THE PREACHER'S DAUGHTER: Taking back what's ours 

Every week I type up some thoughts and email them to our rock star editors. Each week those thoughts are published and either skimmed over or glanced at by each of you, the readers. Some weeks are more interesting, some more entertaining, some maybe are even lackluster by popular opinion. This week I need your help, I’m calling on you to share your thoughts.

Since the majority of us have social media, and I stumbled across a unique and different opportunity this week, I immediately felt compelled to tell anyone who would listen. First I told my husband. I made phone calls to my mom and brother next. This is exciting, I promise.

We’ve all been tagged in social media posts that pertain to personal interests or our sense of humor. It’s not out of the ordinary for my dear friend Cheryl to do just that, so when I saw a notification from her on Facebook, I anticipated something cute that made her think of me. My name appeared in bold letters in the comments section of a post with a picture of a mountain side labeled “The Appalachian Retelling Project.” So I investigated.

If there ever was an initiative for “us,” let me tell you, this is our shot folks. I was floored at how incredibly cool this entire movement is. I surfed the social media page for the group, and then visited their website. There were clips of diverse people with the same heart, our heart. These people grew up like we did, and were proud of it, as we all should be.

In the top right corner of the website was the most glorious sight I’ve seen in awhile -- a beautiful gray box with the words “submit now” appeared. The beauty of all this information, the entire project is ours. Yep. Stories submitted from people like you and me, that’s the meat of the meal.

Naturally, my fingers just shy of catching fire typed a story in a record twelve minutes. I attached a photo of my grandparents’ house and hit the submit button. Today that story was shared with others, and I feel in my heart those who read it understood. Why? How do I know this? Because my story is theirs, and theirs is mine. This is our Appalachia, and it’s our duty to tell our stories.

I reached out to the project’s creator this afternoon. Her name is Elon Justice, and she is a native of Pikeville, Ky. A graduate student at MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts she launched The Appalachian Retelling Project in hopes that other people would feel led to share their stories in an effort to change how much of the world views the region.

Justice is writing her thesis around the response from the project, these are her words regarding the movement, and how you can help:

“I plan on writing my thesis about this project and what I learn from it about creating new portrayals of Appalachia in media, and what happens when you give misrepresented groups of people the chance to tell their own stories. But beyond that - I've always been very aware of the way that Appalachia is depicted in media and the way that these representations have very real consequences. They affect the way we're treated by those outside the region, they affect our opportunities, and they affect the way we see ourselves. As someone who's always been interested in storytelling, this seemed like a perfect opportunity to combine the two and to use storytelling itself as a way to challenge mainstream portrayals of Appalachia in media. Through this project I hope to challenge this very stereotypical lens through which our place is viewed. Hopefully that means that someone who isn't from the region might see it and learn that it's more complex and beautiful than the media leads you to believe. But I also hope that those of us from the region can take this opportunity to appreciate the culture and the place that we're from, to remember that we're so much more than the world can make us feel sometimes, and to remember that our voices and our stories are powerful and that they can create change.”

So since i’ve put it out there, I’m counting on you to help us take back what’s ours. This is our region. These are our stories. This is our time.

Proudly tell your story, others would love to hear it.

For more information visit “The Appalachian Retelling Project” on social media or at www.theappalachianretellingproject.com.

Erinn Williams is originally from Williamsburg, and now resides in Owensboro, Ky. The daughter of a teacher and a preacher, she hopes to make a difference through her words. She serves as a teacher's assistant in Daviess County, and writes for two newspapers in Western Kentucky. She can be contacted at erinn.williams2017@gmail.com.

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