In December, Brett Ratliff and I gathered with other Appalachian Transition Fellows and host communities in Knoxville, Tennessee to celebrate a year of working and learning across the region. I was one of ten App Fellows through the Highlander Center engaged in a variety of projects in Appalachia related to economic transition. During our closing gathering, fellows shared about their work in land justice, food access, farming, community organizing, arts, communication, and more. Together, we considered what “just transition” means in global and local contexts, and how we can build an equitable, livable region across generations. I was encouraged to hear about the collective work that fellow fellows were a part of over the last year, and filled with gratitude for this family of folks committed to the region for the long haul.
My work as an App Fellow centered in collaborating with Hindman Settlement School to create a framework for the East Kentucky Food & Dance Trail, an initiative that shares stories and connects people across the region through food and dance. We see these two things as ways that people gather together that are both rooted and expansive. This project celebrates events like the long running square dance in Carcassonne, Kentucky as well as new performances like Cornbread & Tortillas, which merges Appalachian and Latinx culture. This project shares stories of traditional Appalachian foodways and festivals, while also highlighting events like A Seat at the Table that honor the diversity present in these mountains. The more we encourage each other to eat together, move together, and be together, the more relationships grow, the more connected our communities become, the more this is a place where people want to be and want to take care of one another, for this generation and generations to come.
I’m grateful to have been connected to the long and broad history of social justice work of the Highlander Center through the App Fellows program, and to see cultural organizing as important part of community work. For those interested in knowing more about the fellowship, including applying for the next cohort of fellows or hosts, check out the App Fellows website. Fellow applications are due January 15th and fellows will start in June.
I’m also grateful to keep working on the Food & Dance Trail with the Settlement School beyond the fellowship! We will continue adding places and stories to our evolving website that highlights food and dance in east Kentucky. Please be in touch if you are interested in connecting with this growing network of food and dance enthusiasts!