Hey folks! I’m excited to announce the launch of my Kickstarter project to make Testify a book, something for you to hold in your hands, from me to you. I need your help to make this happen, so please head over to the project page to learn more about it. Please contact me with any questions you may have. Thanks for helping me make this a reality!
My friend Cindy Shepherd from Oneida, Kentucky posted a poem on Facebook a few days ago, which was an exercise she planned to do with a group of elementary school children. After reading it, I was moved and inspired to write my own version of ‘Where I’m From.’
I’m from sitting quietly beneath a great birch tree in the hills, my heart beating in my chest as I watch my granddad nap, shotgun across his lap.
I’m from looking for crawdads in the creek, pant legs rolled up, and cold mud squishing between my toes.
I’m from where the Tug divides West Virginia and Kentucky and where you can’t tell the difference between the two.
I’m from soup beans and cornbread, and my mawmaw asking me to pour her “about this much” coffee.
I’m from church on Sunday, pews full, arms uplifted, and Jesus is coming soon.
I’m from where coal is king and the people are not, but they make their living and don’t complain.
I’m from where the Hatfields and McCoys fought and loved and died.
I’m from where the mountains meet the sky, wild and wonderful, and there’s no place more beautiful.
I’m from wanting to leave and needing to get back.
I also had the pleasure of speaking to my good friend Joy’s Introduction to Documentary Studies class at the Center for Documentary Studies. I shared some images from Testify and talked about the process of making the work. A few years ago, I was a student in Joy’s class, working on a project and trying to figure out where I was going with it. It was in this class, that I began to rethink my project, step away from it for a bit, and develop it into something altogether different, more personal and nuanced. If you’re even remotely interested in documentary work, I can’t recommend Joy’s class enough. I had a great time and met some great folks. Thanks for having me!
1. The Tug River from the West Virginia side near the Chattaroy Church of God, looking across into Kentucky, 1 March 2013.
2. Joy Salyers’ Introduction to Documentary Studies class, 14 March 2013, shot on Fuji Instax film.
“Our goal at Sustainable Williamson is to usher forth a national proactive movement of communities and companies united to make sustainability become a reality for individuals, communities, towns and cities across the nation. The “proactive” component of this movement consists of respecting communities that, both today and in the past, have provided resources that support our way of life. Whether it’s coal, silver, silica, natural gas, steel, rubber, or even superconductors, the message is always the same: We thank you for all your hard work! As a new sustainable economy unfolds, the economies and communities that are dependent upon finite resources should not collapse or suffer as a result of our economy transitioning to utilizing more sustainable resources.” J. Eric Mathis (above), Commissioner with the Williamson Redevelopment Authority.
Williamson is the county seat of Mingo County, West Virginia, the Heart of the Billion Dollar Coalfield. Once a bustling center of commerce and the hub of regional coal and banking industries, Williamson’s decline began following two major floods in 1977 and 1984. Like many Appalachian communities, Williamson’s fortunes have been tied to the coal industry (in some counties, up to 40% of jobs rely directly on coal). As the coal mining industry declined, many communities suffered. Today, the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) ranks Mingo County as one of the most economically distressed counties in Appalachia based on three economic indicators: average unemployment rates, per capita market income, and poverty rates. Problems in the community include high rates of poverty (21%), and serious issues of public health The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimates that 12.5% of adults in Williamson have diabetes and 35.3% are obese—both are above the national average. Many of these issues are exacerbated by a lack of resources—it is difficult for many citizens to purchase necessities to maintain or promote health, such as healthy food and medicine. [Excerpted from the project page here.]
Despite these statistics, big changes are happening in Appalachia. This is a great opportunity to make an impact and help Sustainable Williamson with their goal of redefining the economic landscape of the central Appalachian coalfields. Please consider being a part of this incredible project!
Support their campaign by contributing here: www.indiegogo.com/sustainablewilliamson
See the video here: https://vimeo.com/60905729
Testify is featured in this week’s Photo Journal in The Independent Weekly. You can pick up a copy until next Tuesday, 5 March 2013 and you can see the project in its entirety here. I’ll have a few more exciting announcements in the coming days and weeks.
Thanks for checking in!
- Looking at Appalachia | Tammy Mercure
- Sketches from Appalachia | May 2013
- Looking at Appalachia | Justin Kaneps
- Looking at Appalachia: Les Stone
- Review: Faith, Serpents, and Fire: Images of Kentucky Holiness Believers
- Testify: the Kickstarter Project
- Where I’m From
- Sustainable Williamson | Economic Diversification in Appalachia
- Testify featured in Oxford American’s EYES ON THE SOUTH
- Testify in The Independent Weekly