Addressing Racism And Passing On Traditions Inside Appalachia

Jul 24, 2020

Across the globe, many people are wondering how to change society to deal with structural racism. It might all depend on our youth. Today’s episode of Inside Appalachia features people inspiring the next generation to change the world around them.

You’ll also hear a unique story about a group of women working to preserve an ancient tradition by passing on the skills and knowledge. 

Editor's note: An earlier version of this podcast incorrectly identified Enkeshi Thom El-Amin as Angela Dennis, and Angela Dennis and Enkeshi Thom El-Amin. The two cohosts' names of the podcast "Black In Appalachia" have been updated in this updated version of the audio. 

In This Episode

Black In Appalachia Project

Black In Appalachia" is a multimedia effort from a public television station in East Tennessee. They have been documenting the lives of Black Appalachians, producing short documentaries and a community history database. In August, the project will launch a new podcast. 

Jessica Lilly spoke with William Isom, the project’s director, about the significance of the project as a whole. She also spoke with Angela Dennis, one of the hosts of the new podcast. Dennis is a journalist and literary activist. The podcast debuts August 8.   

Publisher Ardre Ordie speaking with participants in the 100 Seeds of Promise program.
Credit Courtesy Photo

Telling Their Own Stories

Last year, Lee & Low Books, an independent publisher of children's and young adult literature, surveyed publishers across the country. They found that only five percent of children’s authors are Black. Most of the books in colleges and universities are written by white authors. 

Our associate producer Eric Douglas spoke with one woman in the publishing industry trying to change that. Ardre Ordie had a career in education before transitioning to the publishing industry. Now, she is working with Black men to help them tell their own stories using an initiative called the 100 Seeds of Promise.

What’s In A Name? 

If you’ve traveled along I-79 and seen signs for Big Chimney, just north of Charleston, you may have wondered “Where is this chimney, and how big is it, really?” Nestled close by, there are also the towns of Quick and Pinch. 

For the stories behind Quick, Pinch, and Big Chimney, Eric Douglas nosed around the community. As often happens, the best resource is a local librarian. 

Tanning Tradition

A group of women are reviving the art of tanning animal hides. It’s a traditional practice around the world. In recent years, though, certain tanning methods have fallen out of favor including the technique called brain tanning. Hide by hide, women in the region are reclaiming this practice. 

Inside Appalachia Folkways reporter Clara Haizlett, a brain tanner herself, brings us this story about women tanning hides in Athens, Ohio. Clara’s story is part of the Inside Appalachia Folkways Reporting Project.

  

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We had help producing Inside Appalachia this week from the Folkways Reporting Project. Special thanks to the West Virginia Folklife Program at the West Virginia Humanities Council.  

Our theme music is by Matt Jackfert. Other music this week was provided by Dinosaur Burps, Jake Scheppes, and Kaia Kater.

wvpublicnews · Addressing Racism And Passing On Traditions Inside Appalachia

Roxy Todd is our producer. Eric Douglas is our associate producer.  Our executive producer is Andrea Billups. We had help editing this episode from Helen Barrington, from PMJA’s Editor Corps. Our audio mixer is Patrick Stephens. 

Inside Appalachia is a production of West Virginia Public Broadcasting.