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100 Days, 100 Voices

‘I’m Breathing New Life Back Into This Building’

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Map by Fowler & Basham of Flemington, N.J. 1911. Source: Library of Congress, Geography and Map Division

A big driving force was to not see this building fall.

Lawrence Calfee: My mom tells me ever since I was five years old I’d point at that building and say I’m going to own it one day. I had sold a house locally and needed a workshop, so I went to look at who owned the building.  It was just boarded up and kind of an afterthought. I got in contact with the ownersthis was about eight years ago – and they showed me the building.

The roof leaked. There were mini waterfalls throughout the building and feet of bird droppings and debris. I told them, ‘I’m interested in the building, but I can’t really offer what you’re asking for it.’

They told me to send a letter with my offer and we’d go from there. So, I did and kind of wrote it off. I didn’t think they’d contact me again.

Four years later, they called me and said that in the years of people inquiring about the building, they got the best vibe from me. I told them I had just bought a piece of property and didn’t have the offer I made four years ago. They said, ‘No, you misunderstand. We want to give you the building.’

I was young and figured it would be fine. I’d address it. In the process of transferring the deed, they called me and reneged on their offer. But they were still interested in making me the manager and caretaker of the building. I declined. Two weeks later they called me back, and I took it from there.

I’d seen the Brownstone, a bank building on the corner downtown, just sit and deteriorate and collapse. I’d seen the Milner Matz fall. A big driving force was to not see this building fall.

In the first five weeks, we abated and sanitized every floor and classroom. Hauled off 36 skids. Since then I’ve put a garage in there. I’ve got a couple of workshops. I had intentions of putting in artist spaces to kind of help offset the costs of the climate control.

I’m breathing new life back into this building. It doesn’t take much to maintain it. It no longer leaks. It has power throughout, water throughout. I’ve gotten it there. It’s ready.

All the talent is leaving, and there’s a reason for that. There’s honestly not a place in this world that I’d rather live and be.  But unfortunately, there’s things that have to change for me to be able to do that. Once we have jobs around this area, good-paying jobs, manufacturing jobs – jobs we used to have – I think once that changes, the other problems will follow suit. I hope. But Appalachia is home. I love it.

Lawrence Calfee, 34, is holding on to the 88,000-square-foot former Beaver High School building in hopes of helping to revitalize the town. He refers to it as his “fortress of solitude” and says it’s far from a nightmare or a burden, it’s a place he looks forward to continuing work. He says he would like to see it become a place where people could acquire jobs or training. He would also sell, but would rather keep it until the day he dies, than sell it to a salvage company. A carpenter by trade, Calfee has sold his other properties in Bluefield, West Virginia and is relocating with his fiancé to North Carolina. Meanwhile, he still works on keeping the building from falling down.

The Beaver High School building was built in 1911 along 3rd Street in Bluefield. In 1924 it was closed due to damage from a large fire and renovated by Bluefield architect, Alex B. Mahood. Seven months later, the building reopened and served as Beaver High until 1953 when a new high school building opened and Beaver High was relocated. The building served as Central Junior High until 1983, the year Calfee was born. The distinctive crenels, the sawtooth battlement structures on the roof, set this building apart from many in the town.

Lawrence Calfee took ownership of Bluefield, West Virginia’s Beaver High School, “A big driving force was to not see this building fall.”


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. Follow her on Instagram @NancyAndrews.

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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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