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100 Days, 100 Voices

These Republican and Democrat millennials show us how to get along

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Unlikely friends? Anissa Coury, 27, is the chair for the Allegheny County Young Republicans. Jordan Ball, 26, is a regional representative for a Democrat, Pennsylvania’s U.S. Senator Bob Casey. They were photographed at the Monterey Pub in the Mexican War Streets neighborhood of Pittsburgh.

Broken friendships and strained relations have become a common story of today’s political divide. Millennials Anissa Coury and Jordan Ball offer a different perspective.

Coury, 27, is a Republican who voted for Donald Trump. She is the executive director for the American Congress of Real Estate of Pittsburgh, and is the chair of the Allegheny County Young Republicans.

Ball, 26, is a Democrat who voted for Hillary Clinton. He is a regional representative for Pennsylvania’s U.S. Senator Bob Casey. Ball also is co-director of New Leaders Council of Pittsburgh.

Both Coury and Ball are speaking as individuals and do not represent their organizations or positions at work. The two talked over drinks at the Monterey Pub in Pittsburgh’s historic Mexican War Streets neighborhood. While the conversation veered from abortion to opioids to coal, these excerpts focus on simply — how do we get along?

Both talked about the importance of working together across parties, and even having fun.

Coury: One thing that we did that I’m super, super proud of is the Young Republicans tweeted the Young Democrats to challenge them to paint ball fight. We raised money for charity. Between our two groups we raised just over $1000 for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Pittsburgh. We raised more money, but they kicked butt.

Ball: We showed them how to truly exercise our Second Amendment rights.

Coury: One thing that I love is that we don’t really start with where we disagree.

Ball: Right. We both know the frustration of some of our political colleagues and peers. You can’t be put neatly into one box. In our view, we sort of transcend both political parties. We’re not dogmatic. We’re more pragmatic.

Is that pretty typical of your age group?

Ball: Yes. I think that the loudest voices in our parties right now don’t represent the majority of folks our age, I would say.

Coury: I think that’s fair. I can speak from the Republican side. I think a lot of the people that I see in the Republicans are much more financially conservative and very much not as conservative socially.

Ball: I think a good starting point is just the fact that despite some of our political differences we both recognize and understand the Trump phenomena. We get it. We are able to connect with folks in Trump country. We understand how and why Trump rose to power. And although we might have some disagreements with them — we respect people who are philosophically different, and politically disagree with us.

What about respect?

Ball: I think the election was hard on a lot of people. I know that a lot of folks on the far left are traumatized. They’re coping with what they did not see coming.

I think that the Democratic Party got caught up in this idea that demographics was destiny. They thought that because of the changing demographics, that would mean that Democrats would continue to carry the White House for the next few election cycles. But I think this is a huge wake up call.

But going back to what you said about respect. I’m somebody who is not going to write off people who didn’t vote the way I wanted them to vote. I respect them for why they did. I think that the reasons they voted for Trump are more complex. So I’m not going to buy into this narrative that all Trump supporters are racist or xenophobic or homophobic because they’re simply not.

Coury: It’s totally true. But the other thing about it — it’s good to have the two parties because they do hold each other accountable. I think you are going to see a big change in the Democratic Party. I hope we do. I don’t want anyone to feel like they’ve been forgotten. They saw something in Trump that they didn’t see any other cure for and they felt like there was hope there. If you look at the Republican Party, we did not even come close to a traditional candidate. So maybe our politicians are not what we’re looking for either.

Ball: I would argue that Trump gave a voice and a platform for people who have been disenfranchised and left behind by a political system. Folks wanted somebody to flip over that table and flip conventional wisdom on its head. And that’s what he did. My people in southern West Virginia are hurting badly. They either work in the coal mines or their jobs depend on the health of the coal industry. Some people write them off as voting for Trump because of racial tensions, but if you actually go into their communities and listen, you would see they’re hurting because they perceive the government to be working against them — trying to take away the coal industry or not providing any immediate alternative and just simply not caring about some issues.

Coury: I think the answer is if you are in any sort of a contentious argument — if you are talking with someone you may completely disagree with — I think there is a way to find common ground.

I try not to have these conversations in a way that is belittling to somebody or that is aggressive because I want to be heard and I want to be effective when I have these conversations. Honestly, I think so much of the problem with both sides is the people who are usually listened to are the ones that are the most unreasonable. I think that doesn’t leave a lot of room for the rest of us. If you could just have a conversation, a lot of times you’ll find you agree with someone more than you thought you did.

Ball: I think most people are not as polarized. There are a lot of issues where there is common ground — a shared value. A lot of folks on the fringe elements on either side are trying to buy into this idea that there are dichotomies. I think that you can be pro-teacher and also be pro-education reform and you can be pro-coal, but also be pro-environment. I think that you could be pro-LGBT, but also pro-religious freedom. I don’t think that we have to fall into these dichotomies.

Coury: So many people think you have to choose one or the other and I think it’s so important to be able to just have a conversation. More often than not you’re going to find similarities.

Is the ability to get along important in leadership?

Ball: Yes, I think that’s extremely important. I want somebody who is able to not only reach across the aisle, but is able to build consensus with people who might philosophically disagree with them. I think that’s how you get something done.

Coury: I agree. At the end of the day every single policy has a real person at the end of it. We can discuss things at a level that nobody actually lives in, but we don’t live in a vacuum. We do actually have repercussions for all of this legislation.

So for me, I don’t care if you’re a Democrat. I don’t care if you are a Republican. People come first.


In ‘100 Days, 100 Voices’ Nancy Andrews presents photographs depicting the diversity of voices across Appalachia. These portraits strive to show the varied faces, passions, issues and opinions from around the region. These interviews have been edited for brevity and clarity. If you have an idea for ‘100 Days, 100 Voices’ please contact Nancy Andrews on Twitter @NancyAndrews or email at nancy.andrews [at] mail.wvu.edu.

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'Islam in Appalachia'

“Appalachian American Arab Muslim” Malak Khader

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“To be an Appalachian American Arab Muslim … that’s a big title. I feel like I’m wearing so many hats at the same time.” Malak Khader of Huntington, West Virginia finds herself constantly fighting stereotypes about her religion and her home state. She started a multiethnic Girl Scout Troop at the Muslim Association of Huntington mosque. “The Girl Scout values align with Islamic values. It teaches you to build your character, it teaches you community service, it teaches you to educate people and be educated yourself.”

Malak’s full interview is part of our 360° video series Muslim in Appalachia. This series enables viewers to step into the worlds of Appalachian Muslims to experience what it means to navigate Muslim and Appalachian identity while challenging stereotypes of both.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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100 Days, 100 Voices

‘He’s a Mini Version of my Dad’

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Jakari Tinsley, age 2, lives in Lynch, Kentucky. His favorite word is "No." Photo by Nancy Andrews

“I hope he becomes a God-serving young man, that he loves everybody as God loves us.”

Jakari’s favorite food is chicken nuggets. His favorite word is “No.” He likes to play basketball with his mini-basketball hoop and watch “Blaze and the Monster Machines” and “PAW Patrol.”

At age 2, and living in Lynch, Kentucky, Jakari Tinsley has his life in front of him. “I hope he grows up and goes to college and gets an education. Whatever he wants to do I will follow him and support him,” his mother said.

Jakari is wearing his grandfather’s hat. “He thinks he’s a mini version of my dad,” said Jakari’s mom, Marisha Tinsley. “Whatever dad does, he has to do too.”

“I hope he becomes a God-serving young man, that he loves everybody as God loves us,” his grandfather Terry Tinsley said, “that he get in a profession that helps others, like a doctor or lawyer.”

Lynch was founded in 1917 as a U.S. Steel mining operation. At its peak it was home to more than 10,000 people, but now in 2017 less than 700 live within its borders.


In ‘100 Days, 100 Voices’ Nancy Andrews presents photographs depicting the diversity of voices across Appalachia. These interviews have been edited for brevity and clarity. Contact Nancy Andrews at nancy@nancyandrews.com. She’s on Twitter @NancyAndrews and on Instagram @NancyAndrews

 

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100 Days, 100 Voices

‘We’re People – We’re Just Wired a Little Different.’

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The weekend of July 29, 2017 brought the first gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer festival to Wheeling, West Virginia with several hundred attending the Ohio Valley Pride. We talked to some of the attendees about why they came to the event:

“Today, I was around people like me. I could be me.” – Andrea Potter

“We’re here to celebrate,” Katreina Kilgore explained her support of her daughter Andrea Potter. “We’re here to celebrate that she didn’t hold back, that she is going to be herself.”

The family lives in Moundsville, West Virginia.  “We struggle,” she said of the entire family’s acceptance, “that’s why I think I am so proud of her.”

Melinda Tober, left, of Windsor Heights, West Virginia came to Pride with Kael Thomas, and Chelsea Camcho of Virginia Beach, Virginia.

“No body wants to live in the closet and I think that they shouldn’t have to.” – Melinda Tober

“I’ve been out and proud since 2010,” said Tober. “It’s always looked down upon — so hush, hush, “ she said, explaining that she believes the event such as this help to increase awareness and reduce hate crimes.

Hailee Parker, lives in Williamstown, West Virginia and grew up in Wheeling. She came to the event with her sister, Brittin Orum who lives in Wheeling. Parker performs as “Donte Dickles”.

“We’re people – we’re just wired a little different.” – Hailee Parker

“To be part of it. To walk around the streets in drag and part of the first pride – to just be home for the first time in a long time, “ Parker said. “This is my home. We both grew up here… I feel we have come very far. There are still nicks in the road, and it’s not the end of us fighting for equality… It upsetting to meet a person who is not supportive. All you can do is hold your head high and just leave it at that – with respect… Be yourself, love yourself. Hold your head high and forget what other people think of you.”

Miranda Thompson with daughter Ava Thompson, Terri Laquaglia, with daughter Regan Laquaglia and Maddie Crum attended the first Ohio Valley Pride together.

“Some people don’t understand that we all have to be equal so the world can be at peace.” – Regan Laquaglia

“We care about people and we know that no matter what that person thinks about us – underneath all their hatefulness there could be a good person. ” – Ava Thompson.

Landen Menough, of Martin’s Ferry, Ohio (stage name Miss Rilee Rae Michaels) was emcee of the event.

“If you leave here with one thing today, leave knowing that you are all family to me. You pick your own family and your family are the ones that accept you to no bounds of the earth.”— Landen Menough’s message to the crowd.

Andrew Vargo has lived in Wheeling, West Virginia all his life.

“There’s strength in numbers. We share love and companionship. We might not all get along, but we all share the same view of our rights… I see a ton of smiles, people from all sorts of places.” — Andrew Vargo

Jordan Sewell, aka “Xenus”, performs for the crowd at Heritage Port. 

“It takes guts to come out here in public in drag.” – Jordan Sewell

“Worrying about how to live day to day, being who you are and how you should show who you are — it’s hard,” explained Sewell. Today, “ it feels amazing, a feeling of completeness… I feel like I am now, a little bit – no, a lot more comfortable being who I want to be rather than what others want me to be. It takes guts to come out here in public in drag. Just doing it for the first time – walking out in pubic – outside,” was new. “Never outside, behind closed doors, yes.”

Jordan Sewell, with his mother, Rauslynn Platt as she films the performances. They live in Bridgeport, Ohio.

“I am not gonna hide I was heartbroken, but he’s my son – and my daughter. I’ll support whatever he wants to do in life. He seems so free. He’s so happy and that’s what I want to him to be, happy.” – Rauslynn Platt, Sewell’s mother


In ‘100 Days, 100 Voices’ Nancy Andrews presents photographs depicting the diversity of voices across Appalachia. These portraits strive to show the varied faces, passions, issues and opinions from around the region. These interviews have been edited for brevity and clarity. Contact Nancy Andrews at nancy@nancyandrews.com. She’s on Twitter @NancyAndrews and on Instagram @NancyAndrews

Editor’s Note: This article has been revised to correctly reflect that Jordan Sewell lives in Bridgeport, Ohio.

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