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Archive for October, 2010

Muybridge, blue chair

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Brooke Neal

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The Rising

The sound of drumming against earth. The beat of a heart. The thud of a hammer. The rhythm, the repetition of boots against the earth. Waves of sound across the air. The sky is gray. The air hangs with mist, wet from the threat of a downpour. The voices come rolling over the streets, through the artificial valleys created by manmade artifice. The echo of change is in the air, on the wind, and at the door…the door of the highest office in the land. The voices lapping against this door, like a steady tide, are the voices of the youth. They are the voices of the old, of the everyday man, woman, and child from the hills of Appalachia. They are calling for change. Obama promised it. He said, “Vote for me, and I will bring change!” Every worker in America heard it. Every teacher in America heard it. Every student in America heard it. Everyone who is anyone heard the words which Obama brought with him…the words of change. But the problem is we haven’t seen it.

In these days, September 24th through the 27th, a people marched in Washington. Now, I know and I’ve been reminded as I put this story together that a thousand people, twice over, march in Washington every day. They bring to the Capital lawn a multitude of issues. But in these days, in the days of the rising, the people of Appalachia, who are a people that have been set apart by the system, bring a demand to the door of Washington. It’s a clear one. It is not laden with subtlety or bureaucratic jargon. The demand is, “Give us our respect! Put an end to the extraction mindset in Appalachia!”

We have been told time and time again by outside voices how we should define ourselves. We have even been told what our own poverty is and what it means. Outsiders have proscribed many solutions, and from those visits we in central Appalachia have even gained allies…people who begin to know us for who we really are: the strong, the independent, the creatively gifted persons that walk these hills. For every ally that we gain, however, there are ten extraction companies whose eyes glow green with dollar signs at their first glance of our majestic land. We have a history of standing strong against them, and before the marching began on the 24th, I was convinced that our history of standing up to them had been lost. However, the cries from Blair Mountain rise up in our march, but for so many, the triumph of Blair Mountain is still muffled because many of our good, hardworking coal miners are convinced that the only truth is a truth doled out by the company’s store, a truth woven on the tongue of the company boss. We must uncover our history and claim it as our own before it too is brought to rubble. Though these cries are muffled still, the workers of the past and the success of their struggle is becoming more rooted as the people’s history is revealed. The true truth is rising. Coal will end. That door is closing.

On this march, all of us showed physical solidarity with our mountain home, but we each did it in our own way. Some marched, some got arrested, others went to the table to speak to Obama’s people. Each of us marched in with our own skill, but we sang in one voice, “Who’s side are you on, Mr. Obama? What side are you on, Mr. President?” Central Appalachia is rising. Some of the threshing comes from those who feel that their life blood is coal dust, and others of us who know that the practice of mountaintop removal is identical to the bombings of Cambodia and Laos. We demand an end to the slavery of our people and the destruction of our land.

What side are you on, Mr. President?

For more information, go to http://www.friendsofblairmountain.org/

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