Affrilachian Poets highlighted in New Book Display – OHIO University Libraries

Affrilachian Poets highlighted in New Book Display

Authored by Jack Patterson

Graphic design by Jessica Hagman/Ohio University Libraries

On Thursday, March 28 Ohio University Libraries, the Appalachian Rural Health Institute, the Ohio University Multicultural Center along with various organizations on campus, will be hosting #WeAreAppalachia showcasing the diversity in identity, experience, and talents that can be found in this region.

In celebration of the event, the Libraries second floor book display highlights some of the work by Affrilachian poets: Crystal Wilkinson, Frank X. Walker, Nikkey Finney and Bianca Lynn Spriggs.

Founded in 1991 by Frank X. Walker, the Affrilachian Poets are a collective of authors who are committed to altering the all-white depictions of Appalachia that abound, especially in literature. Inclusive of numerous cultural backgrounds, the group uses its name as a gateway term with which to open eyes and bring attention to the diverse population of the region. Through numerous voices, perspectives, and artistic approaches, the group brings light to the themes of family, economic assumptions, and, of course, identity tied to one’s home.

Crystal Wilkinson, the keynote speaker of the event, is an award-winning author and associate professor of English at the University of Kentucky. Making use of various mediums including short stories, poetry, and essays, Wilkinson’s extensive body of work draws on a wide variety of life experiences, including a childhood during which she and her grandparents were the only black family in their area. One of her most celebrated works, “Blackberries, Blackberries,” focuses on similar stories shared by the many forgotten black community members in Appalachia.

Frank X. Walker, a poet hailing from Danville, Kentucky, coined the term “Affrilachia” in response to the frustrating depictions of Appalachia as a solely white populated region. Touching on a myriad of themes surrounding what it means to be black in Appalachia, Walker’s work envisions a world in which the social and literary legacies of the region are just as demonstrative of its black population as of the white population. Walker is also the Poet Laureate of Kentucky and the founder of the Affrilachian Poets.

Nikky Finney is one of the founding members of the Affrilachian Poets alongside Walker. Finney’s presence as the sole black speaker at a reading of supposedly all-encompassing Southern poetry spurred Walker to establish the group. The daughter of a civil rights attorney and a schoolteacher, Finney was raised in an environment that taught her the importance of social justice and cultural preservation, themes which are seen throughout her long and award-winning career.

Bianca Lynne Spriggs, an assistant professor at Ohio University, takes a fascinating approach to storytelling by using mythology, folklore, and other fictional elements, and marrying them with the incredibly real experiences of black people, particularly black women, in Appalachia and the South. Spriggs has also worked with visual mediums and music, often with a feminist perspective in mind. Rooted in storytelling, Spriggs’ poetry, no matter how fictional in appearance, remains focused on true life experience.

Be sure to stop by on the second floor to browse the display. For more information contact lorraine wochna at 740-597-1238 or wochna@ohio.edu