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MN&WR: Organize

MN&WR: Organize

  • Kara Lofton, health reporter for West Virginia Public Radio, speaks with UMWA  members and others about the recent rally in Lexington, Kentucky and what the stalemate in Congress surrounding shoring up retirement benefits for miners and their families will mean for their future.
  • Hear audio recordings of the late balladeer and organizer Sarah Ogan Gunning and those close with her and her family from Mimi Pickering’s 1988 Appalshop Films release – Dreadful Memories.
  • The Cowan Creek Mountain Music School just ended its 15th year with a record attendance.  WMMT reporter Kelli Haywood covers how the music school, Cowan Community Center, and others are exploring a new way of organizing the community for the greater good of all – the Letcher County Culture Hub.
Photo by James L. Webb
Photo by James L. Webb

Organizing ourselves in order to maintain our right to basic liberties became a necessary component of life in the coalfields with the introduction of big industry.  In this episode of Mountain News & World Report, we take a look at what it means to organize throughout our past, in our present, and for our future.  Our first story comes from health reporter, Kara Lofton, with West Virginia Public Radio.  Lofton takes a deeper look at the recent United Mine Workers of America rally in Lexington, Kentucky where thousands gathered in attempt to protect the retirement benefits of 22,000 coal miners and their widows, which will be lost within the year if Congress does not act.  The UMWA are planning to take the rally cry to the U.S. Capitol on September 8 to ask that Congress look hard at bankruptcy law and act to secure the benefits the miners were promised.

In our second piece, you will hear audio from the 1988 film by Mimi Pickering about the life of Sarah Ogan Gunning – Dreadful Memories, released by Appalshop Films. Comments from relatives and such friends as Pete Seeger, Hazel Garland, Tillman Cadle, and Archie Green help to tell Sarah’s story and speak of her personal strength and cultural significance.  Sarah was a eastern Kentucky balladeer, composer of at least twelve original songs of organizing and protest, and the daughter and wife of coal miners.  She along with her half sister Aunt Molly Jackson, and her brother Jim Garland were known among the folk revival movement of the 1960s and 70s.  June 28th would have been Sarah’s 106th birthday.

Creative placemaking is a newer way of organizing around the assets of a community and is a practice that intentionally leverages the power of the arts, culture, and creativity to serve a community’s interest while driving a broader agenda for change, growth, and transformation in a way that also builds character and quality of place.  WMMT reporter, Kelli Haywood, brings our third story, exploring the ways in which the Letcher County Culture Hub is creating the environment for new opportunities among various partners throughout Letcher County, Kentucky.  Haywood visits the 15th annual Cowan Creek Mountain Music School at the Cowan Community Center to learn how their involvement in the culture hub has taken their work to a new level and increased the viability and positive exposure for their programming – even attracting outside tourists.

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.

appalachian history,
arts & culture,
coal industry,
economic transition,
education in the mountains,

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