I considered this tour a start of a journey, if you will. If you had asked me at my high school graduation if I saw my life headed in the direction that its in now, well, I probably would have said “yes.” I have always wanted to do work that would bring about change in my community. I admired the ones on the front lines of the movement trailblazing and laying groundwork for the rest of us. That was the wide-eyed innocence of youth, appreciating yet glamorizing the struggle of activist and organizers and people trying to bring abut change.
Little did I know that life doesn’t usually go as planned. After what seemed like an eternity of personal struggle, hardships, loss, development and growth I found myself here, at Highlander Center wondering what in the world had I gotten myself into.
9 days was the longest I’d been away from home since my mother passed away. I don’t like being away for long but I felt good about it.
After 3 days at the Highlander Center we set out for our first stop. Our first full day theAppalachian Sustainable Development Conference was a bit rough for me. Not only was in a long day, but it was also the 1st anniversary of my mothers passing. However, I did meake it through.
For the rest of the week, we went to different locations. I was surprised to see so many cultural programs in rural areas. Looking at the other Fellows, I noticed that everyone was able to relate in some way, except for me. There was certainly a lack of cultural diversity in Appalachia.
There is a rich history surrounding the people of this region, yet I could not help but feel left out. Although my family has been in Appalachia for over a century I saw no representation of myself on this tour.
So I find myself on this internal journey to find myself and my identity in Appalachia.