I was born and reared in Appalachia.
I still live here today but sad to say, I am chained to Appalachia and to put it bluntly, with no disrespect intended, I am a slave to Appalachia and the system.
But after time, a slave to the system seeks freedom and seek change. I for one, am ready to break my chains. I’m ready to be emancipated.
But before I begin to break a few of those links holding me, some things must change on the home front of this battlefield called Appalachia and in the world outside Appalachia.
It’s left me asking questions, speaking up when the old way was to be quiet. It’s made me realize there’s more. Living in Appalachia has made me bitter, many times feeling hopeless and wanting answers. It’s left me angry and hateful, wondering why I didn’t do something sooner with my life or affect change.
I feel as though I’ve been chained to Appalachia like a prisoner dragging around a weighted ball in the prison yard and made to be a slave to a system that has lied to many of us.
I chose to stay in the mountains of Appalachia.
Oh, I could have migrated to a thousand other points on the globe other than my current home. Instead, I chose to stay here with hopes of things changing and being a part of that change. But when your change steps on other’s toes, you don’t become a part of the change, you become the threat that has to be suppressed.
My version of change was to push to eliminate politics and the “good ole boy network”, the stereotypes of who we are and where we are, having hope and being proud of what makes us different from other people and other regions of the country.
I’ve stayed in Appalachia buoyed by hope. I’ve stayed in Appalachia driven by family and commitment. I’ve stayed in Appalachia because the mountains were a fortress against the outside the world. I’ve stayed in Appalachia because I wanted a simpler life.
But I let the region seduce me into complacency. The way it’s always been in Appalachia. Then those coal-blackened shackles, rose up from the ground and wrapped around my feet and grabbed my wrists and bound me to stay.
I became dependent on a hope that has over time, eroded like the high walls of the strip mined land that surrounds me and left me with dreams that are as thick as the coal dust that still covers the surface and has taken the breath and life of my ancestors but in a different way of life.
I still cling to a flicker of hope.
A flicker of light burning in my heart, resonating in my soul that says there is still time to save Appalachia but yet a voice from the darkness questions whether or not it can be achieved by me or anyone else.
Oh yes, I’m ready to break the Appalachian chains, these chains of tradition. I’m ready to be emancipated from the bonds that have held me and others back for so long.
I’m ready for the freedom to come to Appalachia. A freedom that my soul longs to feel and hear of a simpler time and more meaningful time.