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View Diary: Down & Out in West Virginia (31 comments)

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  •  as a native of WV (21+ / 0-)

    Who has spent all of my adult life in the deep south (Alabama and Mississippi), I thank you for this. West Virginia is a mystery. The natural beauty battles with the natural resources for the affection of the people. The land has been pillaged, the people were complicit, and they now have nothing to show for it.
     All they want, all they ever wanted was a little something to call their own, a little dignity and a living wage. Those of us who left still hear the mountains call to us but all that is left are ghosts.

    •  I teach the children of ghosts then..... (12+ / 0-)

      I see the ambitious and eager, trying to learn and fearing they aren't smart enough.  Folks here have a major insecurity complex that they aren't good enough or smart enough.  I write grants to get funds to take technology and robots to the rural areas with some amazing teachers.  I know amazing people teaching the teachers math using the internet- and the teachers work all day and then go home and study math at night to do a better job.  My mantra is, "There are smart people everywhere."  I know McDowell county is a problem, bit another one of my McDowell county students left here to get a Ph.D. in biochemistry- smart kid.  And in one of my first biotech classes I had 3 (three!!) WV kids complete their Ph.D.s and all are doing post-docs.  Last year three of my graduates left for medical school- one for an MD/Phd.  My job is to give them the pep talk and help them devise a strategy to get them where they need to be and encourage them to rebuild the world.  My job is to tell them they will change the world for the better- they are the future and will see amazing things.

      And lest you think I am some sort of saint, last week there were 100 undergraduates presenting their research data at the state capital and each of them had someone like me doing the same thing- giving pep taks, writing a grant to fund them, sponsoring them for summer research, editing their writing with them, showing them PubMed and EndNote and telling them to take the GRE and dream big.  And none of us are paid enough and we all breath the same dirty air and lament the same desctruction of the environment.

      I appreciate the unvarnished truth of the films of McDowell county.  But when the film makers want to come to the Appalachian film festival, they come to my town and we show up for their films.  If we can celebrate locally grown food, we can also celebrate locally grown education and entrepreneurship.  

      We need some seed money and microloans to take these film makers to the next level.  We can't just encourage people to flee the state and wring our hands over the hopelessness.  We need to sustain the project and amplify the voices in the hills, not just post statistics that say the state doesn't like Obama,  so write them off.  I know that isn't directly to this commenter, but to the whole theme of Appalachian despair vs how to foment the change to make this a vibrant place with happy people.  Appalachians are more unhappy than people living in the inner cities.  They are often fatalistic and accepting of fate, expecting a better world in the afterlife.  But the young students I have love technology and cell phones and the internet- and I have tremendous hope for the future.  Just don't write us off.

      You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you mad. Aldous Huxley

      by murrayewv on Tue Mar 05, 2013 at 04:24:15 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  i am sorry i sounded dismissive (5+ / 0-)

        Not my intent. I am doing what you do, but in another easily dismissed corner, the Mississippi Delta, where our robber barons are Monsanto and the corporate agriculture lobby.

        By ghosts I meant that, for many of us who left, our heritage is there. My family on both sides goes back generations, but everyone is gone. My home town is sliding off the hill and burning to the ground, literally. The future of WV is hopeful because there are people who will stand up and find a new way forward. My sadness is for the way of life that is gone. True everywhere but a personal sadness for me.

        •  As someone who lives in the Delta... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          side pocket

          I cannot recommend highly enough that you check out the trailers/teasers for the film deepsouth by Lisa Biagiotti. I have been shamelessly shilling for this thing for going on a year now because it is so incredible.

          It takes a look at the lives of three folks living in the deep south and dealing with HIV/AIDS in one way or another. There's a AIDS advocate from AIDS Alabama (Kathie Hiers, a remarkable woman), a woman from Lousiana who has been living well with HIV for over 2 decades now and who runs a retreat for folks in her area living with HIV, and a young gay African-American man in Mississippi strugggling to gain a foothold on what it means to be Out and Positive in the South with a family that doesn't support him.

          The website is:

          I have seen the thing more times than I can count and even brought the film to the University of Maryland-Baltimore this past November for a screening because I know it is something my fellow future social workers and nurses and doctors needed to see.

          There is actually a screening of the film in Oxford on March 26th  and it will be at the Crossroads Film Festival in mid-April.

      •  For me the real question is not... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        hazey, annan

        whether or not there are intelligent young boys and girls in places like McDowell county who will go off and earn PhDs and Masters degrees, but how it is that we get them and their equally gifted classmates to come down and revitalize the region.

        This isn't just a problem in McDowell County and West Virginia at large, but all across the South and rural America. Great teachers like yourself can only prepare these children for success in the wider can't make them come back.

        If ever there was a place for Federal funding for workforce development and innovations, Appalachia is it. Hopefully the innovations center the Obama Administration has funded in Youngstown, OH presages a move towards investment and development of rural America that helps folks transition from the traditional manufacturing jobs taht have dried up to newer tech/health care jobs that are booming.

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