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Creators and Innovators Newsletter Series:

It would be an understatement to say that our lives changed significantly with the coronavirus pandemic in 2020. In April, our team at 100 Days in Appalachia launched a six-week special newsletter series with Roger May, photographer and founder of the Looking at Appalachia visual collective, to counter some of the stress and loneliness we were experiencing.

This series generated — and sustained — a lot of interest in the weeks that followed.

Thanks to support received from our readers (like you!) and the Facebook Community Journalism Project, we’ve been able to make the Creators and Innovators Newsletter series a permanent fixture in your inbox each week. Every month, we’re joined by a new Appalachian co-host who specializes in visuals, written works, storytelling, culinary arts, music and more. The project that once had an expiration date has grown over the last six months, and it’s become a permanent source of education and cultural enrichment for our 100 Days in Appalachia subscribers. 

Below, you’ll find a list of our previous co-hosts. Read more about their professions, inspirations and how their Appalachian roots have influenced their works. 

If you’d like to recommend a co-host for our Creators and Innovators Newsletter series, let us know at [email protected].

Meet our 2020 Creators and Innovators Newsletter co-hosts:

Photo: Susan Parmar/Provided by Estela Knott

Estela Knott | “Bridging Cultures Through Music”

Estela Knott, of Charlottesville, Virginia, is a Mexilachian musician, music teacher and the co-founder of the Lua Project, a Mexilachian musical endeavor that draws inspiration from Estela’s Mexican and Appalachian roots. During her time with us, Estela wrote about her travels through Latin America, how she countered some of the identity struggles she faced growing up Mexilachian in rural Appalachia and how she connects the Spanish-speaking community with the larger community of Charlottesville today.  

“Growing up Mexilachian — Mexican and Appalachian — in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, my childhood hogar was unlike all the others in our home town. As I navigated through my youth, trying to find my place between both cultures, music became the source of warmth and inspiration I needed to light my way. 

At home, there was the Chicano culture, transplanted from El Paso, Texas, with Spanish spoken most of the time. And at school, it was the all-English, rural country culture of the valley. As I walked these cultural roots between home and school every day, un puente (a bridge) was being whittled away beneath me that stretched across two distinct identities that couldn’t have felt any more different from one another.”

Be sure to check out Estela’s exclusive Instagram Live performance and Q&A here.  

Find Estela’s newsletters here: “Meet Estela” | “Hogares y puentes” | “Mexilachian Breakfast” | “Vengo de muy lejos” | “Making the most of an unprecedented year”

Photo: Jordan Lovejoy/Provided

Jordan Lovejoy | “Our Appalachian Folklore” 

Jordan Lovejoy, of Pineville, West Virginia, is a Ph.D. candidate studying English and Folklore Studies at Ohio State University. During her newsletter series, Jordan explored the four types of folklore, traditions and Appalachian folklore and how our regional beliefs can shape our lives. For Halloween, Jordan wrote about our famed Appalachian cryptids and their presence in our modern popular culture.

As we continue to face uncertainties about the state of our region, our nation and our planet, I invite you to think of this more humanized version of the Mothman legend. I think Mothman can warn us about the problems we face, remind us of ongoing issues we should tackle and invite us to think about the unknown or the different, not as something to fear, but as something to seek to understand. That willingness to understand might assist us in creating a future world that’s better for us all.

Our legends and our folklore, as they travel through time and space — as they travel through us — evolve, transform and express our values and lives, and they continue to help us make sense of the world and our experiences in it. There is power in folklore, and there is power in us. May we continue sharing it with others as we shape and are shaped by our ever-changing traditions and our ever-changing world.”

See Jordan’s Instagram Live interview with 100 Days in Appalachia here, where she discusses her passion for preserving our regional folklore and encourages viewers to document their own.

Read Jordan’s newsletters here: “No tricks, just treats in this month’s newsletter series!” | “Verbal Lore: How our scary stories can protect us” | “Material Lore and public health” | “Customary practices and honoring the dead” | “Belief Lore, Mothman and our changing world”

Photo: Katlin Kazmi/Provided

Katlin Kazmi | “Tradition is Best Served Steeped”

Katlin Kazmi is a middle school principal and co-owner of The Pakalachian Food Truck, which she operates with her husband, Mohsin Kazmi. During her time with us, Katlin shared stories of her personal trials and triumphs, how she and her husband Mohsin have created their Pakistani-Appalachian (Pakalachian) culinary concoctions and how her Appalachian roots helped shape her sustainable business and lifestyle. 

We embody personal resilience here in Southwest Virginia. It’s in our blood. This is an important quality because it speaks to self-sustaining characteristics congruent with a natural need for survival. We see new in old. My dad cannot turn down a broken piece of machinery for the sole reason that it may have a part he can use on something he already has and a little rust certainly doesn’t scare us away. All of this folds into the naturally eco-friendly culture created in Appalachia.

When I was younger, my grandmother would see a coin on the ground and always pick it up saying, ‘Pennies make nickels, nickels make dimes, dimes make quarters, quarters make dollars and dollars build a house.’ Though I found it trivial when I was 10, she was right. I believe conservation builds much the same way: Each small act is a penny. The culmination of these acts by more people and businesses over time builds the framework for something better.”  

Check out Katlin’s newsletters here:Meet Katlin!” | “Tradition is best served steeped” | “Community, culture and conservation” | “Owning and cultivating our Appalachian roots” | “Change begins with our voices — and our votes”

Photo: Jeremy Wilson/Provided

Jeremy Wilson | “We Are Still Here”

Jeremy Wilson, a photographer and enrolled member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, was the fourth co-host in the Creators and Innovators Newsletter Series. Each week, Jeremy shared insight into his life within the Qualla Boundary and in Cherokee culture and traditions, addressing common misconceptions and ongoing challenges brought forth by the COVID-19 pandemic along the way.

“I have been hit with the saying, ‘You’re Indian? You don’t look Indian,’ more times than I can count … 

Cherokee is far from what you might see on TV. It is in fact probably everything you didn’t think of when you’ve never been to a reservation or Sovereign territory. Cherokees do marry and have children outside of their race and tribe, which is why my skin is not dark as most think a Cherokee should look. The identity of who I am is not based on what you might have learned (or not learned) growing up, but it is based on the enrichment of everything I have mentioned. The language, our elders, our arts and crafts, Indian Ball, our legends and stories, our foods and our history. I am not an Indian you see on TV. I am a Native American, and my identity is what I learn and carry on to the next generation.”

Read Jeremy’s newsletters here: “You’re not going to want to miss this” | “Remember when there was no Appalachia?” | “Up close with Blue Ridge legends” | “COVID and culture” | “What makes me Cherokee?”  

Photo: Bianca X/Provided

Bianca X | Project Goldenrod

Bianca X, a prolific Affrilachian Poet and educator at Ohio University, third co-host of the series, used the theme, “Project Goldenrod.” Here, Bianca X shared her original works, insight and illustrations, addressing the complexity of the Black American folk hero paralleled with the unrealistic expectations Black Americans face in “The Problem with John Henry” and confronting the misogyny and symbolism of Medusa — and other independent female literary figures — as sacrificial scapegoats. She also acquainted readers with the sketches of her original characters.

“When we create scapegoats in our lives, they’re typically attached to an aspect of our identity where we feel powerless, deficient, voiceless, and ashamed. Which would suggest that we also feel entitled, on some level, to having more agency in those areas — most of us want to feel empowered, accomplished, and that we’re good people.

Whenever there is a popular scapegoat trending at any given moment, say, a pandemic, the story of Medusa can be incredibly edifying. Do we waste more time than necessary blaming the monster for being unable to help its own nature, or do we instead focus on the areas of our lives that the monster illuminates where we had false agency, or no agency, in the first place? Perhaps the most important question to ask is, who benefits from keeping us that way?”

See Bianca’s introductory message here.

Then, be sure to listen to Bianca X’s reading of her original poem, “Creation Myth” here.

Catch all of Bianca X’s newsletters here: “There’s someone I’d like you to meet” | “Project Goldenrod: The problem with John Henry” | “Project Goldenrod II: Reheading Medusa” | “Project Goldenrod III: The book of Esau“ | “Project Goldenrod IV: Get free”

Photo: Braiden Maddox/Provided by Rosalie Haizlett

Rosalie Haizlett | “Making our Earth a safe space for all”

Rosalie Haizlett, the second host in our Creators and Innovators series, used much of her time spent with 100 Days in Appalachia to write about environmentalism, her creative processes — from hike to sketchpad — and her commitment to conservation of the region’s natural habitats. During her time with us, Rosalie also focused on the various ways environmentalism intersects Rosalie’s works have been featured by The Smithsonian and the National Audubon Society, and her . At the end of her stint, Haizlett shared with subscribers a first-look at her latest illustrated watercolor map of the Monongahela National Forest, located in West Virginia.

“Although I grew up on a homestead in rural West Virginia, the appreciation that I felt during my childhood for the lush plants and wildlife around me diminished as I became a teenager. As humans, we’re suckers for screens, exciting conversation with other people, music and other man-made stimulation. All of those things can be wonderful, but it’s easy to become so accustomed to that level of input that we lose appreciation for the quiet, natural wonders that caught our eye and captured our imagination when we were kids.

It takes practice to reignite our childlike curiosity in the outdoors. Painting is a tool that helps me to notice more while I’m outside and then translate what I see into physical mementos of the intricacy and beauty that I encounter. The more I paint the natural world, the more I notice and appreciate the little things around me.”

See all of Rosalie’s newsletters here: “Have you met Rosalie?” | “On recognizing our privileges and making permanent changes” | “Making our Earth a safe space for all” | “Check out this *exclusive* sneak peek!” | “Rekindling a lifelong appreciation for the great outdoors”