Voices of Resistance || 100 Days in Appalachia

Voices of Resistance is an ongoing project at Boshemia to share narratives of activism in the current geopolitical climate. If you would like your story of activism shared with our global feminist community, contact us at boshemia.blog@gmail.com. This is our first installment.

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For this first installment of Voices of Resistance, we turn to Appalachia—a region of the United States often overlooked—and remembered by many only for stereotypes of rural life, poverty, coal mining, and opioid abuse. This great swath of America has long endured sensationalized myths of identity and little media attention has been offered over the years to mitigate these perceptions.

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photo by Appalachian-American photographer Ashley Renee Hoffman

Appalachia describes the cultural and geographical region in the contiguous United States that stretches from southern New York to northern Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi. At the 2010 census, 25 million people were reported to inhabit this land of sleepy hollers and ancient mountains. That’s a substantial population to overlook, and that’s precisely what has happened.

But Appalachia is now subject to new examination in the aftermath of Trump’s election. Called the “Heart of Trump Country,” the state of West Virginia alone voted for Trump at an overwhelming 69.9%. As the United States attempts to dissect a territory that significantly contributed to Trump’s win, suddenly Appalachia is gaining attention from major media outlets—but the current narrative desperately needs locals to tell their own stories. The call for Appalachian-Americans to report about home is more important than ever.

100 Days in Appalachia, launched by West Virginia University, was created by Appalachian-Americans seeking to investigate this region that America forgot, asking “What does Appalachia tell us?” The project is working to make sense of the complicated narratives and social and economic factors that have contributed to “Trump Nation.” From 100 Days in Appalachia:

“100 Days in Appalachia was created to take a closer look at just what makes this region such a flashpoint for so many of the social, economic and political fractures in American communities. If we are indeed ‘Trump Nation,’ Appalachia’s story is now America’s story.”

Born and raised in Appalachia, Boshemia’s editor-in-chief Eileen Elizabeth has been following the 100 Days in Appalachia project closely since its launch. Boshemia reached out to Lena Camilletti to learn more about her role in the project. Eileen is thrilled to introduce Lena and share the work of 100 Days in Appalachia with Boshemia readers.

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Lena, introduce yourself to our readers.

I’m a West Virginia native, born and raised in the Eastern Panhandle of the state. I’ll graduate from West Virginia University in May with a Bachelor’s of Science in Journalism and a minor in English. My passion is telling stories with human concern at the core, and as I move forward into my career, I want to reveal the humans being affected by the news – the reason the news matters at all.

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Tell us about your project.

100 Days in Appalachia is a publication that was launched by WVU’s Reed College of Media in January. The purpose of the project is to tell the stories of people in Appalachia who are being affected by the new administration. Appalachia played a key role in electing President Trump – it clung to his words, “I’ll bring back coal” and the support grew from there. Our goal has been to dive into Trump Nation and understand the narratives of individuals who are now facing this reality.

What is your role in this project? 

I am student editor for the 100 Days in Appalachia weekly newsletter. I and one other student, Kaitlin Davis, work with a journalism class lead by Bob Britten. The newsletter contains six beats: Environmental/Energy, Education, International, Health, Human Interest, and Activism. Each student is assigned a beat and submits at least 5 story pitches to be included in the newsletter each week. We treat the Wednesday class time as our newsroom, and members of each beat discuss which stories they think should be included in the newsletter, ranking the top 5 submissions. From there, Kaitlin and I create the newsletter, picking two stories for each beat to be included – it’s sent out every Thursday at 2 pm. 

What stories are you telling? Why is this important to you and the world at large?

We are reaching into Appalachia in a way the national media can’t, trying to better understand its narrative and how it contributes to the national narrative as a whole. Many of these people believe or believed in Trump’s movement to Make America Great Again, a promise to enhance their lives – bring back coal, create jobs, etc.regionmap.gif

It’s important for these stories to rise as the administration does or does not follow through with campaign promises because these are the people the promises were appealing to. It’s important for this region to be part of the greater narration that allowed this presidency.

How do you resist? 

I’m a proud West Virginian – I’ve lived here my entire life, I’m finishing my undergraduate education at an in-state university that has provided incredible opportunities for professional and personal growth. But, for the first time in my life, I don’t identify with what my state stands for. This time last year, I didn’t think Trump really had a chance, and to be completely honest, I wasn’t genuinely active in politics. I didn’t go out of my way to campaign for Bernie or Hillary, nor try to influence the community in a greater way. I had a voice on social media, but I can’t pretend I put in the work that needed to be contributed beyond that. The day after the election, MAGA garb flooded campus. Previous to Trump’s victory, I hadn’t seen that overwhelming presence he had at WVU, and that was when I realized the complexities of silence. My silence was based on theirs – that can never happen again.

Right now, I’m learning how to be an effective part of the resistance. I think a key part of resisting is truly gaining an understanding of what, who and why you’re resisting. Ultimately, yes, it’s the new administration, but it’s also so much more than that. It’s every supporter who brought Trump to power, every idea that doesn’t encourage equality, and every person that tells me I’m being obnoxious with my passion for wanting our nation to not stand for oppression. 100 Days in Appalachia is one way I’m able to be part of the resistance because it’s allowing truthful stories to rise. Truth will be what allows change and contributing to the circulation of stories and content that matter, that’s part of my resistance.

What advice do you offer other young folks who are working against the current administration? 

Resisting comes in many forms. It can be attending protests or marches, donating to Planned Parenthood or the ACLU, or simply having the willingness to sit down with someone who has opposing beliefs, and engaging in an open discussion about each of your beliefs. Resistance doesn’t have to be in the form of grand gestures, it has to be a movement in the direction for the greater good of our communities, and we’re all capable of being part of that movement.

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You can subscribe to the newsletter here.

Follow 100 Days in Appalachia on TwitterFacebook, or visit http://www.100daysinappalachia.com/.

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