New Story: West Virginia Seizes the Narrative

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I spent two amazing days in Morgantown, WV last week for New Story 2017. This is my second time at the conference, which features some of the most amazing initiatives taking place in my home state. New Story is reclaiming West Virginia’s narrative, providing a networking opportunity for people doing work in the state accomplish the following (as noted on the New Story ’17 website (emphasis added).

New Story is:

  • Taking matters into its own hands.
  • A two-day festival of workshops, screenings, demos and spitballing about media, DIY placemaking, communications, tech, entrepreneurship, organizing, dreaming big and rabble-rousing in Appalachia.
  • The people behind innovative and extraordinary things happening across the state that are blowing up stereotypes of life in West Virginia.
  •  One for the trouble-makers.
  • Like a music festival, only less sweaty. There’ll be new sessions happening all the time, happy hours breaking out, and you can come and go as you please. There are quiet places to work, restaurants downstairs, a bar upstairs, and a pool and gym next door. Perfecto.
  •  Free
  • Pulled together by the West Virginia Community Development Hub and a bevy of excellent people doing excellent things across Appalachia

Much like last year, New Story was offered an impressive series of discussions, presentations and mind-blowing projects that are reshaping West Virginia’s image and economic future.

Here are a few samples of what was discussed:

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100 Days in Appalachia is a new on-line media site dedicated to “take a closer look at just what makes this region such a flashpoint for so many of the social, economic and political fractures in American communities.” The idea for 100 Days in Appalachia was born during the 2016 election, as they note “[i]f we are indeed “Trump Nation,” Appalachia’s story is now America’s story.” The site is run by a cohort of impressive journalists and photographers who are covering Appalachia 100 days at a time, looking at the Paris Climate Accord and climate change, land rights, Trump’s infrastructure & healthcare plans, the much more. 100 Days in Appalachia is an impressive news site for Appalachia and the word by the people who live in the region.

There were several panels on events taking place in Huntington–one about starting festivals to bring communities together, and a project called “BAM” (which I thought was an acronym, but apparently, is not) where the Huntington City Planner teamed with local artists and musicians to clean up abandoned storefronts for pop-up festival events to bring community members with artists and artisans into areas of the city that have been neglected. The events themselves have been well attended and a success, but BAM has helped redevelop the blocks in the city where the BAM took place.   You can read more about the latest BAM project here.  I will also note that I had a hard time finding anything on the web about the BAM projects. I hope they’ll set up a website soon.

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Highland Outdoors is a free publication that you’ll find at most WV Visitor’s Centers but is also on-line here. If you’re looking for guides for rock climbing, hiking, kayaking, rafting or any other outdoor adventure, Highland Outdoors is your go-to guide for West Virginia adventures.

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But this is more than a promotional magazine. It has some amazing writing and photography demonstrating the breathtaking sites and adventures waiting for you in the Mountain State. Highland Outdoors is a resource that will help shape the image of West Virginia’s wild, wonderful landscape.

I could go on, but I’ll stop here. New Story ’17 was two days of inspiration and motivation. I’m thrilled to be refocusing my scholarly work to West Virginia and Appalachian Studies. So many good things are happening right now.

 

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Buck Wild! Another “discovery” of Appalachia

UK Professor Alexandra Bradner offers her analysis of MTV’s BuckWild:

America’s favorite joke is anything but funny: MTV’s “Buckwild” joins a long tradition of skewering “hillbillies”

BY ALEXANDRA BRADNER

On the night before the premiere of their new MTV reality show “Buckwild ” — which aired last Thursday — Shain Grandee and Kristina Shae Bradley appeared as exotic guests on “Late Night With Jimmy Fallon.” Grandee offered Fallon a glass jar of deer meat. “Killed it myself,” Grandee explained. “We skin it and process it all at the house and everything.”

“Weirdest coincidence. Common [the previous guest] brought me the same gift,” joked Fallon, before asking what he was supposed to do with the meat. Grandee said, “Heck, you can just get a fork and eat it right out of the jar, if you want to.” Fallon dropped his face into his hands and shook his head at the thought of it. But when the slowly escalating cheers from his studio audience reached a fever pitch, he unscrewed the lid, stuck his finger cautiously into the jar, and gave the crowd what they wanted.

Grandee bolted out of his seat with his arms over his head and unself-consciously screamed, “Wo-o-o! That’s awesome!” But his stylishly dressed friend and costar remained seated uncomfortably with her legs crossed, clearly preoccupied with how she was being perceived. Fallon asked her about the predictable controversy surrounding the series, the claim from former governor and current Sen. Joe Manchin that the program, which shows her group of nine friends riding ATVs, “mudding” and pursuing other creative forms of low-cost fun, perpetuates negative stereotypes of Appalachians. She had quickly responded to the same question on at least two other shows by saying that she represents only herself and not an entire state. But, in this moment, nothing came out. She looked sad and thoughtful, like an animal suddenly realizing that it’s not a peer, a friend or a community member — it’s lunch.

Buck Wild cast on Jimmy Fallon

Read the rest of the article on Salon.com.