This week we are inviting folks to tell their Appalachian Love Story, and we are asking you to be a part of ours.
So what does STAY mean when we talk about our Appalachian Love Story? Well we’re not talking about a storybook romance. We’re talking about "love" as a verb, as an action, as a process we continue to change and shift. We are talking about love as a choice, like how we choose to love Appalachia and how we choose to stay even when it might be easier to leave.
We are talking about love as an intersectional movement for and by youth that for ten years has been building towards regenerative and inclusive communities in Appalachia; communities where all young people are able to thrive and grow.
We are talking about love as physical space where young Appalachian folx are allowed to exist in community as their whole selves; like how each summer the STAY Project holds the STAY Summer Institute, an autonomous youth space where young folx around the region are able to gather, connect, and share knowledge together.
We are talking about how love is celebrating and honoring our culture and traditions but also how love is a commitment to dismantle the parts of our culture that uphold white-supremacy and the narratives that erase queer, indigenous, black, and brown histories and current realities from Appalachia.
We are talking about how love is recognizing that our struggle in Appalachia is not a microcosm and we are stronger when we are in alignment with movements across the South, like how a delegation of young people from Appalachia have been at all seven Southern Movement Assemblies to connect with folks across the South and be a part of developing a Southern plan of action to build new social economies, practice people’s democracy, and protect and defend our people.
We are talking about love as a vision of an Appalachian economy where prisons do not replace coal mines. We are talking about how love is recognizing our value is greater than the resources, the people, and the stories that have been extracted from us. Love is demanding that we deserve clean water, affordable and reliable internet access, and livelihoods that do not break our bodies or our spirits.
We are talking about love being hard work sometimes, and about how love comes with both joys and heartache. We are talking about how love is building a network of young people in Appalachia who uplift and support each other through both the joys and the heartache.
We are talking about a love as a quilt sewn from patchwork of different experiences, histories, and visions. We are telling this love story together y’all and we can’t do it without your engagement and support. So this Appalachian Love Week we’re asking y’all to show the STAY Project some love by making a donation or even becoming a sustaining giver so we can keep doing the work we’ve been doing for ten years in Appalachia! The work of empowering youth leadership in our region.
For our members, our fellow Appalachian youth, we have an additional ask; we’re asking y’all to use #appalachianlovestory to tell and show us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter how you love Appalachia, tell us how it’s hard to love this place, tell us how you choose to STAY.
Will you make STAY your Valentine this year?
In Love & Solidarity,
The Stay Together Appalachian Youth Project
P.S. We hope you’ll join us for our 10th Anniversary/STAY Summer institute at the Highlander Center in New Market, Tennessee, July 12th- 15th!
WMMT’s Rachel Garringer sat down in the studio with founding STAY member, Willa Johnson, current STAY coordinator Lou Murrey, and new STAY member Katelyn Damron- who joined by phone to talk about their annual #appalachianlovestory campaign. Listen to the whole story here.
Appalachian Loves Stories was a storytelling project started at the Stay Summer Institute in 2014 and has expanded into a campaign focused on making space for the stories of young people in Appalachia who may have no other space to tell their story.
So what does STAY mean when we talk about our Appalachian Love Story? We're talking about "love" as a verb, as an action, as a process we are continuing to change and shift. We are talking about love as a choice, like how we choose to love Appalachia and how we choose to stay even when it might be easier to leave. We are talking about love as an intersectional youth movement that is building towards a regenerative and inclusive Appalachia. We are talking about love being hard work sometimes, and about how love comes with both joys and heartache. We are talking about how love is building a network of young people who uplift and support each other. So we are asking y'all to tell us how do you love Appalachia? Tell us how it is hard to love Appalachia. Tell us how you choose to stay. Tell us your Appalachian Love Story so we can feature it on the blog. #appalachianlovestory