My Grandfather, Earl O'Neal used to say West "BY GOD" Virginia in his booming - I mean it - voice. You know the one we hear as children and we choose to either start running or freeze with fear? Most times I'd freeze in awe, to listen to whatever he was raising hell about.
Now, I'm not saying Grandfather was one to pick a fight, but I will say he was one to carry a conversation to conclusion. I guess he would have been the rooster in a hen house because men tended to listen to him and seek him out for help.
I remember one day Grandfather was saying to me, "do you know why we say West "BY GOD" Virginia?
I said, "no".
He said it was because "we" (WV) was a FREE State. A Union State and not one of those Slave States.
I have never heard anyone tell me a different reason as to why that is, I can attest to the fact that my family has always believed that "BY GOD" meant so and have always been proud of it.
On a trip home one spring I found Grandmother outside reading curled up on the porch swing. The squeaky sound was comforting to a sleepy head such as myself and I climbed up beside her and got under the warm blanket.
I asked her what she was reading and she showed me a Dictionary.
She said, "I always try to learn three new words a day".
I was quite amazed by that. She told me she never went to high school or graduated. She said a person should never stop learning to improve themselves, and then I realized all the times she'd correct my grammar or explain the difference in this word and that word; she was teaching me to be more than she was.
She used to say, "Jeana I don't want people to assume anything about you by the way you talk". So, I listened and learned.
She said, "I may have come from a hollow,and had flour sacks sewn for clothes, but no-one knows that by talking to me". "Remember this the rest of your life".
Never let anyone call you a hillbilly.
Well! I was stunned! I kinda liked the Beverley Hillbillies on television and I thought who didn't like Ellie Mae, Granny, or Jethrow Bodine?
So I asked her, "why not"?
She got as serious as a heart attack and said; "Because Hillbilly is a derogatory name meant to define Mountain folk - us - as uneducated, uncouth, moonshiners, and inbred".
"It is meant to plant a false belief in peoples' minds that Mountaineers are people who are ignorant and not worthy of respect".
She continued to explain to me that people are labeled to be exploited for their Labor. It then diminishes their ability to be heard.
"Don't you ever let them call you anything but a Mountaineer from West Virginia, and always remember our state motto, Mountaineers are ALWAYS FREE".
See, it never occurred to me that I had witnessed our families choice to be all they could be in a free Democracy.
Grandmother told me that when Grandfathers Irish people came over there were signs that said HELP WANTED---IRISH NEED NOT APPLY!!!
I have seen firsthand what America can do for immigrant families such as ours.
There, that morning in 1970, Maxine Faye O'Neal was in her quiet, personal, way, teaching me her way of becoming a better person as in the way the President has said something of a quiet unshakable faith that it was not where you came from that mattered, it was where you were going. I took it to mean just that.
Grandmother cleaned houses for a living and the only thing she could do for herself and her children was to continue to be self taught and continue to learn. She is alive today and I am so grateful she is my wonderful Grandmother.
I am proud that I came from a State that was the only state to form by seceding from a Confederate state!
At the Wheeling Convention, West Virginia was born and admitted to the Union, June 20th, 1863 as a free state; even if it was for the Coal that was much needed for the North to retain strategic area, to the people there it was a matter of personal pride that they were not slave owners nor Southerners.
I hate it today when I read the "Profile" section of the paper on Sunday to find West "BY GOD" Virginia stuck in with all the southern states as if some newspaper conglomerate has demoted us to second class citizenship. I protest! And I protest to the Census Bureau to!
Now, to say second class is to say a lot. I mean to tell you that the Southern States seceded from the Union and have never came back. I don't want to prolong a story but it must be this way. You see the "Redneck War" or better known Battle for Blair Mountain was fought because of the harsh exploitation of human beings, white, black, and immigrant for their cheap labor as expendable as trash. If they thought of themselves as a Free State do you really think they were not canny and smart enough to comprehend the gravity of their unique situation by 1920?
No-one wants you to ever know about Blair Mountain, because if whites and blacks ever got it figured out that we are as worthless in the eyes of corporations as the Mexicans or any other so called "alien" we would have an evolution of Brotherhood. One in which we did not fight each other over minimum wage, sorry ass, jobs. They have hid the fact of a Coal Mining Union in which black were paid equal wages to whites because it is not expedient to British or American business men that the Negros nor Crackers ever work together in harmony.
In West Virginia, for one brief moment we saw ourselves as the land of opportunity with freedom and justice for all; yes, just like the Freedman's Bureau in charge of reconstruction of the South pulled out within 20 years; within 20 years the Battle of Blair Mountain was snuffed away from memory and within 7 years of the battle (1928) the KKK was 6 million strong marching on DC. Coincidence? We think not. States began legislating Jim Crow Laws to subjugate a nation of poor people, white "trash" and black. The white were fooled into seeing themselves as better because of color; another lie to separate us. Why my own Uncle cried tears and grieved because he said as a little boy in the 1940's the KKK was so thick in West Virginia everyone believed what they said about blacks being less than human. He cried because he was lied to and he felt shame for believing the rhetoric he was so carefully taught.
The KKK is alive today. Be wise. Be aware.
The South HAS NEVER ceded back and has not shown any intention of doing so.
She takes Federal Dollars and does not enforce Federal Law. The South is our collective disgrace for the racism we see today and the punitive legislation called "Right to Work".
I, for one, am calling for a remembrance of the KKK and their rise to great power in 1928. It was to stifle forever the story of Blair Mountain where whites, blacks, and immigrants were breaking bread and working together. The powers in Europe and the United States who owned the mineral rights to coal and gas would have none of it and neither has any administration since the Civil Rights movement. Indeed, Blair Mountain was placed on the National Historic Registry and removed. This is the only time that has ever happened! Big Coal wants a Mountain destroyed to remove any visible evidence or memory of a collective Brotherhood of Mand of Man. The moment the United States Army was called in, they laid down arms, thinking they will finally have congressional review of the atrocities that had befallen them. Sometimes here in Georgia I wish they'd come review the retribution one receives if you are color mixing and talking economics or running candidates who are not the chosen ones. This can be dangerous and I personally know of southern democratic candidates whose livelihood, families, and very lives are threatened if they considered calling for a recount. IT has to STOP.
The Unions have had their place in racism to and so has the Democratic Dixiecrat. All have dirty hands that need washing. Grandfather told me the trials an tribulations of being an elected business manager for the Union and being labeled a Communist because he fought for wages for the black employees who elected him.
Yes, I have much to tell you, but for this election I will stop here.
Yet, who gets the Hope and Change? The ones who fought for the rights of others or the ones who now stand as Southern Dixie Democrats? We must come together as a Nation to heal from our shame or be bound to fight again for those who went before. As Tupac sang, "and still, I see no changes."
Let us win this election and work on changing the DEEP SOUTH forever, and claim the healing this Nation so sorely needs and desires. We want to be a community, a town, a city, a nation, a Republic of the United States who has not forgotten their upbringing but betters themselves through humility and reconciliation. Healing wounds takes time and we are running out of that commodity. Take back the House and Senate in 2014 and let's start healing, by our love, compassion, and awareness of all people's suffering and not just our own.
"Hate Fears, what Love Does" - Jeana Brown during the Midterms 2010; Red Polk County Florida's "Campaign for Accountability" office.