Image of coal minders sitting in uniform while covered in coal ash.

Pine Mountain fracas shows rural Kentuckians must fight for each other, not against | Opinion by Beth Howard

“I am a proud working class Appalachian woman raised on a small tobacco farm in rural Eastern Kentucky. I come from a community where we had each other’s backs. If someone was sick, or if there was a death in the family, we made each other casseroles, or offered to watch each other’s kids to lighten the load. We took turns working in each other’s tobacco fields or vegetable gardens. We never knew a stranger and no one went hungry if we could help it. It’s these kinds of values that informs my work as the Director of Appalachian People’s Union at Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ) — to bring our Appalachian communities together to fight for a better future where everyone, no matter our skin tone, our zip code, or if we have any money in our pocket — can live a decent life. Unfortunately, there are some in our state who don’t share these values and actively oppose them. I was upset to learn that last week, a gathering of The Appalachian Waymakers Collective, a democratically controlled, multiracial, multicultural locally based grantmaker supporting artists and art makers throughout Appalachia, was attacked by a group of white men and women who told them they were not welcome in Harlan County and wanted them to remove their items, items they deemed “non-Christian”, from a chapel where the land stewards had given them permission to be. Unfortunately, this act of intimidation of people who aren’t white or heterosexual has been increasingly visible across our state. A few months ago, members of the Klu Klux Klan left recruitment flyers in multiple rural Kentucky towns. The Kentucky state legislature has passed some of the harshest anti-LGBTQ legislation in the country. These three events are attempts to intimidate people of color, LGBTQ people, and people of conscience. They are sowing divisions around race and gender, so a small few can feel powerful and get richer while the rest of us shrink, hide, or try to leave. But I know these hateful people are the minority in this beautiful state.”

Read the full opinion by Beth Howard in the Kentucky Herald Leader here.

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