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Student of 'All Things Appalachian' speaks at recent Gilmer County Historical Society meeting

Speaking to a crowd of about 20 gathered at the Holt House Annex, Ashley Hopkins started with the question “Do you consider yourselves 'Appalachian'”?

Hopkins, who is completing her doctorate in Appalachian Studies from Ohio University, patiently explained to the group that, first, we must define what makes someone from Appalachia different from any other American. Asking the crowd for words to describe someone from Appalachia, she got many positive words: independent, helpful, religious, and musically inclined. However, she also got several which were not so positive: poor, alcoholic, and uneducated were also spoken.

She indicated that part of the problem with attempting to change the “negative” stereotype of the Appalachian people is the movie industry's fault. Citing the movies “Deliverance”, “Wrong Turn”, “Mothman Prophecies”, and others including the “Buckwild” reality TV show, the media continues to reinforce that anything associated with Appalachia is laughable at best and terrifying at worst.

Part of the way to fix this, Hopkins continued, is to push for more WV History classes in K-12. This way, if students are instructed in the positive aspects of our region, they won't fall into the trap of believing the negative ones.

Hopkins also spoke of things that are literally destroying or eroding the Appalachian Region -- primarily, strip mining and mountaintop removal. She played some excerpts from the “Kilowatt Ours” documentary showing the destruction of mountains in Kentucky, and she played a recording of John Prine's song “Paradise” (both of these are on YouTube).

As a way of keeping track of things going on in the Appalachian Region, Hopkins recommended the highlandercenter.org website.

The meeting, sponsored by the Gilmer County Historical Society, began at noon on Sept. 19, 2013 and Ms. Hopkins' presentation was preceded by an excellent meal provided by the Society's members.

Next mtg.: noon, Thurs., Oct. 31.