On The Map: Preserving Appalachia

Photograph by Giles Ashford

By Rachel Beth Rudi, Digital Contributor
In this week’s update from the Rural Arts and Culture Map, we wish to turn your attention toward Preserving Appalachia, a branch of Appalachian Mountain Advocates. Through public law and policy, AMA supports Appalachian communities’ health and well-being, and fights the coal industry that has jeopardized same.
As most of AMA’s work occurs in the policy realm, Preserving Appalachia was developed by Dan Radmacher to celebrate and promote the rich heritage, past and present, of the mountains and reveal the beauty of an oft-misunderstood region. Writes Mr. Radmacher:
Preserving Appalachia probably had its origins in the first donor appeal letter I wrote my second week on the job. In that, I said this:

I’m writing to you today to talk about a new focus for the [AMA]. We will continue our successful legal battles that help stop the worst abuses, but we recognize that the fight for Appalachia cannot be won in the courtroom alone. This is a battle for the hearts and minds of the people of this region, and those outside it who enjoy the benefits of cheap electricity without considering the unseen costs. We need to engage in the court of public opinion as well as courts of law.

As I said in my final column in The Roanoke Times before coming to work for the Center, ‘The debate is about coal, climate change, state and federal regulations, the fragile economies of states like Kentucky and West Virginia, and the mountains, rivers and forests of Appalachia. It involves complex, emotionally powerful issues involving people’s jobs, their health, their homes and their children.’

Writing that, I realized that one of my main goals needed to be helping those outside of Appalachia understand what is so special about Appalachia – to see both why it’s worth saving and why moving away from it is simply not an option for so many residents. 

The notion [of Preserving Appalachia] is to supplement our work opposing mountaintop removal mining with educational and entertaining videos highlighting Appalachian art and artists as part of an effort to show why Appalachia is so worth preserving.

Mr. Radmacher has added to our videos to the map that feature the old-time music of the Black Twig Pickers and the fiery poetry of Crystal Good. As the project is still in its beginning stages, he also is eager to receive names of others whose work aligns with that of Preserving Appalachia and AMA. Much more is to come, and the artistry Preserving Appalachia is curating is fortifying a strong, and far more understood, Appalachian voice.