Tuesday, March 10, 2009

What's an Affrilachian?

How would you feel if you learned that you didn't exist? Ask Frank X. Walker. In 1991, he looked up the definition of Appalachian in Webster's Dictionary and discovered this definition referring to the inhabitants: "white residents from the mountains.” So Mr. Walker, a black man from Danville, KY, did not exist, according to definition.

What would you do? Mr. Walker and his fellow poets decided to create another word to describe them: Affrilachian. Not only was this a word but a movement. And it wasn't just African, or Appalachian. Affrilachian have a keen sense of the world around them. When you read an Affrilachian poem, you might read about social justice (or the lack therof), men, women, mountains, India, Cuba, you name it. What ties them together is their supportive community and their way with words.

If you're in the Charleton/Huntington area, stop on by to see them. Affrilachian poets should be heard if possible. If you can't, head on over to The Affrilachian Poets site.

Here's a teaser from Parneshia Jones, dedicated to the founding Affrilachians:
Anyone that walks these bluegrass lands
know the stories.
They know when thunder shakes the hills,
Affrilachians are writing."

Read the rest here.

The Affrilachians are Coming!

If you're in Charleston or Huntington, try to make it out to see the Affrilachian Poet Tour. The press release follows:

Affrilachian Poets to appear at Marshall March 13

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – Marshall University’s Huntington campus will be host to the spring bus tour of Affrilachian Poets at 4 p.m. Friday, March 13 in Marco’s in the Memorial Student Center.

The word “Affrilachian” was coined by poet Frank X Walker to reflect African Americans who are part of the Appalachian region, which has often been described as all white and poor. The Lexington, Ky.-based writing group has slowly established a regional and national presence with their collective publishing efforts, accumulated awards and reputations as accomplished teaching artists at some of the nation’s most notable institutions and writing programs.

While in West Virginia, the group also plans two appearances in Charleston on Thursday, March 12. They’ll be at the Capitol Market, 800 Smith Street, at noon and at the Tricky Fish, 1611 Washington Street East, at 8 p.m.

Members taking part in the various readings and events on the tour include Walker, Crystal Wilkinson, Ricardo Nazario-Colon, Kelly Norman Ellis, Ellen Hagan, Parneshia Jones, Mitchell L.H. Douglas, Keith Wilson, Bianca Spriggs, Tania James, Crystal Goodwoman, Norman Jordan and Amanda Johnston. For more information about the poets, visit www.affrilachianpoets.com.

The tour events will also introduce the new publication, “PLUCK! The Journal of Affrilachian Arts and Culture.” It is also available online at www.pluckonline.com.

The Affrilachian Poets’ appearance in Huntington is sponsored by the Marshall Student Government Association, Center for African American Students’ Programs, the English department, and the College of Liberal Arts.

For more information about the tour, call Walker at 513-375-7221 or e-mail Affrilachia@aol.com.

What is an Affrilachian Poet? See the next post.

Monday, March 09, 2009

MTR and Coalfield Justice Talk

I'm finally emerging from my winter torpor. I saw a great lecture last week on the sister of Carter Woodson, Bessie Woodson Yancey, who was a fascinating writer in her own right. She would have been one hell of a blogger too, had she lived now. Her story needs to be told, and I had a wonderful post in mind, to be written tonight. Then I found that there is a discussion with a native filmmaker close by on the subject of Mountaintop Removal. And it's WEDNESDAY, which is day after tomorrow. So, Mrs. Yancey, you'll have to wait. My apologies.

Here's the press release:

Marshall University Graduate College (South Charleston campus) will host a Graduate Humanities Program event sponsored by Friends of the Humanities. It concerns a public talk by Catherine Pancake, a filmmaker and musician, called "Growing Up Without Television . . . Trials and Tribulations of Developing Visual Media in a Culture of Oral Tradition" on Wednesday, March 11, at 7 pm, in Room 319. A reception will follow.

Pancake is most well known for her award-winning documentary *Black Diamonds: Mountaintop Removal and the Fight for Coalfield Justice*. http://www.blackdiamondsmovie.com/.

The event is free and open to the public.

Next post: "Here come the Affrilachians!" They'll be in Huntington WV on Friday and Charleston WV on Thursday. I've heard them read before and they are WONDERFUL. Maybe I'll even get the nerve up to speak to Frank X. Walker. (I'm quite nervous and shy when it comes to meeting authors I admire.)

Friday, March 06, 2009

What's in a name?

A laurel by any other name would smell as sweet....

You Are Stable and Cheerful

When You Are Comfortable:

You are a hard worker. You need security and stability in your life, even if that means putting in long hours.

People see you as solid and dependable. You are always able to see the good in situations. Other find this comforting.

When You Are At Your Best:

You are a hyper, restless person. You need to keep busy, and you always are willing to take charge in life.

People see you as energetic and motivating. You inspire people to be the best they can be.

When You Are in a Social Setting:

You are enthusiastic and flexible. You are open-minded. You prefer to learn from others... not judge them.

People see you as kind and cooperative. You are very supportive when friends are down on their luck.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

The Creation

I've been having an odd day. A friend sent this to me and I'm amazed at how it lifted my spirits. I thought your spirits might could use it too.

The Creation

James Weldon Johnson (1871–1938)

(A Negro Sermon)

AND God stepped out on space,
And He looked around and said,
“I’m lonely—
I’ll make me a world.”

And far as the eye of God could see 5
Darkness covered everything,
Blacker than a hundred midnights
Down in a cypress swamp.

Then God smiled,
And the light broke, 10
And the darkness rolled up on one side,
And the light stood shining on the other,
And God said, “That’s good!”

Then God reached out and took the light in His hands,
And God rolled the light around in His hands 15
Until He made the sun;
And He set that sun a-blazing in the heavens.
And the light that was left from making the sun
God gathered it up in a shining ball
And flung it against the darkness, 20
Spangling the night with the moon and stars.
Then down between
The darkness and the light
He hurled the world;
And God said, “That’s good!” 25

Then God himself stepped down—
And the sun was on His right hand,
And the moon was on His left;
The stars were clustered about His head,
And the earth was under His feet. 30
And God walked, and where He trod
His footsteps hollowed the valleys out
And bulged the mountains up.

Then He stopped and looked and saw
That the earth was hot and barren. 35
So God stepped over to the edge of the world
And He spat out the seven seas;
He batted His eyes, and the lightnings flashed;
He clapped His hands, and the thunders rolled;
And the waters above the earth came down, 40
The cooling waters came down.

Then the green grass sprouted,
And the little red flowers blossomed,
The pine tree pointed his finger to the sky,
And the oak spread out his arms, 45
The lakes cuddled down in the hollows of the ground,
And the rivers ran down to the sea;
And God smiled again,
And the rainbow appeared,
And curled itself around His shoulder. 50

Then God raised His arm and He waved His hand
Over the sea and over the land,
And He said, “Bring forth! Bring forth!”
And quicker than God could drop His hand.
Fishes and fowls 55
And beasts and birds
Swam the rivers and the seas,
Roamed the forests and the woods,
And split the air with their wings.
And God said, “That’s good!” 60

Then God walked around,
And God looked around
On all that He had made.
He looked at His sun,
And He looked at His moon, 65
And He looked at His little stars;
He looked on His world
With all its living things,
And God said, “I’m lonely still.”

Then God sat down 70
On the side of a hill where He could think;
By a deep, wide river He sat down;
With His head in His hands,
God thought and thought,
Till He thought, “I’ll make me a man!” 75

Up from the bed of the river
God scooped the clay;
And by the bank of the river
He kneeled Him down;
And there the great God Almighty 80
Who lit the sun and fixed it in the sky,
Who flung the stars to the most far corner of the night,
Who rounded the earth in the middle of His hand;
This Great God,
Like a mammy bending over her baby, 85
Kneeled down in the dust
Toiling over a lump of clay
Till He shaped it in His own image;

Then into it He blew the breath of life,
And man became a living soul. 90
Amen. Amen.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

What are you doing?

Well, once again, Sagacious Hillbilly has got me thinking. After two thought-provoking articles on my last post, this post had to come out.

First, the second comment, because sometimes I'm just wild and break the rules like that.

He says (and please read the whole thing because I'm excerpting): "Stereotypes persist because of general impressions. That doesn't make them right, it just is....
When we begin giving the general impression that we are a suave, sophisticated, educated bastion of enlightenment, that's the stereotype that will emerge." Of course, he's exactly right on this one. However, there are some great things going on here: We have a surplus. how many other states can say that? We've got 2 small cities (Charleston and Morgantown) who were named on lists of Best Small Cities. Good things, all of them. And, as Buzzard Billy points out, the whole dental health thing has made a U-turn.

My frustration is that I see these changes, and still get questions on if I had to buy shoes to come to the conference. (Horrifyingly, it seems I get one dicky comment of just this sort every time I go to a conference.)

Which leads me to SH's first comment: "What are YOU doing to change WV?" Here's the answer: I'm being me. I talk like a newscaster (except when I've been drinking, but we won't go there) as I have been fortunate enough to have learned to lose my accent. Those who can't usually have a rougher time of it. I proudly say that I'm from West Virginia. I smile a lot, both to show that I do, indeed, have my teeth, and that I'm not likely to attack them when they're not looking. When I meet someone new,I try to judge them solely on their interaction with me, and not what notions I may have preconceived about their group. Hey, I'm not perfect. I have my stereotypes and prejudices, as we all do, but I try not to let them trump my logic and experiences. I attack stereotypes when I hear them, both to point out that

Professionally, I'm an educator. Specifically, I work with distance education, which means that I am helping folks from all over the state and world to increase their learning. SH said that folks' perceptions will change about us will change when we start to become more educated, less insular, and less ignorant. I think that his words are true not only of WV but of all of us as a whole. I cheered when President Obama called for every American to get more education and never stop learning, and it wasn't just because of the job security. Through my work, I'm trying to do help people to teach, learn, and reason. Maybe then we won't need to worry about stereotypes of any sort. None of us.