Mtn. Talk Monday: Mountains of Music Homecoming – The Crooked Road

In this episode, learn more about the Mountains of Music Homecoming and the The Crooked Road: Virginia’s Heritage Music Trail. Host Kelli Haywood and guest host Rich Kirby from WMMT’s Deep in Tradition speak with the MOMH assistant coordinator and professor of Appalachian Studies at ETSU, Ted Olsen on the upcoming 9 days filled with wonderful traditional music and cultural events. Find out more at www.mtnsofmusic.com! If you like the music in this episode, support The Great Smoky Mountains National Park by purchasing the CD On Top of Old Smoky: New Old-Time Mountain Music, which was recorded at the recording lab at East Tennessee State University.

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Mountain Talk is WMMT’s twice-weekly community space for conversation, airing each Monday & Wednesday from 6-7 p.m.  Mountain Talk programs focus on a variety of topics related to life in the mountains, including: food, community issues, art, health, and more.  Click here to hear past programs.

Mtn. Talk Monday: Eastern Kentucky Response to Nazis

In February, it was made public that white nationalist groups were planning training and rally events in Pike County and Floyd County, Kentucky at the end of April. The response across eastern Kentucky has been largely that these groups are not welcome here. However, there are differences as to what folks believe the response should be. In this episode of Mountain Talk, host Elizabeth Sanders speaks with Ariana Velasquez of Pike County and Patrick Davis of Floyd County who are organizing community responses. 

For more information on the Rally for Equality and American Values – click here.

~ Art by Lacy Hale (art created by local artist Lacy Hale in response to the upcoming events)

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Mountain Talk is WMMT’s twice-weekly community space for conversation, airing each Monday & Wednesday from 6-7 p.m.  Mountain Talk programs focus on a variety of topics related to life in the mountains, including: food, community issues, art, health, and more.  Click here to hear past programs.

Mtn Talk Monday: The Get Together – A Multicultural Symposium

When people think of Central Appalachia these days, it seems often the next words are “Trump Country”, or white working class. Is Central Appalachia homogenized? Are we a diverse group of people? What is the legacy of diversity in the coalfields of Appalachia? Big Sandy Community and Technical College in Prestonsburg, Kentucky is delving in to the answers at their symposium on March 30th from 8:30am – 4:30pm called – The Get Together. In this episode, host Kelli Haywood speaks with Janie Beverly and Greta Slone who are members of the Diversity Committee for the college and helped to put together the events for the symposium. The group talks about diversity in Appalachia and just where we are with that these days. To reserve seating for the symposium email [email protected]

Mountain Talk is WMMT’s twice-weekly community space for conversation, airing each Monday & Wednesday from 6-7 p.m.  Mountain Talk programs focus on a variety of topics related to life in the mountains, including: food, community issues, art, health, and more.  Click here to hear past programs.

MN&WR: Hazard, Kentucky – Boom or Bust?

  • Hazard, Kentucky: Boom or Bust? Take an in depth look at community efforts to revitalize downtown Hazard with WMMT’s Kelli Haywood. An entire half hour devoted to the voices of Hazard sharing their dreams, disappointments, bumps in the road, and successes as they try to rebuild a livable community through food, arts, culture, and more.

Photos by Kelli Hansel Haywood ~top l to r and bottom l to r ~ 1. The Grand Hotel  2. Main Street  3. Samantha Haynes and 3 month old Aurora  4. InVision Hazard Mural

Photos by Kelli Hansel Haywood ~top l to r and bottom l to r ~ 1. The Grand Hotel 2. Main Street 3. Samantha Haynes and 3 month old Aurora 4. InVision Hazard Mural

Photo by Issac Boone Davis

Photo by Issac Boone Davis

Reporter’s Notebook: Kelli Hansel Haywood for WMMT

In its heyday, Hazard, the county seat of Perry County, was one of the larger eastern Kentucky boom towns.  First lumber then coal drove the economy of Perry County, turning Hazard into a major center for commerce in the mountains. In the 1940s the city’s population topped out at over 7,000 people and nearly 48,000 in all of Perry County, but from then both have seen a steady decline with changes in the coal industry.  As seen in towns throughout eastern Kentucky, the latest hit taken by the coal industry has all but devastated downtown Hazard.

For the last decade, as eastern Kentucky has experienced all of this major change, towns have either been adapting or disappearing.  Hazard remains a center of commerce for Perry and surrounding counties.  The big difference is that the business being done in Hazard has been diverted from downtown and to the big chain box stores like Wal-Mart, Food City, Lowe’s, and Big Lots.  As in many towns across America, the days of mom’s and pop’s is all but gone.  Couple that with a loss of coal jobs and you have people living on a tight budget, who have to shop at box stores because of lower prices and not enough good waged jobs to go around.  Unless you have a distinct niche business that will entice people to travel to your location for what you offer, or you are able to compete with the prices of the chain stores, entrepreneurship is more risk than most want to take on.

The people of Perry County have also received negative attention from national media for being one of the worst places to live in the country in no small part due to dismal health outcomes.  Culprits like obesity, diabetes, heart disease, hunger, and cancer are all to blame.  However, Kentucky also leads the nation in acute cases of Hepatitis C with 4.1 cases per every 100,000 residents.  Perry County is one of the top 200 counties nationwide in risk of HepC and HIV outbreak due to the opioid epidemic and needle injected drug use.   The county also has a significant population experiencing homelessness in comparison to population who find their way to Hazard to try to obtain help.

Coalfield communities in Appalachia are often stereotyped as reliant on welfare and unwilling to work or become educated by national media and those from outside of the region.  While there is some truth to all stereotypes, the explanation of them are very complicated.  A lack of access to government assistance would devastate many residents in coalfields Appalachia, and the same is true for Hazard.  This does not mean, however, that they are unwilling to do the work it takes to create a livable community for themselves and their children.  This is directly reflected in the work ethic presented by those working to revitalize downtown Hazard.

It is not simple to live in a struggling community, and sometimes hope is hard to find.  Hazard residents are diligently working to change their downtown into something never seen before in Perry County – a downtown that reflects local arts, culture, and food.  As many Hazard residents will tell you, there isn’t one thing that is going to fix their economy.  They equate the effort as needing to be like a silver buckshot as opposed to a silver bullet.  It seems that the starting point for many in Hazard and Perry County has been going back to what many in Appalachia know how to do – small scale farming.  Through efforts of Community Farm Alliance, which serves the area, North Fork Local Foods was created to operate in Hazard to run Perry County Regional Farmer’s Market and the Perry County Farm to Table Program.

As these efforts start to build, other regional and community organizations are playing a role in addressing Hazard’s crumbling infrastructure.  Foundation for Appalachian Kentucky, the Philanthropic Capital Fund for Southeast Kentucky (FILCAP), Mountain Association for Community and Economic Development (MACED), and InVision Hazard are all busy plugging away to create opportunities for more entrepreneurship in Hazard’s downtown.  Residents are not idealistic when considering what types of businesses might work in a downtown like Hazard’s.  As independent contractor, landscaper, and seamstress Pamela Farrell share in her interview for this story, “It would be great to have a couple of businesses in town, but it would have to be ones that cater to the whole lot of people, not just people with full time jobs that make good.”

Jenny Williams, a professor of English at the Hazard Community and Technical College and a very active volunteer for the revitalization effort, told Willie Davis in 2015 when the interviews that would become this story began, “Everybody should be able to live an artful life and appreciate something beautiful.  Everybody should be able to have a river that is clean, that you can wade in and fish in without worrying about the fish that you pull out of it being inedible.  And, being able to eat someplace that has fresh local, healthy food that’s affordable.  That’s art to us… Another thing I would say is I get that what we need is jobs.  I get that.   I’m not saying that we can live on love and poetry alone.”  In that reality lies Hazard.  The efforts that can amount to so much over time feel very slow in the scheme of things even if they are “baby steps in the right direction.”

The question then becomes – will we have the momentum to sustain the work that will attract people who can bring jobs to towns like Hazard while at the same time not overlooking the direct and immediate needs of the regions poor, hungry, and addicted?  Samantha Haynes, a 23 year old mother of three who currently volunteers at Second Chance Mission who serves those in need in Hazard summed up the plight of the area’s young people well when she told me, “This lady told me that it was beautiful downtown.  You know, that’s a beautiful view.  But, do you see what’s underneath that?  I’m not comfortable in that.  I’m not comfortable raising my kids around here knowing that the majority of people want to leave Hazard now, and yet, everybody wants to come home.  There’s nothing here for us, but there’s so much we have.  We’ve got all kinds of creativity from just making stuff to painting, to singing… and just talking.  It’s beautiful… but I want people to know that people like me want that for Hazard.  It just breaks my heart.  I don’t want to leave Hazard.  You know, there’s still a heartbeat here.  It’s not dead.”

Mountain News & World Report is a bi-weekly production of WMMT, and new episodes air every other Thursday at 6pm on WMMT, with a repeat broadcast the following Sunday morning at 10:30.  To listen to previous episodes, check out our streaming archives.

MN&WR: Youth Speak

  • Kentucky River Community Care’s Sapling Center in Whitesburg offers transitional youth a safe place to access basic necessities, technology, mental health services, and support for transitioning into independent living.
  • The Boone Youth Drop-In Center (Appalachian Media Institute) also in Whitesburg offers a safe and sober place for those ages 14-22 to spend time, access technology, create art, play music and games, take workshops, learn creative skills, and be fully themselves.
  • Stephanie Chernyaskiy (aged 24) a Letcher County native shares her optimism about the next 4 years with Donald Trump as president. Hannah Adams (aged 18) also of Letcher County shares what those of us living in small coalfields towns do with divided politics and no place to hide from them.

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Despite the fact that it often seems the world revolves around our youth and youth culture, the fact is that so many decisions that change the way of living for us all are made with little, or no, input from youth at all. In our society, older adults often weld a heavy hand in decision making, while many believe that young people have no opinions or are uninformed.  Is it possible, they just aren’t being heard?  Recent census data has shown that 1 in 5 young adult millennials live in poverty, and the United States is the 6th highest nation for youth ages 15-29 still living with their parents.  With financial and personal independence hard to obtain, making your voice heard can be a struggle.

For our first story, Kelli Haywood visits The Sapling Center, one of two new youth drop-in centers in Whitesburg, Kentucky.  Kentucky River Community Care (KRCC) is an organization serving eight counties in eastern Kentucky with a  focus on helping people connect with resources to meet their basic needs, including housing, crisis services, and health care.  This past November KRCC opened the second of what they hope to be one of many youth drop-in centers – The Sapling Center, in Whitesburg.  The Sapling Center targets transitional age youth from 14-25 with a focus on mental health and youth in crisis situations, but is open to any who would like a safe and supportive place to have fun.  The Sapling Center is located across from Pizza Hut at 60 Jenkins Road in Whitesburg and is open Monday through Thursday from noon to 8pm.  The Sapling Center can be reached on Facebook or you can call them at 606-633-0730 to arrange transportation to the center or get more information about programs and activities they offer.

In our second segment, you will hear a voice montage of the organizers and administrators of the Boone Youth Drop-In Center.  Ever since the old Boone Motor building on Madison Ave. in Whitesburg was acquired by Appalshop, it has been visioned as a youth space.  Seventeen years ago youth from all over the region, state, country and eventually the world began gathering at the Boone for music shows of rock, punk, metal, and much more.  It was one of the first places to foster a regional network of youth interested in art, music, zines, and flying the flag of freely expressed youth.  And now, a new, more structured, but just as open, supportive, and imaginative space has been created as another Whitesburg youth center that focuses on providing a safe and sober place for area young people to create art, play music and games, attend workshops in various subjects, teach their own workshops, use and check out technology, and otherwise have a dang good time.  Boone Master Mikie Burke, Director of the Appalachian Media Institute Kate Fowler, and Program Coordinator Lacy Hale speak of the whys, hows, and whats of the Boone Youth Drop-In Center.  Be sure to find the Boone Youth Drop-In Center on Facebook, or call Appalshop at 606-633-0108 and ask for Mikie, Kate, or Lacy, and they’d be happy to answer your questions.

In our next segment we are going to hear from two young women from Letcher County, Kentucky who express their feelings about our new president Donald Trump, and experience with the controversy surrounding his  election  The first speaker is Stephanie Chernyaskiy. And finally, we hear from 18 year old Hannah Adams.  Hannah wrote an essay and recorded it as part of Youth Radio in collaboration with The Holler which is a part of  KVEC – the Kentucky Valley Educational Cooperative.  She writes about living in a small town which can’t afford to stay divided.  Her story was recently featured on National Public Radio’s show Here and Now.

Mountain News & World Report is a bi-weekly production of WMMT, and new episodes air every other Thursday at 6pm on WMMT, with a repeat broadcast the following Sunday morning at 10:30.  To listen to previous episodes, check out our streaming archives.

MN&WR: Changes

  • Mary Meehan of the Ohio Valley ReSource finds changing opinions in one eastern Kentucky community toward the increased risk of HepC and HIV outbreak due to IV drug use and needle exchange programs.
  • WMMT’s Mimi Pickering talks to healthcare service providers and economy experts regarding the boost the Affordable Care Act has given to the health of the people and the economy of eastern Kentucky, and what its repeal might mean for the future.
  • Glynis Board with the Ohio Valley ReSource speaks with photographer Rebecca Kiger about documenting the transitioning economy of coalfields Appalachia.

 

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With the beginning of the new year, we’re in a period of anticipation and change.  People are making their resolutions and wondering if they will pay off.  We are awaiting the inauguration of president elect Donald Trump and wondering what changes his presidency will bring.  And for us in coalfields Appalachia, we still have the question of “what next?” in the forefront of our lives.  The way we answer that question will impact our community in profound ways.  In this episode, we are taking a look at the collective and economic impact that healthcare has on our communities as we envision our future.

The Centers for Disease Control recently ranked the counties in the nation with the greatest risk for an HIV outbreak due to needle-injected drugs. The top ten are all in eastern Kentucky and southern West Virginia. Needle exchange programs can limit the risk of infection, but they also challenge some deeply held convictions. Mary Meehan, of the Ohio Valley ReSource, begins our episode in Powell County, Kentucky, where the opioid crisis has forced a religious community to reconsider some beliefs.

The passage of the  Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare, and the decision of then Governor Steve Beshear to expand Medicaid eligibility, has greatly increased the number of insured people in Kentucky and brought billions of dollars into the state.  In addition jobs related to the Medicaid expansion, connecting the uninsured to benefits, and more people accessing health care, have increased.  However, president elect Donald Trump and the majority of the Republican Congress have promised to repeal the Affordable Care Act as a top priority. Current Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin has succeeded in his campaign promise to dismantle the state-run insurance exchange KYnect causing the 75,000 Kentuckians that had enrolled in private healthcare plans through the KYnect platform to re-enroll using the federal platform Healthcare.gov in order to remain insured as of January 2017. Those on Medicaid have to enroll on a new state system, Benefind, that has been riddled with problems. The changes taking place are a concern for many Kentuckians particularly those in unique situations like coal miners needing black lung benefits, and those who were formerly uninsured, or unable to sign up under an employer plan who are likely to lose benefits with the ACA repeal.  In May of last year, WMMT’s Mimi Pickering reported on the impact of KYnect and the ACA on eastern Kentucky and what a repeal could mean.

The collapse of the coal industry has left many mining communities looking for a new economic path forward. For our final segment, Glynis Board of the Ohio Valley ReSource spoke with a photographer who is helping people picture a new future for the coal fields.

Mountain News & World Report is a bi-weekly production of WMMT, and new episodes air every other Thursday at 6pm on WMMT, with a repeat broadcast the following Sunday morning at 10:30.  To listen to previous episodes, check out our streaming archives.