Reflection on “Do Black Lives Matter in Appalachia?”

When I watched Do Black Lives Matter in Appalachia from the Freedom Stories Project, I was overwhelmed with pride to see pictures of my home in Lynch, Kentucky. Some photos it shared were of my neighbors and even one from my father’s birthday party. I couldn’t help think of all the stories that were in the images alone. Then Moma Linda Goss begins her story with bells ringing; I believed the bells to be somewhat of a wake-up call or a call for attention to the history of the Black experience in Appalachia. Moma Linda Goss’s story was captivating, and her strong voice reminded me of home. I couldn’t help but think of how important storytelling is when talking about the black experience in Appalachia. Our stories are all that we have: our history has been erased in many different ways, but our stories will live on through us.

Do Black Lives Matter in Appalachia? I would also like to add my response to the question. Black Lives Matter in general, but from my lived experience, I will say that Black Lives are often overlooked in Appalachia. When I was in high school, one of my friends came to school and found a noose in his locker; nothing was ever done, and he moved away shortly after.

I can recall having to fight tooth and nail to convince my high school English teacher that the racist remarks coming from the back of the room were not just jokes. Nothing was ever done—I was gaslighted and made to seem like the angry Black kid who couldn’t take a joke. I will say that the education system in these rural Appalachian places needs some serious work when it comes to the topic of race. Despite the challenges I faced in school, I feel like I have been blessed with a community that loves and supports me, a community I wouldn’t trade for the world because I know that my life matters to them.

~ Shaylan Clark, Berea College Senior