regret it because it was what I had to do at the time, but looking back on it, it shouldn’t be like that. And so that’s part of, I think what we’ve tried to focus on, we’ve discovered that it’s not just my experience, not just a couple of people’s experience, it’s a lot of people’s experience.
And so telling those stories is really.
Ashton Marra: And Kashi, can we stick with code-switching, but in, in a slightly different context, you and I did an Instagram live about a year and a half ago, and we were talking about one of my favorite episodes of the podcast, where you, at some point interview, a tour guide on a plantation and they say something about the land was negotiated away from the native American and we cut to you and Angela and the studio.
And you’re like, you mean it was stolen and you make this great point about how podcasting almost takes away the need to code-switch. Can you talk a little bit about
Dr. Enkeshi El-amin: that? So I think code-switching in general is something that black folks have. We’ve grown up hearing that if you want to get a job, if you want to be in certain spaces, you have to, you put on a white voice or you have to code switch or whatever way that somebody tells you, you have to speak properly, your words speak correct English.
In so many ways, like de-valuing the ways that you learn to speak the way that you’re that you speak at home or with family or whatever. And so for one that is something that as I got older, especially once I got into a Ph.D. program, I was like, forget all that other stuff – this is who I am.
And this is how I’m going to show up. I’m going to be in spaces that expect me to sound a certain way and I’m gonna speak the way that I want to write. And so that’s something that I have worked on for myself, just this is how I show up, take me or leave me. And some days when I feel froggy, I might jump. But I think that when it came to the podcast I remember when we went through podcast trading. So we went through this training with all of these NPR stations and you all know how NPR sounds. And so we’re going through this training and I’m like, I don’t think I have one of those.
I don’t have an NPR voice. And just talking with my colleagues and folks that just encouraged me to again, don’t, you don’t have to get an MPR voice. You can just talk like you talk. And then I’m like, okay. And so that’s part of why we decided to.
Do our podcast and a chat cast start style as opposed to a narrative, documentary-style podcast? So when we are just having a conversation, I will talk to my friends the way that I would talk to them. That’s how the field that you get listening to our podcast. And so when this guy’s talking about negotiating, we can say, Nah, homie, that’s the fee, right?
Like that’s thievery, like you’re stealing, you stole shit. And we keep that energy on the podcast. Because again, when we think about who we’re creating this podcast for it’s for young black folks in this region, and it’s to value their experiences their lives, the way they talk at home, how they grandma or Papa or whomever I didn’t grow up in this region.
But I want to show up as whatever black self I am, and I want them to show up as whatever black self and podcasting, because they’re not all these regulations that radio or TV has, you can do that. Anybody technically can create a podcast. If you have access to the internet and a microphone, you probably don’t even need a microphone or a cell phone.
That there’s a low barrier of entry and so you don’t have all of those same regulations. I do enjoy that about producing a podcast. You might hear some inappropriate language every now and then on the podcast, but I try to keep it we try not to do the most because we want teachers to use them.
We want librarians to share them with kids. And so I try to keep it together for the most part.
Ashton Marra: Yeah. Crystal, how does that translate to a digital space for you all is the thought process similar or
Crystal Good: different? I think as black by God is figuring itself out and what is the hardest thing is the hardest and most telling thing is that I am really overwhelmed with a lot of.
And I’m gonna say this, and I know Kashi is going to read it in another way, the progressive white, liberal feminist, right? Like that means something to somebody. And it means something to black folks who understand the world around what I call well-meaning whiteness that, that can’t see itself.
And here’s an example. I get a lot of opinion pieces for Blackbaud, which I love because I’m finding people are finding a place that they can get their voice. They’ll say I sent this op-ed into blankety-blank paper. They wouldn’t publish it. Do you know what I mean? I’m like, this is great. But I also am receiving a lot of opinion pieces that center, on why.
So when I read the story, it’s about someone coming up I grew up in small-town and there’s no black people. Then all of a sudden I realized in 2020 that, like it’s racism. I want to do something about it. Cause I didn’t know that and I was on and on and I’m like, I’m thankful for the awakening, but this paper is to center black voices.
And so it’s a very different way to look into a space, right? So even in this Appalachian narrative, what I hear a lot of, and I’ve heard a lot of over the years, it’s like how as a black person or Latin X person or how I didn’t fit, fit in. Or then I figured out that I was a part of this narrative that’s because the Appalachia near to centers on whiteness.
So what we have an opportunity to do is. How does your Appalachia this come out of a black and Appalachia space, right? Or a black by God space? How can you find as opposed to the other, which we’re constantly doing? You know what I mean? I feel like constantly in this space, it’s I love saying that I’m six generations Appalachia, because it’s yo, I got my street cred. And that’s his, I’m Appalachian as far back on black set and white side. As anybody can tell me. That sort of talks back it’s subversive to that. What is that white Appalachian narrative? I think that’s where we center everything from and we have to change that.
That’s, you know what I think code-switching in any space, we know how to do that. When I get the op-ed from the white person that has figured that out, Ooh Lord. It’s I’ll just stop.
Dr. Enkeshi El-amin: I want to add though, that it does require a level of bravery, right?
Like you do have to make this decision that I’m going to do this thing because you’re like you said, like it oftentimes you’re rewarded for switching, or even to call out this negotiation you gotta make a decision to be brave. And you think about who you’re responsible for or who’s listening and why is it important for them to get the truth or to get the realness the way that you present it?
And I think that is enough like that it might take some reflecting and some wrestling with yourself, but when you get to that place, it’s freeing. It’s I don’t care, yeah.
Ashton Marra: Chris, I want to go back to this unpublished essay that I, because there’s a point that you’re trying to make, that I think is really valuable for this conversation.
And honestly have now. Seeing anybody frame it in this way before in the region. I’m where you talk about diversity, quote-unquote diversity seekers in media, and you almost explain them like parachute journalists. And I was wondering if you could explore that concept a little bit. Yeah.
Crystal Good: I think back to sort of pastor Watts saying like when the white journalists get it wrong, it’s all that we have.
And I look at black by God and try to say, look at it. It’s a way of looking out from a community, as opposed to people looking in when you are journalists or you’re a storyteller, you’re a folklorist whatever you pop into the community. And you’re like, whew boy, this water is dirty and all this other stuff.
And these people need your you’re helpful in a sense of that. You’re sharing the story, but you get to leave. Trying to. CUREE develops media makers and storytellers, and we have so many mediums. Now we have Snapchat, we got Instagram, everybody’s a storyteller how do we encourage that so that w we’re hearing authentic stories that are not driven by code-switching in order to be palatable to other people, it’s no you figure out how to hear through the accent that is uncomfortable to you. I think I forgot the question. Ashlyn,
Ashton Marra: how are diversity seekers and media like diverse
Crystal Good: diversity seekers? I don’t know. I was thinking about this today, cause it was I think I saw where the West Virginia attorney general gave an award to delegate Caleb Hannah, who is a black lawmaker.
He’s also a Republican and For all the CRT, anti-CRT bills, and all these things. And I think sometimes we look at diversity in terms of counting color in the room, instead of counting mental complexion in the room so of course our it was an attorney secretary of state would reward are a black Republican in space because they idealistically think the same.
So I don’t necessarily, I think diversity gets very muddied down in visual context, instead of looking at the mental diversity or the diversity within a room and I think I’ve heard from some students and some of the panels I’ve been in.
It’s so we are in such a binary in everything, it’s either, or, it’s black, it’s why it’s Republican, it’s Democrat. And I don’t think it’s helping us. Do you know what I mean? Like it’s there’s a spectrum on there of diversity and I think that’s, what’s really important.
And that’s what I try to think about as I’m starting to shape like a black by God advisory board, as I’m looking at content, we know who we are, like black by God is certainly what they might call mission or or movement journalism. Do you know what I mean? Like we have a cause and from that, we sent around.
But even in creating that, I don’t want everybody that thinks like me or agrees with me on every single point because that is so boring. But it also doesn’t help move the needle on. I think that diversity should be. A way of looking at who and how you’re making decisions in, in your company, in your business.
And I think the easiest way to do this, and everybody can do it in here is diversify your timelines, right? Really take a minute to curate your timelines, whether that’s Twitter, Facebook, whatever so that you are not in an echo chamber of people that think like you, that doesn’t mean you go follow a budget, but maybe it does follow other publications.
And so I think diversity in media is going to be dependent on consumers, being able to say, you know what I think I need to have a bigger perspective of what’s going on in the world and maybe like a black bag, God partnered with something like international. You know what I mean? Like I really think that diversity starts.
The reader and the consumer, and that’s something that I can control for myself and you can control for you. And from that, I think of a value will be seen. We all are living in these really awful algorithms and echo chambers that are fed to us. And but that we do have power and control to, to change that.
And to navigate that, I think I answered the question.
Ashton Marra: I think age is also part of the equation. We’ve part of 100 days as we’ve transitioned, as we’ve grown and changed over the years. Part of what we’ve come to is investing in young people and investing in young voices. And I know that’s important for everyone on this stage.
But for for me personally, as an editor, when I get a piece written by a 16 year old or 17 year old, and it is. So much more mature and thought than I could’ve ever been at that age. It just blows me away. And we’ve alluded to this and we’ve talked about it a little bit, but can we talk a little bit about age for each of our platforms and how we’re trying to reflect this kind of identity narrative in Appalachia we’re exploring of identity to a younger generation or what we, I don’t know, are millennials still young
Crystal Good: Do I still get to be a young elder millennials
Ashton Marra: check? Do you want to start with iPod ledger? What are you, how are you thinking about age in terms of your focus and the conversations that you’re having on the podcast?
Chuck Corra: Yeah, that’s that’s it’s an interesting question. I think we’re trying to think in terms of how to show that it’s okay to embrace your Appalachian identity.
And I think. I can draw from personal experience. When I was younger, when I was in high school, junior high school, going into college, I shamefully rejected my identity. I didn’t really even identify as an Appalachian or West Virginia at very it was very strange for me. I didn’t have a lot of cultural identity to either that, and I had a Syrian grandpa, but I’d have no cultural identity to that either.
So it was it was very hard for me to really understand my identity with that. But I knew, and I was I was told a lot by people like you got to get out, you have to get out, which in retrospect, it’s a terrible framing to have it just be that and siloed for me, but that’s how I grew up.
So I grew up resenting where I was from and I’m ashamed of that. I really am, and it’s only, I’ve had to grapple with. But if I had. Other media platforms or other like mediums showing like that. It’s okay. And it’s actually like a good thing to embrace your Appalachian identity and where you’re from and you’re special.
And it’s something that’s important about you rather than just like having this reinforced idea that I need to get out and seek something better. I think that would have been really important and transformative for me growing up. And now I am grateful that like I’ve had the life experiences I’ve had.
It’s very privileged to have that. There’s lots of people who can’t leave that may want to. But I look at it as I really want people, especially younger people who are listening to understand. You shouldn’t have to feel like you need to reject where you’re from, based on the politics of that state or just what other people are telling you, or this national media narrative that Appalachia is this backwards place full of racist assholes.
And that’s nothing else, sorry. I’m I should censor myself. If you talked to John, I have a lot of self-censoring as a problem for me. And so I really want to communicate that’s one of the goals that we’ve set out for this is showing that it’s okay, it’s cool to be an Appalachian.
Like it’s not something that you should reject and it’s something that it’s part of your identity. So you get to define that how you want, rather than letting other people define it. And I think that’s the biggest thing. Cause for me, and again I am not sugarcoating this. I am very ashamed of how, like my, like how I grew up thinking that.
And it’s because almost somebody else define that for me. And I accepted that and stuck with it and it wasn’t into leaving and moving up to Michigan for law school that like, I started to realize not being around anybody from West Virginia, not a single person in my 900 person. School is from West Virginia and realizing like, wow, okay, this is different.
This is special. This is makes me unique for some reason. And I never looked at it as that before. And so I went through a lot of like mental leaps of wow, okay. This is very strange. Like I rejected this my whole life, but it really taught me like that. It’s more important to understand and have a more.
View of where you’re from and your identity. And so circling back to your question, what we hope to do, especially with younger people, but also older folks as well, or anybody of any age is to show that you should embrace that and not reject it. And that identity is complicated. Like I know it’s not it.
I always say this Twitter is a place where nuance goes to die. I think a lot of things in our world are I think like crystal mentioned or was it Dr. In? And I can’t remember who it was, but mentioned that there, we often think in binary terms. And so we, we try to push people not to do that and not to think like that and understand that identity is complicated, but it’s something that, that it’s okay to embrace.
Ashton Marra: Yeah. In Kashi, you’ve mentioned a few times that you’re making this podcast for those young black Appalachians that don’t get their history or don’t hear their story anywhere else. Can you talk about that a little bit more and how it’s shaped, what you all have become over the past? Yeah.
Dr. Enkeshi El-amin: So definitely I think black people in general and in this region have this weird relationship to Appalachia.
Most times you don’t meet black folks who are happily proudly I’m Appalachian folks in my experience, folks connect to their place I’m from place and not even necessarily to the city, especially in Knoxville that connect to their neighborhood. So there’s a strong place relationship there.
But when it comes to this region in general, they’ve been told for so long that, that they don’t belong here. This is not their place. And so I think that is one thing that we recognized very early on. You’ll find people as they get older, they see they’re starting to grapple with it.
And so when we, the cool thing about the backup lodge podcast and the training that we went through. We took a lot of time to think about who we were making our podcast for. And so it was very person center and it just, it helps us a lot in our decision-making in our design of the podcast.
And we know, I can tell you exactly who this podcast is made for. It’s one person Makaya Davis. So when we think about who the black and Appalachia podcast is, it’s for him. And so when we’re at a crossroads and not sure should we do this, or should we do this, or how we think, what would Maceio prefer, what would he want to hear or to see you, or and so that helps us Makaya is in his twenties, he’s a young black guy, who’s an activist in his neighborhood. I can tell you all kinds of things about him because we interviewed him and we know him well. And so that’s key, right?
So that chat calf that I mentioned about and not code switching and showing up as black as you want to be on our podcast, like that is all intentional. It’s intentional that we keep a light, even when we’re talking about very serious things, we try to keep a light tone. We try to be, make sure that it’s inviting or accessible to a 20 something year old or an 18 year old that’s someone in high school or college can listen to it and can get it, but also can connect with them.
And so remind me, question me one more time before I go. Just how does
Ashton Marra: it, how does that focus on young people as being your audience? How it, how does that inform your
Dr. Enkeshi El-amin: decision-making? For sure. So even thinking about the decision to create a Tik TOK, I’m making sure that it’s a really crazy thing is that we’re seeing it right?
Like we’re seeing the changes already. And I’m not all over the region, not all the time, but like in Knoxville, I can see it when I hang out at the bottom and folks are coming in and they’re like black people are talking about Appalachia and talking about themselves in relation to Appalachia.
And it’s So shifts happening it’s is exciting. Even thinking about what’s happening on social media is really important for this you mentioned about Appalachia being cool. Like you see it in the tick talks, you see it in the reels, people are getting, or are showing their pride.
Let’s Regina y’all off the chain with this pride thing. West Virginia is, are some of the proudest people I’ve met so far. It gets crazy at school, but I love it. It’s you see the, they might be corny or whatever, but like William sent me West Virginia tech talks and and you’ve got these young folks, people in their late teens and early twenties who are proud of their, whatever.
I dunno, this is the kind of boots you wear for whatever. Whatever and so that’s exciting to me to see from. Do not cling to negative stereotypes of the region or just be just cling to the region and say this is home, we’re proud of it. You see the infusion of the different narratives of Appalachia, right?
Because of podcasts like yours and your work and our work, I think we’re helping to usher some of that. And so it makes me feel good. And as we think about the space, the Appalachia that we’re creating for them it’s so it’s, where do we take them from here? Where, how do we make sure that there are opportunities in the region where they can stay home.
So that the thing is not to get out as soon as you can. So yeah, I’ll stop
Ashton Marra: crystal. When we had our initial kind of organizing conversation for this, you said, if I could hand this paper over to a 19 year old to be the publisher, I would do it in a heartbeat.
Crystal Good: Yep. Anybody,
Ashton Marra: why
Crystal Good: is that?
Oh I, when I was 16 years old, I tried to buy the last black newspaper in West Virginia. It’s called the beacon digest. I was 16. I’m not sure how I thought I wasn’t going to pay for it, but I asked my dad if he would go talk to Mr. Starks to see if I could buy the newspaper. He came back my dad said, no, baby girl, they’re not going to sell you the paper, but you can sell ads for them.
I was like, heck no no, I want to. And it was so that. 16 year old me had that knew that I wanted to be in journalism, knew I wanted to be the boss. You know what I mean? That I could do it. And I really thought at 16 that I could do a better job. I looked at the paper, I was on my yearbook staff.
I was on my newspaper staff. I knew how to cut and paste. Cause y’all, don’t know anything about that. And I knew looking at that paper that there were stories I wanted to tell. And the one story that I wanted to tell, and I didn’t think it was, I lived and grew up in St. Alban’s West Virginia.
You’d have to go down the highway on the side of the highway, there was always like some little road stop stand. And there was a man that would sell these like black mammy dolls. And I was furious about this. Why is this happening? How is this allowed? I had no teaching, nothing. I remember taking, going to the store to buy a film for a loop camera and then having to send it off and get and I still have those photos.
I still need to write this story, but. I believe in young people, I believe in their capacity. And especially in today’s day and age with technology tech talk that they have the resources. I also believe that as whatever I try to be age fluid, but whatever generation I am right. That we we put a lot on young people in terms of oh, you’re going to save the world for us.
MC: screwing it up, but
Crystal Good: you got it. The kids are all right. And we have to like, not really expect young people to do everything, but to give them the opportunities. And I know I’ve watched Ashton in her career also be a young person with the microphone and some of the challenges that she said in perception and being a woman and a young woman and I’m not with that. I believe that we can work in co-exists together in media making spaces and all spaces. And I say that because with black, by God, you will always, I hope see a cover that gives you joy and young inspiration. I don’t care if the inside is just open it up and you’ll say that’s important to me, but I’ll equally say that a couple of weeks ago at 1130, my phone is blowing up with senior citizens that don’t know each other, texting me to tell me about the stories that black by God, these right.
Do you know about and this is and this is and I think one of the most beautiful things about being Appalachian is our intergenerational. And I think that’s one way, yeah, go ahead. Because this is one way that we can. We look at everything that we’re doing like the bottom are we being intergenerational? Do we have young people? Do we have senior people? Do we have all the people in between? And are we thinking about that baby in the belly? And we are thinking about that person that’s in hospice. That’s not going to be with us and as their story safe, so I think that’s the way I’m looking at media making.
And I think the way that’s done is when you let lung young people lead, but you just don’t push them out there to just oh, you figure it out. Cause I know it that’s like I’m 47 now and I’m figuring out what I couldn’t figure out a 16.
Ashton Marra: So I want to make sure that we have time for audience questions.
And I’m going to give this as like a warning. If you’re interested in asking a question, the front row is empty. If you want to come sit up here and I’ll bring the microphone down. I want to ask him one more question while hopefully people are coming forward. Some of you are my students and I will call you out and to be prepared.
So I’m I think when we talk about young people, pushing young people into spaces to lead, all of that feels great, but we’re still media publications that have to pay the people who create media for us. And that focus on a younger audience on a younger generation. They don’t have the disposable income to pay our bills, to be a member of our public media station, maybe to get a subscription or to join our Patrion account. How are you all balancing the need to be able to financially support the work that you’re doing? And this is for anybody they need to find financially support that work while also keeping that focus on the next generation.
Crystal Good: I thought of an idea last night in cashier, you think about this? I was thinking that I could do some black guy got bonnets. Great. Yes. Like just some bonnets and put the logo on there and bonnets are universal there. So yeah. There’s also a good for men. He goes for women.
There’s also in West Virginia like the way that we do the census data is a lot of white families that have mixed children just check the white box. And there’s be a campaign where your bonnet, but anyway, I’m saying that because black by God is just trying to figure it out.
And I know that a piece of the way I’m doing this has got to be like nonprofit because this publication has to be free. I’m not going to ask folks that are making whatever the average salary is for the black families. 30,000, something like that to pay for this. And so there’s a piece of the way I’m looking at black by God is how can we get grants right?
Then also the business side of it because there are from this university to the phone company, people that they quote unquote have their diversity dollars and that they need to spend it, or they need to reach, or they might have a product that, that they want the black community to be aware of.
So there’s that ad revenue, but then there’s also like, how many t-shirts can I sell? How many bonnets can I sell? Can I create a membership platform? Can I create different entries into the publication? And one of the things back to go check with saying like how we are unique and special.
I’m pretty fearless when it comes to talking about West Virginia and black by God. Care because it’s important. You know what I mean? And so I am working hard to do the quote unquote pitch thing. You know what it means to that. I can really start to talk about why this is important, why this matters now, why media matters now in this average startup cost for any newsroom is $300,000.
When I tell people that in my community, they’re like, ha what? My, like my little team, they laugh at me, but I’m like, no, that’s what it costs. That’s what it costs to start a newsroom. And that’s what I believe that black by God should be in $300,000 is a big number, but it’s not a big number.
It’s like when you leave West Virginia and you figure out that middle-class West Virginia is not middle-class America, right? It’s very different scale. Like I’m just on this, on the sixth. I want the publication to always be free and assessable to black communities and to, to Appalachian communities.
But I think that there’s different products and different layers, and it’s just gonna take a lot of creativity. And the greatest need is really just like creating that runway space to develop something because not only am I an Appalachian business where entrepreneurship is just booming, but also I’m a black woman in America.
And if you look at those startups and the success of any business started it’s every OD is stacked against black by God being a sustainable publication. I believe it can. And I believe that it can be the start of something that might take many different shapes and routes, but we’ll continue to exist.
And I say that because I’ve been in the archives of this university, looking at the old black papers, and one of the things, oh, I cannot remember the editor’s name. It said, but what he said, and this was a paper in the early 19 hundreds was that this paper may cease to exist from time to time.
You may not see it, but we have not gone away. We just ran out of money pretty much. And he said, and we’ll be back. But also remembering that this, even if this publication goes away, something else at some time will emerge and black by God in 2022 is that emergence. And you know what, if we go away, something else will come back
Dr. Enkeshi El-amin: like that.
I like that a lot. We’ve been pretty fortunate with the podcast because we got this grant from pure PRX. So we’ve got about three years covered, but after those three years we gone, we going to need your money. We really are going to need your money. But I think that like we’re community, right?
And so even if young folks don’t have the disposable income, somebody got it right there, they’re professors, they’re their relatives. We got there’s folks around there’s organizations around it’s public media that can put some money into these projects. So I think that we can’t expect it to we can’t expect it to just be on them.
And I think that there’s tons of grant money, there’s foundations all over funding, all kinds of things. And I think we need more money. We need more money for our, these projects. We need money to do other projects. We need to be paying the young people so that they can participate and do work.
And all of the things we just need. And it’s people who got it. I think there’s a lot of people that are familiar with financial gatekeeping and it’s a problem. I think that everybody’s encountered at one point or another. That’s why podcasts are great because they are free. And I think it’s really important, at least for us that the content, the majority of the content we produce always be free because we don’t want to be preventing anybody from listening to it just because they don’t have money to kick into it.
Chuck Corra: And I’ve, I’m very fortunate in that I work from home and so I can balance my time with my day job with doing stuff for the podcast and not have to. Really try to figure out how to make that work. And so that’s been one thing that’s really, I think helped us cause I do all the production and a lot of other aspects of it.
And so we do have a Patriot on the, we have people donate to every month and they get certain benefits from it. It’s been really helpful for us to be able to upgrade our equipment because we started from nothing like this was we started from literally nothing and we’re self financing the operation and to some extent still are.
And so that has been helpful to be able to upgrade the equipment that we use to have better quality and just to be able to produce. The high quality show that we can. But I think that for us it’s a nice thing to be able to have in order to do that. But we always want to emphasize that our platform is going to be free.
And because we’re a podcast and we run a very lean operation, it doesn’t cost a lot for us to do it. Now. It is helpful just because I like, we have certain things we put money into every month, but it’s the beauty of something like this is that in this realm of quote unquote, new media, it’s way more accessible for people.
And I think with the advent of the internet, it makes it so you can receive content so many different ways that is free of charge. And so that’s something that’s been really important to us because John and I both grew up like, off at all, John grew up extremely poor. I grew up with my parents pinching pennies as much as we could.
And it was tough and we understand the limitations of that, where every dollar matters in your budget. And so we never want to force people to have to put money into anything, to listen to us be loud mouth every month or every week. It’s a, it’s important and like money certainly helps us, but we’re able to run things pretty lean.
And I really liked that about it because that’s truly like one of the most important things. The other thing I’ll say on that too, that’s been helpful for us is that we’ve formed personal relationships with Appalachian businesses that have helped us by doing sponsorships so that when, like people who do have the extra income to be able to.
Order something from one of our sponsors that has helped us a little bit too. And that’s been really cool to help local businesses out. But again, like it, all of our base stuff will always be free. That’s never going to change. As
Ashton Marra: I moved down to go take some of these audience questions. Chuck, can you tell us, did Sarah Jessica Parker really have the tope Peck?
Chuck Corra: She did. Sarah Jessica Parker is a really nice, awesome person. She is from Nelsonville, Ohio part of Appalachia. In fact, we actually, we we DMD with her a little bit John to his credit. I don’t want to say slid into her DMS cause that sounds derogatory. But but it was funny. We noticed like she liked a couple of our pictures, like a couple of months ago.
Strange. And we saw this just from Nelsonville. I was like, oh, that’s cool. And then we saw that picture come out. Cause she was filming the new update of sex in the city. And we’re like, wow, that was from a merged store. That’s really wild. And yeah, she’s from Nelsonville, Ohio, I think listens to the show.
I think her mom was a teacher and so she really connected with a lot of education issues we talked about and she’s just a really nice person. And so it was really cool to see the reach of that. I was genuinely shocked. Really cool.
Ashton Marra: Okay. So remember this is thank you for participating, but also this is being recorded for these podcasts.
If I can ask you to introduce yourself and then let them know where you’re from and then ask your question.
MC: Hi there.
Crystal Good: My name is Rachel Johnson. I’m currently a senior at WVU studying public relations and originally from Mercer county. So down Southern West Virginia. So growing up a lot of the media about where I was from was not the most positive things like Buckwild wrong turn and the episode of criminal minds, where they go to
MC: wheeling and the killer is
Crystal Good: like an incestuous cannibal.
But now there are podcasts and there is 100 days
MC: and there is
Crystal Good: black by God and new media. So I’m about to graduate. And now I have this fancy media degree and a lot of passion for where I’m from in a whole lot of spite like most Appalachian young
people. What do we do with it? What do Appalachian young people do with this passion and the spite and.
Like I said my
MC: college degree
Crystal Good: that I’m very proud of. I’m going to say something we always hear the, sort of the struggle to stay and we want our people to we, we don’t want them to feel like they have to leave. And a lot of that to me is like in a sense, it’s also just another layer of this Appalachian fatalism, right?
There’s no other productive place, right? Like thriving LA economy someplace blah, blah, blah, where they say no young people stay here. Like I don’t quite get we have a fee. I think the fear is that if people leave, they may not have the means to come back or they may not want to come back.
But I believe there’s a young person, with a lot of Appalachian asked. Do what you want. Don’t be limited by, should I stay or should I go, or what should I do what you want. Do what you think is going to encourage you and help you build the narrative that you want. I would also encourage you to go back and look at those shows, with a different lens, right? Because one of the most amazing stories that I love about Buckwild is Kara parish. If you don’t know yeah. Care parishes. She was on buck wild and she took her five minutes of fame and flipped it into a really amazing career. And she will give you, and maybe that’s even something that you could think about doing for his is interviewing Cara about a reflect on buck wild, because imagine being a teenager and have the governor of West Virginia, say that.
Horrible. I forget what he said. He called her Joe Manchin. Who’s now our Senator y’all know him. He said some awful things about Cara parish when she was a teenager on an MTV show and how that made her feel to be degraded. Really the advice is don’t live your life by any of these parameters of oh, I have to stay in Appalachia.
I have to go to be something special, just follow your heart. And because that’s the truth, that’s the truth. And anyone that asks a question gets a free paper. How about that? Yeah.
Crystal Good: Hi, I’m Melissa Helton on Leslie county, Kentucky. We talked about money and a little bit about urbanity and virality and. Age, I would like to know in what other ways your work focuses on or centers intersectionality like race and gender and orientation and religion or disability.
Dr. Enkeshi El-amin: So I think when it comes to black and Appalachia, like I said earlier, we want people to show up as whatever black cells they are. And so that’s where, however, your identities in a sec. And so I think, especially for us we focus on black stories, but we’re across the spectrum, any spectrum.
So we are telling black queer stories or black women’s stories or religious stories just about whatever. We just want to get them out there. And again some, somewhere along the line Jesus, Chris brown was talking about, somebody asked her about how does she define Appalachian?
She said, which Appalachia. There’s so many different Appalachians and we break that down and said, there’s so many different black Appalachians too. So however you show up as a black person in this region, you have we value your story. We value your experience.
Chuck Corra: I would just add to that too. For us we acknowledge that we’re CIS white men. And so we don’t have a lot really to add to the conversation with respect to that. But what we try to do is we reach a lot of people. And so we want to make sure that all the stories about Appalachia are reaching people that listen to us.
And being outside the region for several years, you begin to understand what the narrative is. The day-to-day narrative is about Appalachia and especially about West Virginia, where people don’t think that queer people exist there. People don’t think that black people exist there.
And it’s this it’s bizarre to me. I just, I even. Use your brain. Just mathematically, like it’s gonna happen, but it’s this it’s again, this binary type of thinking. And so our method is to be able to highlight those stories. A perfect example NEMA of Asha and her new book, another Appalachia, where she talks about being queer and Indian in West Virginia.
And that’s a story that’s not known by a lot of people. And so what we want to do is try to lift those voices. That’s like our podcast is a lot of things. We talk about politics, talk about culture. You’re talking about witchcraft, pretty soon we’re working on something with that. But but what we want to try to do is show people that yes, we’re to CIS white men, but that is not everything that Appalachia is about, even though a lot of people think that it’s just that.
And so those stories are ones that we want to make sure that we’re doing our part with the platform that we created to be able to help highlight. So other people realize that, and we can challenge that dynamic of these binary thinking is about, oh, it’s a red state. So everybody is a Republican or, oh, it’s all all these white stories, nothing else.
So that’s what we try to.
Dr. Enkeshi El-amin: Yeah. And sometimes the story is not even about the identity. It’s just whatever that this person who happens to identify in this particular way or have these intersecting identities, there’s something, there might be something else that’s interesting about them that they want to share, or that we are that we’re trying to highlight or give them a voice.
I think that we try to do it in a way that’s meaningful to people who are listening as well as who are sharing as well.
Chuck Corra: Check.
Ashton Marra: I want to talk to you after this, about an episode about masculinity and Appalachia, because I think that’s a conversation that needs to be
Chuck Corra: had. That is, that definitely is.
And I am. One of the least masculine, I guess for me, I dunno, that’d be an engine we’ve actually, we’ve talked about and toyed around with that idea because there is a lot of toxic masculinity and it’s a problem because it ingrains, especially being like, like a man from Appalachia, it’s ingrained in your brain a certain way of acting and thinking.
And if you diverged from that, you’re not considered a quote unquote man. But anyway, we can talk about that offline. Hello, my name’s Jason.
Crystal Good: I grew up down in Bluefield. I lived in Brooklyn for the last 11 years and then at the pandemic
Chuck Corra: moved up into the Hudson valley. So I’m also an ex-pat and my question is it’s in my brain clear, but might not be clear when it comes out.
So we’ll see. It’s about
Crystal Good: The code switching and protecting the Appalachian diaspora
Chuck Corra: on like strengthening Appalachian identity. And
Crystal Good: you heard, I hear the story about Sarah Jessica Parker. It’s you and myself had this experience where we leave. And then we’re like, wait, that makes me really special and really unique.
Chuck Corra: And I’m going to actually celebrate that even though I don’t live
Crystal Good: there anymore, but many don’t have that experience they leave and they don’t look back. And I feel like a lot of what we hear in terms of Appalachia media are people who are here and celebrating the voices, which is incredible.
And I’m curious about any efforts to connect with people, say like a Sarah Jessica Parker who has Appalachian roots to get them to celebrate their Appalachian identity and use their voice on more widespread media to have that diverse representation. It’s
Chuck Corra: easy to dismiss an Appalachian show, but an Appalachian character
Crystal Good: on a show.
Something like that. I don’t know if there
Chuck Corra: were any efforts like that. That’s a great question. First of all, we’d love to have Sarah Jessica Parker on our show. We’re trying to make it happen. But I think to your broader point, that’s something that. If we had to say, we like, at least for us, for Appalachia, a long-term goal is to try to force that to happen.
And I don’t know that we have the power to necessarily do that, but it would be nice to be able to see that ownership on a broader scale, especially from someone like her or or like a Jennifer gardener, for example to where you have people that have these massive platforms that are very well-known that are from the region they’re from West Virginia, the front parts of Appalachia, and can be challenging that’s something that it’s something we want to explore more and figure out how it is.
Like what can we do to utilize what platform and influence if you can even call it that as we have to make that happen. Because I do think that’s really important. I think part of it is telling the stories of just the average person though, too. And showing that it’s complex, it’s not like being from epilepsy is not one thing.
And the other it’s very complex, but telling those stories and showing that’s a real. Unique experience and one that we can be all collectively challenging. The the perception of it would be, I think that’s where we’re starting, but we really would love to have someone like SGP on her show to, to really be able to take a massive megaphone to that so that it forces a lot of people to challenge it.
Dr. Enkeshi El-amin: I think that there might be an area for us to collaborate. There’s a paper that our talk that crank X Walker does, and he’s like calling out all of these black folks that have Appalachian roots. And I’ve been playing around with that as a just pulling some of those names and other names that we know for a segment on the podcast.
So that’s something that I’ve been thinking about for awhile and hoping that somebody will hear their name and reach out. But I’ve also been slide and put some money on it. But I’ve also been I’ve slid into a DM or two in the past, including what’s her name, Tracy. Who Tracy, Diana Ross, his daughter, Alice Ross, because Diana’s Diana Ross.
His dad is from east Tennessee and I’m like, girl, you got Appalachian roots. Let’s connect, but nothing happened.
Crystal Good: And Kashi, that’s how I people ask me often, how do you survive West Virginia? And I survive West Virginia by free, nobody by pretending this is the truth. I’ve got a tweet to prove it.
I pretend that I’m Tracy Ellis. Ross is Appalachian cousin. And that that’s right. Like I’ll be at pretend, but I pretend, and it is like the hope that like I’ll get to go to summer to her house or like she’ll come visit or something. Cause you know, okay, let’s do this. I had dreams about she has a platform off of her pattern.
Beauty for journalism is hidden in the website. And I think we can, I think we can figure this out I always say, what do all famous black. West Virginians have in common, they left. And I think that piece you write like the diaspora. I can just tell you from like the folks that are actually sending in contributions to black by God, that they are really important.
And sometimes I think we poopoo on the people that leave, that aren’t embracing their APIs, they got a job, they got kids, they started alive. This is our thing. It’s okay. You know what I mean? It’s but I think that there’s ways finding for the ex-pats to tap in or to support, because one of the things that I’ve also heard is that they’re quite often exhausted with the political climate.
You know what I mean? Yeah. Yeah. I’ll get the last abortion clinic in West Virginia. Oh, they need money. This is all. You know what I’m hearing from a very small sort of lake focus group that have been listening to, and over the years that you know, that these publications are really in these platforms are important because they allow the story, right?
It’s not always about the cause. It’s always about the earth. As we’re getting about to fall off the cliff, blah, blah, blah. It’s the story. And I think that this is why our platforms and other platforms are important to connect with the expatriates so that they still feel a connection to their roots.
Or find themselves. But it’s not all about not, everybody’s going to be like rah Appalachia and I think that’s true with, we’re a big family, right? There’s always somebody that’s putting the family reunion together. And there’s always somebody that’s showing up late.
And there’s always somebody we were just a big community and there’s the. We’re just a community, like any other community, anywhere else in the world. Like we’re special because we are special in their special because they’re special. And I just happened to be absolutely in love with our specialists.
But also recognize like the only way to. Those ex-pats are people that have may have distanced themselves from this identity or exploring it, is we have to shift our narrative, which we all heard today. If you were an pancakes seminar with these lovely students, we really do have to center more on joy, more on hope, right?
We have to send her more on this. We had, can’t always be running into the fire. And I think that’s so much of our narrative and to speak to the idea of like, how do we bring Appalachian stories into a mainstream cultural sort of narrative? I am just like I am hoping, praying, writing, doing everything possible because after drowning in like a political narrative, I quickly not quickly, but it took 10 years maybe to realize that the way that you shift culture, the way that you shift change is through culture.
Politics is it’s whole game, but we get one black Appalachian. On the next Grown-ish or the next Blackish boom. Game-changer right. The conscious, yeah, the consciousness will change. And so often when people hear my accent, they say, where are you from Tennessee? You know what I mean? Like they named every place, but West Virginia and in so many ways we have an absolute canvas to create what we want instead of fighting like that, we’re forgotten, oh, we got a blank canvas.
We can make it what we want. And that to me is the Appalachian future. And that’s what this space is. As much as we’re looking back, we have to really look like seven generations down in what my great-grandkids. I hope when they do whatever time machine they do.
And they find me in my tweets, there’ll be like my granny was pretty cool.
Ashton Marra: So I don’t want to be the reason that people don’t get to eat lunch. So this is going to be our final question. No,
Crystal Good: Okay. My name is Shalom. I like to say I’m from, I sit 64 but Beckley, Charleston and Huntington West Virginia.
My question for you, I think all three of you at some point in time mentioned that there is, there are varying definitions of being Appalachian. So my question is, have you ever found yourself maybe prioritizing one type of actual Appalachia and when you are choosing your stories to tell, and maybe this is more exciting to me because this is what I think Appalachia is, and this is what I want to highlight.
Have you ever experienced that?
Dr. Enkeshi El-amin: I tell black stories.
Crystal Good: She chose. Yeah, Shelia. I, when I get pulled over by the police and they asked me with my California plates on the car, if I’m from here. Yeah. I’m from here, I’m six generations from here quickly. And then there do a better here. You I like a better here.
I turned into some kind of like West Virginia person. I just didn’t even really recognize that I was yes, officer. I, yeah, I will lean into it when I think it’s like lifesaving but also the stairs but it’s true. You know what I mean? Like I could, I don’t know, but I think sometimes the Appalachian me that I’m stepping into, you know what I mean?
Is what part? What parts am I mimicking? What parts am I like? Have I inherited like that, but then also I think of like my Appalachian identity, like the way that I. It’s high, low. I need something expensive. I need something borrowed. You know what I mean?
I need something handmade. You knew I need something that I bought off of the internet cheaply on the late night when I probably shouldn’t have been shopping. You know what I mean? Like it’s a quilt, it’s a hodgepodge, and it’s just me. And I think that comes with age and also a lot of exposure, not just inside Appalachia, not just inside Appalachia, but also just being able to see yourself out in the world.
And that’s why I think like this moment of like travel and exposure so that you can see yourself in context of like other places in similarities and differences is really important. So I feel really settled in my Appalachian identity, but I think that to get there, I had to try on a couple of different outfits.
Chuck Corra: First of all, we did a award show in 2020, and Sholom was voted as Appalachian wrapper of the year, that year and our award show. So shout out to him well deserved. And so when it comes to that, I think we John and I focus on our own stories and our own Appalachian experience for retail.
And we try to like, we try to not set barriers on what is, and isn’t Appalachian and what stories we want to include and not include. And I think it’s important to us because we’ve had, we’ve actually gotten pushed back for this before. Cause oftentimes. We by default, like when we’re talking about trying to find someone quote unquote from the region on the show, we go by the Appalachian regional commission definition, acknowledging that it’s a political map and doesn’t really have anything to do much with culture, but we do that because I think even though people from Alabama or people from from other parts of Tennessee or Georgia or where have you have also been forgotten and marginalized too.
And so we want to make sure that those voices that are well-represented as well. And so I think we try to keep it broad because we’re not in a position to tell people what being an Appalachian is or what it means and what it is. We can only share our experiences in our perspective.
And I think that’s something that we really try to emphasize. But our own personal experience are very interesting, very different from a lot of people we have on the show. I have no idea if that answers the question, but hopefully that kind of hits somewhere on the. Yeah,
Dr. Enkeshi El-amin: I think, like I said, we definitely, we tell black stories, right?
Whatever. However, they come. For me personally, my work, my own research is on Knoxville, black Knoxville. And so it’s important for me that urban Appalachia is a part of the narrative. So I pull a lot from places like Knoxville and Pittsburgh, and the next season, we’re going down to Birmingham and get some Birmingham stories.
So it’s important to me that urban Appalachia, because a lot of times that’s where a lot black folks are right. In our urban centers, there are larger black populations. So I try and make sure that those get in to the narrative as well. And to think of things that we are not normally associating with black folks wherever we can.
So yeah, I pull from all wherever.
Ashton Marra: Yeah. It’s important for those urban narratives to be a part of the conversation to. Did you retweet yesterday? It was somebody tweeted. Huntington is the LA of Appalachia. And then somebody responded. Morgantown is the Pittsburgh of Appalachia. And I was like, somebody needs to tell them needs to tell them.
Thank you. I know we went over time this afternoon and thank you so much for sticking it out for being a part of this conversation. We really appreciate you all having us here. And of course, Natalie, thank you so much for all the work that you have put in and for not killing us for going over time.
And one final kind of thank you to our panel check core from the app from app pod Lasha and Kashi LME from the black and Appalachia podcast and crystal good from black by God. If you would like a copy, she’s got them. Thank
Dr. Enkeshi El-amin: you folks. Follow us on the social.
Chuck Corra: Thank you all so much for listening. That was our show. Hope you all enjoyed that discussion as much as I did. And thank you all. Just for being so supportive of Appalachia, it’s been such a dream to be able to do this for the past, gosh, over two years. So thank you. And we’ll be back next week on a more I guess regular type of show like you’re probably used to, so thank you.
And talk to you soon.
Appodlachia is a production of 18 Husky. None of the views expressed on this show represent the views of either Chuck or John’s employers.