It has been a powerful fall, with the passing of anti-MTR activist Larry Gibson, and his subsequent memorial. For those of you who haven’t heard of Larry, he was a persistent and emotive force in the fight to end mountain-top removal and coal extraction in Appalachia. He motivated countless people to join the movement for a healthy future for Appalachia, and he will be deeply missed.
Two weekends ago a memorial was held in Charleston commemorating Larry’s life. His friend, long time activist Ken Hechler, now 98 years old, took the stage to speak about how much Larry had meant to him. As he took the stage, I found myself unexpectedly shaking with emotion. Here was a man who had fought most of his life for civil rights and environmental justice. This man had chosen a long, long lifetime of hard emotional work, work that at times had threatened his life. Larry, too, had chosen that life of emotional and physical vulnerability for what he believed in. Others, like those who fought for the union 100 years ago- did the same, and many lost their lives.
You can stand up for justice in one moment, and lose your life the next, or you can stand up and keep that fight going for decades, and you can never know which it will be.
This is why the story of Blair Mountain moves me so much- the fact that workers were willing to listen to that inner spark that whispered earnestly for a life with greater dignity, and that so many were willing to claim that dignity, even if only for a few short days before their lives were taken in battle. We must honor all who choose to fight daily for their dignity- from union workers to anti-mountain top removal activists. We are all in the same fight.
This last month also saw a blow in efforts to save Blair Mountain, when a judge threw out an appeal by several groups looking to restore Blair Mountain’s historic landmark status. You can read more about the decision here. Frustratingly, the judge wasn’t ruling on the question of whether Blair had historic significance. Instead his decision was based on his judgment that the outcome of the case wouldn’t help protect Blair from mining. There should be no question that Blair’s placement on the National Register of Historic Places would markedly affect its level of vulnerability from coal extraction!
There is much work to be done as this struggle continues, and part of that work is based around conveying the story of Blair to new audiences.
I am working on educational materials and presentations to bring the story of the WV Mine Wars to audiences across the country. As I do this, I want to hear from YOU, as someone who cares about this history, to tell me why saving Blair is important to you.
Please take the time to answer the questions below, to help me develop strategies of effective communication and story-telling in the battle to save Blair.
Preferably, you can copy and paste the answers into another e-mail, and send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Questions #1-4 relate to the March on Blair Mountain. If you did not attend the March, please skip to question #5.
1) Why were you motivated to attend the March on Blair Mountain in June 2011?
2) Did your motivations to be a part of the March change as the march progressed?
3) If you could name your most inspiring or impacting experience on the march, what would it be? Why was it so powerful? These can also be negative experiences.
4) What is your ideal vision for what happens to Blair? How does this relate to your ideal vision for the future of Appalachia?
5) What do you know about who owns Blair or controls its fate?
6) Have you done anything to promote the need to save Blair? If so, what?
7) When/If you discuss Blair with people who don’t know about it history, what parts of Blair’s story do you focus on?
What values do you hold that make saving Blair Mountain a priority for you?
9) What are your feelings, if any, on mountain-top removal coal mining? If you care concerned about this form of mining, why? How do you feel it affects you?
Attached below is a press announcement for the Blair Pathways CD. If you are on any relevant listservs, I encourage you to take the time to post the announcement and get the word out! Also, link to our website on your facebook account: www.blairpathways.com. Most of our website traffic is sourced from facebook, so it means SO MUCH when you mention us!
In Song and Solidarity!
Available Now- Blair Pathways: A Musical Exploration of America’s Largest Labor Uprising
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Release of the Blair Pathways CD: A Musical Exploration of America’s Largest Labor Uprising
This fall marks the 92nd Anniversary of the March to Blair Mountain in West Virginia, a coal-field uprising of over 10,000. Rivaled only in scope by the Civil War, the rebellion lasted for nearly a week in an attempt to overthrow coal-field autocracy and establish union rights. Now a newly-released CD provides a fresh and invigorating vision of Appalachia’s coal-field history and the potential to preserve its past. Blair Pathways: A Musical Exploration of America’s Largest Labor Uprising is a collection of 20 engaging tracks drawn from archives and re-envisioned by contemporary musicians. Each piece focuses on a theme or event from West Virginia’s 20-year Mine War history, launching the listener through a diverse and engaging musical experience.
Declared “superb” and “inspiring” by musician Si Kahn, this collection truly reflects the diversity of coal-field culture in the early 20th century. “From forgotten labor anthems to gritty laments to soulful fiddle and banjo tunes,” writes labor historian Bruce Watson, “this collection digs deep into the lore of the region” and its musicians “perform with undeniable authenticity.” Over 25 award-winning musicians have created new works for the compilation, including Dom Flemons of the Carolina Chocolate Drops, Grammy-nominee band Jubal’s Kin and banjo player Riley Baugus, contributor to the Cold Mountain soundtrack.
In the past several years, the violent and complex story of coal extraction in Appalachia has been expressed through nationally recognized music media such as Kathy Mattea’s Grammy-nominated CD Coal and Robert Kennedy Jr.’s award-winning film The Last Mountain. Now the need to preserve Appalachia’s past and protect its contemporary ecosystems has become all the more urgent as Blair Mountain, WV- battle site of the 1921 miner’s uprising- faces destruction via mountain-top removal coal mining. CD Producer Saro Lynch-Thomason states: “We are in a critical moment which will decide the fate of Blair Mountain. This CD is a call to action for anyone who is touched by its music.”
As efforts to save Blair intensify, the Blair Pathways CD is an integral educational tool in helping audiences understand and celebrate Appalachia’s working class history. The CD is available in hard copy and digital download on the Blair Pathways website: blairpathways.com.
Phone: (615) 430-4323
Order the CD Now!
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