Libraries to Host #WeAreAppalachia Celebration – OHIO University Libraries

Libraries to Host #WeAreAppalachia Celebration

On Thursday, March 28, the Libraries will host a series of events for #WeAreAppalachia, a daylong celebration of the diversity of the Appalachian region. Crystal Wilkinson, award-winning author and Associate Professor of English at the University of Kentucky, will make a keynote presentation beginning at 10:30am on the 4th floor of Alden Library.

The #WeAreAppalachia celebration was developed by Tiffany Arnold, Lecturer in the College of Health Sciences and Professions who also leads the new Appalachian Studies Certificate program and a faculty learning community for those integrating the study of the region into their courses and service learning programs. 

Crystal Wilkinson
Keynote speaker Crystal Wilkinson. Photo by Justin Skeens.

Arnold notes that discussions of Appalachian identity often miss out on exploring the region’s diversity, instead drawing on stereotypical images of an overwhelming white region mired in an endless struggle with poverty. The series of events, Arnold hopes, will showcase the many ways in which these stereotypes miscast a region that is increasingly diverse and with a wide range of strengths that run counter to the narratives shared about the region, especially in the wake of the 2016 election. Arnold hopes that the event will foster regional pride for attendees, and that “by exploring the vast diversity and research that is happening here, we can gain a new perspective for the place that we live.” 

The March 28 celebration comes after a recent campus showing of “Coal Black Voices,” a documentary about Affrliachian poets; African American writers who challenge the whitewashed image of the region while drawing on traditions of African and African diaspora art and culture in the United States. Keynote speaker Crystal Wilkinson, who is featured in “Coal Black Voices,” writes essays, short stories, and novels in addition to poetry. Wilkinson’s recent essay in The Oxford American describes how the work of Gayl Jones has helped her “write fictional lives that reflect my own dual experiences as black and Appalachian,” using “black, Appalachian vernacular.” In addition to her keynote presentation, Wilkinson will also lead a workshop on using personal memories to make art and writing at the Multicultural Center (219 Baker Center). 

The day’s events will begin with a discussion about Appalachian images and identity led by Arnold, who will draw upon photos of the region as seen through the eyes of those who live there. All are welcome to share photos using the #WeAreAppalachia hashtag on Instagram or Twitter, or by sharing images on the event’s Facebook listing. After Wilkinson’s keynote presentation, Arnold will lead a panel discussion of those whose own dual identities shape their experiences as residents of the region, in a panel called “Appalachia and…” Events at Alden Library will conclude with a series of student presentations on research about the region.

#WeAreAppalachia will culminate at the Athens County Public Libraries branch in Athens with an open mic event hosted by Bruce Dalzell. Attendees are invited to share songs, stories, poems, art and dances that share their unique understanding of what it means to be Appalachian.

All of the #WeAreAppalachia events are open to the OHIO community (including class sections) and the public. Questions about the event or requests for accommodations can be directed to Tiffany Arnold (arnoldt2@ohio.edu).

Full schedule of events:

Time Event Location
9:00-10:20am Appalachian Identity Discussion 4th floor Alden Library
10:30am-12:00pm Keynote Presentation by Crystal Wilkinson 4th floor Alden Library
12:00-1:20pm Appalachia and… Panel Discussion 4th floor Alden Library
1:30-2:50pm Student Research Presentations 4th floor Alden Library
3:00-4:00pm Mining Memories Workshop with Crystal Wilkinson Multicultural Center (219 Baker Center)
6:30-8:00pm Sharing Identity Through Art & Music Open Mic Athens Public Library (30 Home Street)