Building cultural bridges through ‘Mexican music’, black recreation area sees new life and writer Marie Manilla on being ‘urban Appalachia’

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This week on Inside Appalachia, we’ll hear what happens when a family with roots in Mexico and Appalachia combines their cultural identities through music. We will also discover a park called Green Pastures, established in 1937 in a small town in Appalachian Virginia as an outdoor recreation area run by the US Forest Service specifically for black residents. Green Pastures eventually fell into disrepair, but is now being transformed into one of Virginia’s newest state parks.

We’ll also hear how investigative reporters in Pittsburgh have shed light on safety issues in public housing. Writer Marie Manilla explains why she identifies as an “urban Appalachian” and why she feels drawn to stereotypes of her region and people.

Inside Appalachia is hiring

We are looking for a part-time associate producer and a part-time coordinator for our Folkways project. Full job descriptions are available here. Send your resume and cover letters to [email protected] and [email protected]

Virginia restores historic natural park

Green Pastures was established in 1937 at the request of the NAACP chapter in a small Appalachian Virginia town as a U.S. Forest Service outdoor recreation area specifically for black residents – not only in the Alleghany Highlands, but for the inhabitants of the wider region around it. Green Pastures was officially incorporated in 1950 and had its heyday as a destination and gathering place in the 1970s. But the park has fallen into disrepair and the US Forest Service has closed in recent years. That was until a local history group called What’s Your Story started collecting oral histories around Green Pastures. Memories turned into action, and in October Governor Ralph Northam announced that the park would reopen and be managed as part of Virginia’s state park system. West Virginia Public Broadcasting Reporter and Inside Appalachia co-host Mason Adams attended the ribbon cutting and collected stories from black residents who grew up playing Green Pastures and are excited for its next chapter.

Mexilachia

With Spanglish lyrics, the guts of a banjo and the strumming of a son guitar, charlottesville music Project Lua is difficult to locate. The group defines its sound as “Mexilachian” – a blend of ancient and Mexican Appalachian folk music, but Lua members said their music also draws on Jewish and Eastern European traditions, with a twist. Baroque and Scots-Irish influence.
Inside Appalachia Folkways reporter Clara Haizlett caught up with a few band members at their home in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Protections against evictions

Last year, the Centers for Disease Control declared a moratorium on evictions to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus. In parts of central Appalachia, the moratorium was one of the few things to keep some families afloat, but now there is no federal policy in place to prevent evictions. The Supreme Court ruled against the Biden administration’s eviction moratorium on Aug. 26, which ended protections meant to last until early October. As Katie Myers reports, the end of these protections against evictions creates new health risks.

Dangerous living conditions

Rising evictions aren’t the only problem tenants face. Journalists Kate Giammarise and Rich Lord delved into various issues with the Pittsburgh rental market in a year-long investigation titled “Tenant cities.”

Inside Appalachia producer Roxy Todd spoke to them about what they found and the impact of their reporting.

Urban Appalachia

For many writers and editors, Appalachia means stories about the rural experience – like coal mining or farming. Author Marie Manilla grew up with a different kind of Appalachian experience in the town of Huntington, West Virginia. Manilla spoke with journalist Liz McCormick about why she identifies as “urban Appalachian” and how she uses her job to push for change in West Virginia and around the world.

Are you from Appalachia?

For an upcoming episode, we’re asking listeners in our area, do you feel Appalachian? Listeners from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, or the Shenandoah Valley Virginia — do you identify as Appalachian? You can email us a voice memo at [email protected]

Our theme music is Matt Jacquier. Other music this week was provided by the Lua Project, Wes Swing, Jake Schepps, and dinosaur burps. Roxy Todd is our producer. Our executive producer is Andrea Billups. Kelley Libby is our editor. Our audio mixer is Patrick Stephens. Zander Aloi also helped produce this episode.

You can find us on Twitter @InAppalachia.

Inside Appalachia is a West Virginia Public Broadcasting production.

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