The Gravy – Reflections on Appalachian Center Events and Programs

We have so many wonderful events and programs taking place here in the Appalachian Center. This blog is for highlighting those events, and sharing them with the public.

Resilience through Community in Eastern Kentucky

Article Written by Lilly Rice From July 25 through July 30, nine to twelve inches of rain resulted in a record-breaking flood in Breathitt, Letcher, and Knott County. Twelve counties became eligible for FEMA assistance, including Breathitt, Clay, Floyd, Knott, Leslie, Letcher, Magoffin, Martin, Perry, Pike, Owsley, and Whitley Counties. Within these five of those […]

As the Water Rises

Article Written by Charity Gilbert As a young child, I recall the times my Mama told me to be careful not to go down to the creek. “If you can’t see the bottom, don’t go in it or you might drown.” She’d say. This was in the small community of Fogertown, Kentucky. I was raised […]

Missy n’ Mammy: The complexities found in Anna Ernberg’s intentions regarding the Appalachian Craft Revival

Weatherford Hammond Award Winning Paper by Takudzwa Madvuta  While breadlines elongated perpetually during the 1930s, the proliferation of the Mammy stereotypes and the Appalachian Craft Revival were at their peaks. The production of Missy n’ Mammy by the Fireside industries under the leadership of Anna Ernberg, circa the late 1930s, represents these peaks (Figure 1).[1] […]

Hannah’s Reflections on Ezell

Potential by Hannah From When my grandfather came to this land he saw potential. He saw the tall trees and fertile soil The rolling hills And clear waters flowing He built a cabin And cut that lumber, sending it down stream To be masts of the ships sailin’ for some far off land   The […]

Ainsley’s Reflections on Ezell

Dearest EZELL: If you would let me dance about architecture for a moment, I would appreciate it. The tale of Ezell is in everything we’ve done (and are doing). Ezell spoke while we set the table each night, while we checked in, and while we climbed the mountain. It was in our heart beats and […]

Mental Struggles in Appalachia

When I was in middle school, I began to notice that I was “not okay.” I was struggling with anxiety and depression; however, I did not know those names then, and it terrified me. How could my brain deceive me like this? Am I the only one feeling like this? Why do the people in […]

Activism as a Queer Black Appalcahian in West Virginia

Article written by A-Nya (Thena) Badger Activism and protesting are a crucial part of what makes up West Virginia’s culture. Most of what I learned about the area was pretty minimized and disconnected from anything I was experiencing on a day-to-day basis. Like any other kid, I wished desperately to fit in, but this included […]

Learning from Dr. William Turner

Over a decade ago I sat in a small classroom a couple floors above the Appalachian Center, learning about Contemporary Appalachia from the ever charismatic Dr. William Turner. To learn about Appalachia from a Black professor born and raised in Lynch, Harlan County Kentucky, reading books like Uneven Ground by Ron Eller and Lost Mountain […]

Wicked John

As retold by Hannah From I love fall! It’s by far my favorite time of year. Hot apple cider, warm sweaters, and stories remind me of this season.  This photograph is of the farm my family helped tend and where I spent the first years of my life and we told each other stories.  My […]

Appalachian, Twice Removed: Celebration of Traditional Music

Article written by Ali Hassan The Saturday CTM concert, hosted virtually, provided four distinct and unique flavors of the music from the Appalachian region. With each performance, the sound progressively drifted away from its traditional Appalachian roots. The music nonetheless powerfully witnessed the lives and aspirations of the many people who have found a home […]

Berea College Civil Rights Tour: An Unforgettable Journey

Nothing can prepare you for the Civil Rights Tour. NOTHING! But it is a journey everyone should take. Every couple of years Berea College takes a bus full of staff and faculty from Memphis TN to Jackson MS to Montgomery AL to Atlanta GA, and all the way back to Berea KY, to visit historical […]

What is Appalachian Music?

I grew up in the North Georgia Mountains. I love my home. I love the rolling hills, cornbread and butterbeans, and my community–the ones who raised me. But I think the thing I love most is the music. I grew up listening to and learning old-time and bluegrass music which turned into one of my […]

Hope in Lee County, Virginia

When I was younger, growing up in Lee County, Virginia, I always wondered, “What more is outside of my hometown?” Who is outside of this bubble and what are their stories? Where do the roads take you when you get off of highway 58 or 421? When do you no longer see mountains? There is […]

Banjos, Storytelling, and Nostalgia: A Student’s Reflection on 2020’s Celebration of Traditional Music

The Loyal Jones Appalachian Center hosted its first ever Celebration of Traditional Music back in 1974 as a way of honoring old time music and the ritual of passing it on from generation to generation in Appalachia, and has continued to do so each fall ever since.  Every October Berea Campus is filled with dance, […]

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 […]

From Violin to Fiddle: An Interview with Ann Whitley

“I have always wanted to sing since I was very small,” says Ann Whitley, an avid singer and fiddler player of Dahlonega, Georgia. For many children in Lumpkin County, she is simply known as Mrs. Ann. She is a staff member and former president of Pick and Bow Traditional Music School, an after school program […]

Black Appalachian Journalists, 1843-2020

Last week Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reporter Alexis Johnson was banned from  covering George Floyd’s protests in the paper due to a tweet on her personal account which the paper claimed to show bias.  In response to her removal, people across the United States started showing support for Alexis and protesting on Twitter. In one interview Alexis […]

Home Away From Home

In recent weeks our daily lives have been disrupted. We’ve shifted from our usual interactions with friends, family, and colleagues to different forms of communication. In this time I am reminded of ties to home and those summer evenings with the family around a fire pit. Slapping mosquitoes off our legs and waiting for the […]

Crossing Time and Space

The old family house had been worn by weather and time. The floors and remaining furniture all covered in layers of dust and dirt. Teenagers left empty beer cans laying around. In the living room, next to the wood furnace, hangs a cross. It’s faded maroon and green patterns are made of folded cigarette packs […]

Mapping My Appalachia

Earlier in the semester Dr. Chris Green asked me to sit in on one of his classroom lectures, and as sat there I couldn’t help but notice a stunning display of over 20 hand-drawn maps of student’s hometowns in Appalachia covering the back wall. I spent time studying these maps, keen to see where the […]

The Art of Finding Beauty

This November, we were honored to host a beloved local artist, Laura Poulette, for a Dinner on the Grounds. Laura draws inspiration for her work from the incredible biodiversity right here in Appalachia. As a fellow artist, this particular Dinner on the Grounds holds a special place in my heart. Even before her presentation began […]

Cornbread “Flitters”

Article written by Elston Harris When I was little, my grandma would make pancakes. Those golden, sweet, and crisp spheres were what I wanted every morning. So, like any other morning, I woke up and put on my clothes. I went straight to the kitchen and the sun just barely coming over the horizon. On […]

The Power of Stories

Librarians, Entrepreneurs, & Store Keepers: Protagonists in Appalachian Children’s Picture Books My brain is a constant swirling whirlpool of ideas and hair-brained schemes. Hundreds and thousands of ideas are floating around in there and most never make it to fruition, but every now and then, one lucky idea gets plucked out of the mix to […]

See you soon, Loyal.

For decades, Loyal Jones has been a foundation to Berea College, the Appalachian Center, and the surrounding community. After a lifetime of support and kindness, we had the bittersweet opportunity to wish Loyal good luck onto his next adventure. After his dedication to Berea, he is moving to North Carolina to dedicate himself to his […]

Dr. Richard Drake (1925 – 2019)

Dr. Richard Drake (1925 – 2019) first came to Berea in 1956, where he finished his dissertation over the American Missionary Association (AMA), a group of abolitionists that supported Berea College,  John G. Fee, and African-American education after the War. Dr. Drake was one of the first people to look at the AMA archives, his [...]

Work, Write, and Don’t forget to Live: Advice from Appalachian Author Brooks Rextroat

In April the Loyal Jones Appalachian Center had the pleasure of welcoming Brooks Rexroat, author of the novel Pine Gap and his most recent work Thrift Store Coats a collection of short stories. Rexroat received his Master’s in Fine Arts from Southern Illinois University Carbondale. He was a 2014 Bread Loaf Bakeless Camargo Fellow in Cassis, France and a 2016-2017 Fulbright Scholar at Novosibirsk State [...]

Racial Healing in Berea

In August 2018 I received an email from Linda Strong-Leek, the Berea College Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion. It was a call for applications to join a group called Collaborative Racial Healing Community (CRH). It said,  “As public displays of white nationalism increase and racial tensions appear set to continue, many of us have […]


With the growing epidemic of opioid drug abuse, communities are having to rally together to find a solution. From the areas that are hit the hardest, new and innovative methods of handling the drug crisis emerge. Eastern Kentucky has experienced unforeseen rates of drug use, overdoses, and great loss to our communities with the introduction […]

An Appalachian Heritage reading with Savannah Sipple and Jessica Chiccehitto Hindman

On Thursday, March 21, Savannah Sipple and Jessica Chiccehitto Hindman joined Appalachian Heritage in the Loyal Jones Appalachian Center to read from their new work. Savannah kicked off the night after Appalachian Heritage Editor Jason Howard announced she had received runner-up for the Denny C. Plattner Award in Poetry for her poem “What We Tell […]

A Visit from Sarah McCartt-Jackson

The Loyal Jones Appalachian Center hosted an event called ‘Write Where You Are’ where poet and author Sarah McCartt-Jackson came to read some of her poems and have a discussion with us. Sarah McCartt-Jackson is the author of Stonelight, winner of the 2017 Airlie Prize, and three chapbooks: Calf Canyon, Vein of Stone, and Children Born on the […]

Helping Appalachian Males Transition into College Life

In recent years Berea College has ramped up its effort to improve male retention rates. A major proponent of this effort has been the implementation of three Male Initiative programs; the Appalachian Male Initiative (AMI), the Black Male Leadership Initiative (BMLI), as well as the Latino Male Initiative (LMI). Together these three groups make up Berea […]

Dinner on the Grounds with Charles Dodd White

While working at the Appalachian Center’s latest the Dinner on the Grounds I had the chance to listen to Charles Dodd White read from his latest book IN THE HOUSE OF WILDERNESS. He gave the audience a glimpse of what homelessness in rural Appalachia might look like by describing the experiences of his characters as […]

On Display: An Interview with Berea College Student Magenta Palo

Recently, Emily Masters sat down to talk to Magenta Palo about her role as curatorial assistant for the Appalachian Center and about her projects and aspirations. Magenta, an art history major with a proven artistic inclination, talks about the process of designing an exhibit from the ground floor up, about her self-discovery as an artist, […]

ASA: A Community of Knowledge

As I am preparing for my third, and final, Appalachian Studies Association Conference of my college career, I feel reflective about the previous two years of experience I have had at the annual ASA conference. For me, ASA has been a time for connection, a time for confidence, a time to share ideas and receive […]

Appalachian Center ABC’s: Highlights of 2018

Appalachian Tour – This year we took 40 Berea College staff and faculty members on a tour through Appalachia from Hindman, Ky., to Big Stone Gap, Va., to Knoxville, Tenn.! Bill Best’s Heirloom Tomatoes – Bill Best is a distinguished Berea Alumni whom we purchased 4 beautiful tomato plants from, and planted them in our [...]

hillbilly: A Documentary with Truth, Heart, and Hope

I usually am not drawn to documentaries. I tend to be harsher on them than other films because I expect them to be a vessel for truth, and not just a tool used by the director to get across an agenda. I often feel manipulated to feel a certain way in documentaries and they end […]

A Trip to Appalachian State University

Being from West Virginia, the comforting embrace of the mountains that I was so fond of during my younger years has been lost in my time at Berea.  They’re visible in the distance, but it’s not the same.  My favorite thing to tell people is that there’s “just too much dang sky here!”  My heart […]

A Trip to Marshall University

From what I remember, it was a morning much like any other during the summer months in Berea, Kentucky; hot, humid, and quiet. Chris Green had told me much of the place we were going as he reminisced about the earlier years in his career. We were heading to Marshall University, a place much like Berea College, […]

Plum Star-struck at the 2018 Appalachian Studies Association Conference

There I was, sitting in a stool, graduate school materials splayed out on the round table in front of me, jabbing at the jaw with friends about nothing in particular at the 2018 Appalachian Studies Association Conference.  We had all been taking turns manning the Berea College table throughout the weekend, so when a white-bearded […]

Snapshots of Appalachia

Whipstitches (MadHat Press, 2016) by Randi Ward is a collection of miniature poetry snapshots of Appalachian life. Ciara Felty and I work at the Loyal Jones Appalachian Center and took a liking to the book when it was nominated for the poetry Weatherford Award in 2016. We spent time in the rocking chairs out in the Center Gallery taking [...]

Reflections on “‘Look and See’: A Portrait of Wendell Berry”

During the watching of “’Look and See’: A Portrait of Wendell Berry”, our attention was brought to the issues that farmers go through every year. Some of the issues brought light to the fact that farmers have to go into debt first before they can think about making any profit or how the farmers have […]

Jessie van Eerden: A Night of Reading at the Appalachian Center

On the evening of February 15, writer and educator Jessie van Eerden came to the the Appalachian Center for an Appalachian Heritage hosted event to read from her new collection of portrait essays, A Long Weeping. Van Eerden is a native West Virginian and currently directs the MFA program at West Virginia Wesleyan College. She […]

Reclaiming Appalachia: Photography and Woodwork by Dr. Alan Mills

The Appalachian Center Gallery was packed with people enjoying Panera sandwiches on Thursday, February 26th, for the Dinner on the Grounds with Dr. Alan Mills. Mills is a photographer, professor, and woodworker who is invested in preserving Appalachian history through photography and reclamation. Mills kicked off his presentation by sharing some of his photography in […]

West By God Virginia

A poem by Berea College student Britney Napier on the Buffalo Mining Creek Disaster. 7:57 AM The mountains are still asleep The dense fog dissipates into the low-lying valleys After the delicate dew had been ignited By the waking West Virginian Sun Hush now, you’ll wake the baby 7:58 AM Jesus told Noah to build […]

Thoughts on Kin and Sin: Reflection on the Appalachian Ballad Concert

Dusk had settled into night as the blistering wind had picked up, a storm loomed heavily over Berea. The fallen autumn leaves and shivering guests breezed in through the doors of Phelps Stokes, their cheeks blood red and their eyes wild with curiosity. It was no secret that the “Appalachian Ballad Concert” translated to murder ballads and other sinful subject […]

In These Fields

Around me, everyone is chatting, catching up, unwinding scarves worn to block the biting wind outside. In Union Church, though, it is warm and people are ready to catch up with old friends and to make new ones. There is a buzz of excitement in the air as everyone awaits a special performance of In […]

Ballads and Tales: Loyal Jones’s Curious and Jocular Heroes

As one of the cosmic papaws of Appalachian Studies, it’s no surprise that Loyal Jones’s presentation for the annual Celebration of Traditional Music, Appalachian Ballads & My Four Jocular Heroes, was brimming with interesting tidbits of information and stories of his jocular heroes that would make anyone wish they had personally known them. I knew […]

Human Generosity Project

Cooperation in an Uncertain World: The Human Generosity Project from East Africa to Southern Appalachian On Tuesday, September 26, the Loyal Jones Appalachian Center welcomed Dr. Lee Cronk and Dr. Helen Wasielewski for the first Dinner on the Grounds of the fall semester. They shared their work with The Human Generosity Project and experiences they’ve […]

The Rhythmic Writing of the Impossible

A Poetry Workshop with Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon I heard Lyrae read her poetry for the first time at the Appalachian Writers Symposium on September 13th, and I knew that I just had to attend her poetry workshop the following morning. Her voice carried her poems with a rhythm that made me want to bop around. […]

Lessons from the Rooster Killer

A reflection on Rebecca Gayle Howell’s workshop during the Berea College’s Appalachian Symposium 2017. “I walk into Rebecca Gayle Howell’s Multi-Genre Micro-Revision workshop unsure of what to expect. I am unfamiliar with Howell’s work other than a poem titled How to Kill a Rooster, but I knew that her name was one to respect and […]

The Summer I Became a Not-So-Starving Artist

My summer with the Loyal Jones Appalachian Center’s Studio began with redesigning a light show for a cloud constructed of beer pong balls. After that small design success, Chris Miller, who runs the LJAC Studio, proposed another creative project to me. His vision was to have a series of displays of beings that live in […]

Coffee with Loyal

“Make sure to fix yourself some coffee. And bring out those cookies.” What else would I expect from one of the most prominent figures of Appalachian Studies? Loyal Jones was sure to provide genuine hospitality and a hot cup of coffee to sip on while we kicked back and discussed anything from politics to religion […]

Appalachian Picture Books

“Librarians recognize that a young child’s response to a story is dependent on the degree to which that story is rooted in that child’s experience. Teachers know that children learn to read with far greater ease if their reading material deals with familiar surroundings and customs.” –  Judy Martin When I first began working at […]

Connie West

As of spring of 2017, the Long Wall Gallery at the Appalachian Center has been host to paintings from Connie West’s collection called Companions on her Journey.  These particular paintings were collected and preserved by Wess Harris and Appalachian Community Services, Inc. Connie West’s original name was Mabel Constance Adams. She was born in Corbin, […]

Crystal Wilkinson: Black Women and Mental Health in Appalachia

On March 28th 2017 the Loyal Jones Appalachian Center was honored to welcome Professor Crystal Wilkinson, author of the award-winning novel The Birds of Opulence. She shared intimate details about her family’s struggle with mental illness and her thoughts on how we need to change the way mental illness is addressed within Black communities and Appalachia. […]

Appalachian Studies Association

This month I was able to go to the 40th Appalachian Studies Association Conference. I attended panels on food growth, just economic transition, combating white supremacy in the region, and the book Hillbilly Elegy. The talks were engaging and even personal as was the case for Hillbilly Elegy, wherein the author shares a somewhat simplified […]

Ronnie Lundy: Writing is Food for the Soul

On Thursday, March 2, the Loyal Jones Appalachian Center was excited to welcome food and music writer, Ronni Lundy to lead the Dinner on the Grounds event with a reading of her beautiful new cookbook, Victuals. People gathered in high anticipation around bowls of steaming noodles from locally owned and operated Noodle Nirvana. As everyone […]

Erik Reece visits Berea College

I am eating cornbread that is sweet and satisfyingly soft while I am seated at a round table surrounded by classmates, faculty and staff. I am reminded of family meals, occasions for catching up and eating well; this time however the occasion is with the Berea community. We have gathered for a Dinner on the […]

Singers/Songwriters Night with Elizabeth DiSavino

On Friday, January 27th, the Loyal Jones Appalachian Center hosted the Singer-Songwriter Night hosted by the Berea College Folk Roots Ensemble, directed by Liza Disavino. This is an annual event open to students, faculty, and community members at the beginning of each spring semester, offering an opportunity for all musicians, singers, and songwriters to come […]

Dolly Parton Pinball Machine

With sweaty hands, I mash a big round button and my eyes dart all over a gaudy landscape of pinks, yellows, butterflies, and blinking lights, trying frantically to predict the chaotic path of the small silver ball that has been my obsession for the last 20 minutes. I am so close…so close…LEANator’s unthinkable, unbeatable score [...]

Appalachian Christmas Stories

“Imagine a morning in late November. A coming of winter morning more than twenty years ago. Consider the kitchen of a spreading old house in a country town. A great black stove is its main feature; but there is also a big round table and a fireplace with two rocking chairs placed in front of […]

Taking a Moment to Pause

On Thursday, Nov 10th 2016, Berea College had the honor of welcoming Brother Paul Quenon, a monk from the Abbey of Gethsemani, for a campus visit. His visit was a breath of fresh air in the wake of a tumultuous election day, and his calming presence was felt by many as he attended the Spiritual […]

Denise Giardina Visits the Appalachian Center

On Wednesday, November 2, the Loyal Jones Appalachian Center was honored to host novelist Denise Giardina, author of Storming Heaven and The Unquiet Earth, for a reading of her work. The center was packed with students, professors, and community members eager to hear her speak. Berea Junior, Hannah Musick, provided a glowing introduction for Giardina […]

Berea Art: The Public Storytellers

“Public art is more than just display.” The words of Mayor Connelly during a student-conducted interview accurately sum up the message of the Berea Public Art Tour. Steven Connelly, mayor of Berea, recorded an oral history with Berea College students Terrin Vann, Molly Smith, and Nicole Reynolds, accompanied by Judy Sizemore, who works to promote […]

Around the World in Appalachia

Growing up in rural Yancey County, North Carolina, I often took walks down to Prices Creek, which ran at the bottom of my driveway. I would sift through the silt to find  shining flecks of what my dad told me was called “mica.” I would return home with fistfuls, most pieces no larger than a small skipping [...]