Building Cultural Bridges Through 'Mexilachian Music,' A Black Recreation Area Sees New Life, And Writer Marie Manilla On Being 'Urban Appalachian'
This week on Inside Appalachia, we'll hear what happens when a family with roots in Mexico and Appalachia combines its cultural identities through music. We'll also learn about a park called Green Pastures, created in 1937 in a small Appalachian Virginia town as a U.S. Forest Service-run outdoor recreation area specifically for Black residents. Green Pastures eventually fell into disrepair, but now it's seeing a makeover as one of Virginia’s newest state parks.
We’ll also hear how investigative reporters in Pittsburgh brought to light safety concerns in low-income housing. Writer Marie Manilla tells us why she identifies as an "urban Appalachian" and why she feels drawn to push against stereotypes of her region and her people.
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Virginia Restores Historic Natural Park
Green Pastures was created in 1937 at the behest of the NAACP chapter in a small Appalachian Virginia town as a U.S. Forest Service outdoor recreation area specifically for Black residents — not just in the Alleghany Highlands but for people in the larger region around it. Green Pastures officially integrated in 1950 and enjoyed a heyday as a destination and gathering place into the 1970s. But the park fell into disrepair, and the U.S. Forest Service closed its gates in recent years. That was until a local history group called What’s Your Story began collecting oral histories around Green Pastures. The memories turned into action, and in October, Gov. Ralph Northam announced that the park will reopen and be run as part of the Virginia state park system. West Virginia Public Broadcasting reporter and Inside Appalachia co-host Mason Adams attended the ribbon cutting and collected stories from Black residents who grew up playing at Green Pastures and are excited about its next chapter.
With Spanglish lyrics, the pluck of a banjo and strum of a guitarra de son, music by Charlottsville’s Lua Project is hard to place. The band defines its sound as “Mexilachian”— a blend of Appalachian old-time and Mexican folk music, but Lua members said their music also draws on Jewish and Eastern European traditions, with a dash of baroque and Scots-Irish influence.
Inside Appalachia Folkways reporter Clara Haizlett caught up with a couple members of the band at their home in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Last year, the Centers For Disease Control issued an eviction moratorium to keep the COVID-19 virus from spreading. In parts of central Appalachia, the moratorium was one of the few things keeping some families afloat, but now there’s no longer a federal policy in place to prevent evictions. The Supreme Court ruled against the Biden administration’s eviction moratorium on August 26, which ended protections that were supposed to extend into early October. As Katie Myers reports, the end of these eviction protections is creating new health risks.
Unsafe Living Conditions
An increase in evictions isn’t the only issue facing renters. Reporters Kate Giammarise and Rich Lord have been looking into various issues with the rental market in Pittsburgh for a year-long investigation called "Tenant Cities."
Inside Appalachia producer Roxy Todd spoke with them about what they discovered, and the impact of their reporting.
For a lot of writers, and publishers, Appalachia means stories about the rural experience — like coal mining or farming. Author Marie Manilla grew up with a different type of Appalachian experience in the city of Huntington, West Virginia. Manilla spoke with reporter Liz McCormick about why she identifies as "urban Appalachian," and how she uses her work to push for change in West Virginia and around the world.
Are you Appalachian?
For an upcoming episode, we’re asking listeners across our region, do you feel like you are Appalachian? Listeners in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, or in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia — do you identify as Appalachian? You can email us a voice memo to InsideAppalachia@wvpublic.org
Our theme music is by Matt Jackfert. Other music this week was provided by the Lua Project, Wes Swing, Jake Schepps, and Dinosaur Burps. Roxy Todd is our producer. Our executive producer is Andrea Billups. Kelley Libby is our editor. Our audio mixer is Patrick Stephens. Zander Aloi also helped produce this episode.
You can find us on Twitter @InAppalachia.
Inside Appalachia is a production of West Virginia Public Broadcasting.