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Mountain Talk

Monthly conversations about what matters to the people of Central Appalachia. In comparison to parachute reporting that paints Appalachian identity in broad strokes, Mountain Talk features locally-produced stories of people who are standing up, speaking out, and making change in their communities, from regional labor conditions and social movements to cultural and artistic accomplishments.

Memories and Melodies of Appalachia
  • April 11, 2024
  • 53:44

Our region is notorious for our long standing tradition of telling stories, whether they be fiction or based on our own lives and experiences. And we at WMMT and Appalshop are big on making sure these oral histories are recorded, archived, shared and kept alive for the future generations to listen and learn from. This week’s Mountain Talk features a full length CD created by Alda Smith of South Carolina. The CD blends together the stories of his grandfather, Shelah Laws, with the music he loved to sing. The collection is titled Memories and Melodies of Appalachia: Shelah Lafayette Laws. Tune in to jump back to 1965 and hear this piece of Appalachian history.


A Black American Experience in the Coal Camps
  • February 22, 2024
  • 50:16

In this two-part episode, Lloyd Tomlinson from the West Virginia Mine Museum in Matewan gives context surrounding the company towns in West Virginia at the time of the Wine Wars and how racism and classism played a role in the camps. Then, Doris Fields (aka Lady D, West Virginia's First Lady of Soul) gives insight into her own experience in a Black coal mining family.

Valentine's Day Special
  • February 15, 2024
  • 47:52

Join us today on Mountain Talk for a Valentine's Day special. Come along with WMMT's Téa Wimer as we explore three different mountain love stories for this annual Valentine's-themed episode. First, we'll talk with Cara Ellis, president of Pikeville Pride, who touches on loving and feeling loved amidst chronic illness and learning how to listen. Next, we'll talk with Honey May, who lives in Alum Creek, WV and called in from the West Virginia state Capitol to discuss what it takes to make a loving marriage last. Our third interview is a couple very familiar to WMMT's listeners already! We spoke with Warren and Renee Collins Cobb,producers and hosts of Overtones LIVE. They initially met and dated when they were teenagers, but didn't fall in love and get married until over 30 years later. Together, we'll be exploring topics such as feeling cared for in our communities, compromise, therapy, and more than anything-- each subject believes passionately in "learning to be alone" before falling in love.

Black History Month: Poetry reading at Read Spotted Newt
  • February 8, 2024
  • 56.33

February is Black History Month and Eastern Kentucky is ready to celebrate! On Friday, February 2nd, a Black History reading took place at Read Spotted Newt in Hazard, KY. People gathered to see friends old and new, have some snacks, and share the work of our favorite black authors. The readings included some from classic historical poets such as Gwendolyn Brooks, local artists like Emily Jones Hudson, and even some original work by Dee Parker! Tune in to enjoy some poetry and learn about these talented artists.

SM(n)Rs in Southwest Virginia: A Community Conversation
  • January 25, 2024
  • 51:36

As plans are being discussed for new energy in Virginia, Central Appalachians from the Southwest corner of the state want to ensure that they have autonomy and authority when it comes to the industries that will define their region. Small modular (nuclear) reactors are a popular topic of conversation for politicians outside of SWVA, but grassroots non-affiliate organizers and environmental non-profits have joined together to ensure the people know just what these SM(n)Rs may entail for our future. The bulk of these recordings are from a town hall meeting held on October 25 of 2023 in Norton, VA. Other interviews have been conducted during the listening sessions happening almost daily presently in SWVA.

KY General Assembly 2024 Preview
  • January 4, 2024
  • 59:01

In Kentucky, the start of another new year means the beginning of another session of the state General Assembly, when lawmakers from all over Kentucky gather in Frankfort to write laws, pass laws, and, this year, come up with a state budget for the next two years.

The 2024 General Assembly kicked off on Jan. 2nd, and in this edition of Mountain Talk, we preview what might come up in Frankfort this year, and how it might affect us here in East Kentucky. For instance, could lawmakers decide to use money from the billions of $ sitting in Kentucky's so-called 'Rainy Day Fund' to help build houses for local flood victims, or to give teachers raises? And are there bills that might get proposed that could affect things like funding for mountain schools, or our state's already-large prison population?

In this hour, we sit down with Jason Bailey, of the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy, and with Sylvia Goodman, Capitol Reporter with Kentucky Public Radio, for two conversations about the state budget, bills that might get considered this year, and what the landscape in Frankfort looks like in general right now. In particular, we hear about some of the many ways that some advocates believe Kentucky's 'Rainy Day Fund' could be tapped into this year to provide direct support to people and communities across the state—including many in East Kentucky—who might need it.

Considerations for ATV Trails
  • December 28, 2023
  • 50:15

Ecotourism and ATV trails have become a popular solution to the economic impact of coal employment decreasing. However, ATV trails should be built with the environment in mind. We speak with Wally Smith, a local herpetofauna expert and Vice President of The Clinch Coalition, and Robert Beanblossom, a retired forest ranger and active environmentalist, about the impacts of unsustainable ATV trails and ways we, riders and builders, can be more mindful.

Photo courtesy of Wally Smith.

Forward, Together: Gov. Beshear's Inauguration
  • December 14, 2023
  • 1:22:56

On December 12th 2023, Governor Andy Beshear started his second term in office by being publicly sworn in on the Capitol steps. Kentucky's 62nd inauguration was full of festivities such as the inaugural parade, performances from talented artists, and several speeches highlighting the hope that after overcoming many hardships; Kentucky can move forward, together. Madison Buchanan was there to capture the day and share it with you on WMMT.

Healthy Holiday Eating; School Consolidation in the Mountains; Jean Ritchie
  • December 7, 2023
  • 59:18

So with Thanksgiving behind us, we are officially in the holiday season. And while of course there’s much to love about this time of year, there are parts of the holidays that *can* be stressful. And if you’re someone with your health on your mind—whether it’s your blood sugar because you’re managing type 2 diabetes or prediabetes, or it’s your sodium intake for the sake of your blood pressure—eating around the holidays can be especially tricky to navigate. So for anyone who might be keeping their blood sugar, or their overall health, in mind this year, as a part of our ongoing series Prevent Diabetes EKY, we begin this edition of Mountain Talk with some tips and tricks from an expert about navigating those holiday meals. Tami Ross is a Registered Dietitian from the University of Kentucky’s Barnstable Brown Diabetes Center, and she spoke to WMMT by phone back in 2021.
Then: this winter marks the 60th anniversary of when President Lyndon B. Johnson declared a federal 'War on Poverty' during his State of the Union Address in January of 1964. The 'War' that ensued was made up of many different programs and initiatives, which had a large and varied impact on life in the mountains; for better or worse, one of those impacts was school consolidation. In the 1960’s, a wave of consolidation swept across the region, after new federal funding that was up for grabs accelerated the trend away from smaller schools spread all across mountain counties, and towards new, larger schools concentrated in bigger towns. In a story from the WMMT archives, which first aired in 1993, Maxine Kenny reports about this unique time in the history of mountain education.
And then, to close the show: Dec. 8th would have marked the 101st birthday of a gigantic figure in both Appalachian and American folk music: Jean Ritchie. Born in 1922, Jean was a native of Perry County, and she became renowned all over the country as a skilled musician, a one-of-a-kind singer, an accomplished songwriter, and a well-known ambassador for Appalachian folk music to both the rest of America and the world. And for the second half of this episode of Mountain Talk, we bring you a radio documentary about Jean, from the WMMT series Southern Songbirds: Women Pioneers of Country & Old-time Music, which was produced by Rachel Goodman, with WMMT, back in 2001.

Houselessness in the Mountains with Rick Branham; Songs and Stories from Walker Calhoun
  • November 16, 2023
  • 59:21

For everything amazing about Appalachia—beautiful scenery, close-knit communities, and a strong cultural heritage, to name just a few of our many attributes—it's also of course someplace where lots of people are facing hard times. And often, when the region gets talked about, it can feel like some of the real issues that people face every day can get overlooked. Especially when it comes to things like opioid dependency, recurring arrests, or not knowing where you’re going to sleep at night.
WMMT producer Madison Buchanan is from the region, and grew up around these issues, and in a new regular series here on WMMT, she sits down with local people to talk about their experiences with things like houselessness, incarceration, and substance use, as well as her own. And we begin this edition of Mountain Talk with the latest installment of this series, which features Madison in conversation with Rick Branham, of Pike County. Rick is currently a schoolteacher at North Point Academy in Pikeville. But before that, he worked as the Homeless Education Coordinator in Pike County for over 20 years. And in this conversation, we hear about Rick’s experiences over the years in working with families, including children, who are struggling to make ends meet.
Then, in the last part of the show, in honor of November being National Native American Heritage Month, we close with a selection of songs and stories from the Cherokee people, who had called these mountains home *long* before the first white colonists ever set foot in the area. Walker Calhoun was a Cherokee musician and tradition-bearer from North Carolina, who performed here in the area several times, including here at Appalshop for the 1996 Seedtime on the Cumberland Festival. And to close out this edition of Mountain Talk, from the Appalshop Archive, we have a series of clips from that performance.

Preventing Type 2 in the Mountains
  • November 9, 2023
  • 59:43

If you live around here, you’ve *probably* heard of type 2 diabetes. East Kentucky, sadly, has higher rates of type 2 than the state and national averages.

But even though it’s common here, health educators will tell you there are still some common misconceptions about it. For example, did you know that it’s possible to have prediabetes—or even type 2 diabetes—without even knowing it, because you might not show any symptoms for awhile? Or that even if diabetes runs in your family, it’s still possible to prevent type 2 in your *own* body?

November is National Diabetes Awareness Month, and in this edition of Mountain Talk, as part of our ongoing series Prevent Diabetes EKY, we sit down with Jessica Anderson, a diabetes educator with the Pike County Health Department. We talk about these misconceptions, about diabetes in general, and about the Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP), a small-group lifestyle change program that Jessica leads at the Pike County Health Department. The DPP uses a curriculum developed by the CDC, and has an ultimate goal of helping folks learn how to better manage their blood sugar— and hopefully prevent type 2 before it can ever start.

To put it simply, as Jessica says in this episode: "Diabetes is preventable. So, why not prevent it?"

As a final note, the DPP is also offered at clinics and health departments across the region. For more locations, and for more stories like this of preventing and managing type 2 in the mountains, check out our project website: www.preventdiabeteseky.org

(Music in this episode was by Don Bikoff, from the Free Music archive; and by The Home Folks, from the album Last Chance, released on Appalshop’s very own June Appal Records.)

MSHA Finally Proposed New Silica Dust Rules in Coal Mines. Will They Help Prevent Black Lung?
  • October 5, 2023
  • 58:00

After having once been thought to be a thing of the past, black lung disease has been back on the rise in recent years, especially among central Appalachian miners. And for years, local advocates for miners’ health have pointed to silica dust as part of why— basically, because most of the so-called ‘easy-to-reach’ coal in our region is gone, you have to cut through more and more rock to get to what’s left. And cutting through that rock kicks up silica dust, which is incredibly toxic, and which, like coal dust, can also cause black lung.

But even though we've known how harmful silica is for awhile now, the federal rules around silica dust exposure in coal mines have not actually been updated in decades. But that might be about to change: earlier this summer, the Biden Administration’s Mine Health and Safety Administration (MSHA), finally proposed a new set of rules around silica exposure in coal mines.

In this episode of Mountain Talk, we welcome two special guests to the WMMT studio to talk about the proposed rules, how they might work if they are adopted as-is, and, perhaps most importantly, how *well* they might work. Host Parker Hobson speaks with Courtney Rhoades Mullins, Black Lung Organizer at the Appalachian Citizens' Law Center in Whitesburg, Ky., and William J. McCool, a retired coal miner from Letcher County, who has some 40 years' experience in the mines.

Medicaid Q&A With Cara & Priscilla Of KVH
  • September 14, 2023
  • 59:15

Dealing with changes to how your health insurance works is something that—and maybe this is putting it generously—can be confusing, even in normal times. And when it comes to Medicaid in particular, over the past year, there have been changes in both how you stay signed up for the program, and, here in Kentucky, in what kinds of services Medicaid will cover.

So, in this edition of Mountain Talk, we bring you a conversation with two Kentucky Medicaid experts to break down the latest changes, and what people here in East Kentucky need to know. We sit down with Cara Stewart and Priscilla Easterling, both of the organization Kentucky Voices for Health, and, in plain English, they walk us through what’s going on with things like Medicaid re-enrollment (in short, you need to re-apply to keep Medicaid going forward; so check your mailbox!), and Medicaid coverage of dental, vision, & hearing services (in Kentucky, these services are now covered by Medicaid, even though the state legislature has been pushing back on this).

As a final note here, if you need to check your Medicaid status, you can do so at kynect.ky.gov. And if you’d like help with the health insurance process, whether it’s through Medicaid or otherwise, official state insurance helpers called “kynectors” are available to lend a hand, free of charge. You can find more on connecting with a kynector at the kynect website as well.

WMMT Goes to the Queer Literary Hoedown
  • September 7, 2023
  • 59:09

On July 28, 2023, The Kentucky Black Writers Collaborative, in partnership with EKY Mutual Aid, put on a Queer Literary Hoedown at the Carnegie Center in Lexington, KY.

WMMT's Téa Wimer captured the poetry readings from the evening, featuring Kentucky authors like Savannah Sipple, Jay McCoy, Tina Andry, Renée Rigdon, LeTonia Jones, Samar X Johnson, Ondine Quinn, and Willie E.T. Carver, with a highlight reading from Silas House as well as a viewing of the music video for Tyler Childers' "In Your Love", which had been released the day before the Hoedown.

Madison Buchanan & Sean Hall; Barbara Kingsolver & Fenton Johnson
  • August 31, 2023
  • 55:01

In this episode of WMMT's Mountain Talk, we begin with the first edition of a brand-new series from WMMT producer Madison Buchanan, where Madison sits down with folks from all walks of local life to talk about issues that, even though they affect so many people in our region, often go un-talked-about— things like homelessness, incarceration, and substance use. In this first interview in her series, Madison speaks with local filmmaker Sean Hall to compare their experiences of growing up in the midst of these issues here in East Kentucky.

Then, in honor of the particular season we find ourselves in right now—somewhere between the tail end of summer and the very beginning of fall—we hear two readings that are rooted in this time of year, from two great Kentucky writers: Barbara Kingsolver and Fenton Johnson. These readings were recorded by Eli Kleinsmith at the 2013 Hindman Writers' Workshop in Hindman, Ky., and they were first aired on WMMT back in 2013 as well.

Growing Home in Letcher County / Bennie Massey Tribute
  • August 17, 2023
  • 56:13

On this edition of Mountain Talk, first we'll hear snippets from Whitesburg's Growing Home celebration, which took place on July 27-29 to commemorate the one-year anniversary of last year's devastating flood. We will begin with Appalshop's Archive. Collections manager Leo Shannon & Keilan Aplin-Siegel performed a rendition of Blue Eyed Boston Boy, a performance inspired by The Home Folks' performance of the song recorded in 1979 at the Carter Family Fold. This performance was on one of many mud-covered and floods-damaged audio tapes that the Archive has managed to salvage with the help of AV Geeks in Raleigh, NC.

Next, Appalshop's Archive Director, Caroline Rubens, takes us on a tour of flood-salvaged materials that were initially offered in an exhibit during Growing Home. Last but not least, we spend a few minutes at Levitt AMP Whitesburg to hear a performance from Letcher County's own banjo master John Haywood, performing Great Big Taters in the Sandy Land.

For the second half of the show, we shift gears to remember a beloved community member from Harlan County: Bennie Massey, who passed away this summer at age 73.

Bennie was a life-long resident of Lynch, Kentucky, and just according to his obituary, he was involved in so many community groups and activities, we didn't have time to list them all on the radio.

But among his many passions, Bennie was a longtime coal miner and an outspoken member of the United Mine Workers of America, who, throughout his life, was constantly fighting for better working conditions, wages, and rights for miners, as well as for better environmental conditions for the region. He was also: a deacon and a member of the choir at the Greater Mt. Sinai Baptist Church; part of the theatrical department of Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College (where he was known for his performance in "Higher Ground"); a member of the Tri-City Messengers, an a capella gospel group; a member of the Greater Mt. Sinai Spirituals; President of the Eastern Kentucky Social Club, Lynch Chapter; and a long-term Lynch City Councilman. But most of all, Bennie was beloved by his family, and by the community of Lynch, where he was a constant, joyful presence, and a well-known ambassador for the community.

To remember Bennie, we bring you clips from a piece we first aired here on WMMT back in 2017. It was put together by Randy Wilson for his fantastic show Kids' Radio, which was a mainstay here on WMMT for so many years, and features an interview that Randy did with Bennie, as well as clips of Bennie singing.

Mountain Talk: Black Lung Town Hall
  • August 10, 2023
  • 57:23

While it was once thought to be a thing of the past, Black lung disease has been back on the rise in recent years, especially among miners here in the central Appalachian coalfields.

On Monday, July 24, the Appalachian Citizens’ Law Center, a non-profit law firm based in Whitesburg, hosted a Black Lung Town Hall in Whitesburg, where they invited miners and their families to hear from doctors and experts about the current state of the black lung epidemic here in Appalachia. And on this edition of Mountain Talk, we bring you the audio from this important discussion. The event was hosted by Wes Addington, of the Appalachian Citizens Law Center, and featured speakers included Dr. Brandon Crum, a local radiologist and a longtime expert in black lung disease; and two representatives from the National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health (NIOSH): Chris Parker, the Field and Outreach Coordinator for NIOSH's Coal Workers' Health Surveillance Program, and Dr. Noemi Hall, a Research Epidemiologist in the Respiratory Health Division of the NIOSH Institute of Occupational Safety & Health in Morgantown, WV.

Mountain Talk: All Is Not Lost
  • August 3, 2023
  • 59:07

July 27 & 28, of course, marked the one-year anniversary of last year’s devastating flooding. It also marked the premiere of our organization, Appalshop’s, latest film— a full-length documentary about the flood, called "All is Not Lost." And today on Mountain Talk, we begin by bringing you the audio from that film, in full. This audio version is brought to us by WMMT producer Madison Buchanan, who was also one of the filmmakers behind the documentary.

Then, as we’ve been reflecting back on last year’s flood, we bring you a recollection of another local flood, the Tug Valley flood of 1977, which, among other places, devastated the community of Williamson, West Virginia. Our very own Jim Webb, a longtime former staffer and DJ here at WMMT, was living in Williamson during the flood. And in 2015, he was interviewed by Jeff Keith, of the University of Kentucky’s Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, where Jim spoke about that flood, and its aftermath. And we close the show with a clip from that conversation.

Knott County: One Year Later
  • July 27, 2023
  • 32:43

July 27th & 28th marked the one-year anniversary of last year's catastrophic flooding in East Kentucky. One year on, in this report from our weekly series, Mountain Talk, we head to Knott County, to meet three different households who all lost their homes in the flood— to hear about what this past year has been like, where they’ve ended up, and what their hopes are for the future.

As we'll hear, while some families have had happy endings when it comes to getting new houses built, others, both here in Knott County and all over the region, are still in limbo (including many who are still in temporary housing), and are still hoping for help.

This story was reported and produced by Parker Hobson, with contributing reporting by Katie Myers, through a collaboration with Grist magazine. It aired on the July 27, 2023 edition of WMMT's Mountain Talk. Check out Katie's companion story in Grist about housing in East Kentucky, one year after the flood, here.

(Music in this story includes: "Traveling Riverside Blues" by Don Bikoff, "Cross" and "Cloud of Unkowing" by James Blackshaw, and "Across the Tappen Zee" by Glenn Jones & Laura Baird, all of these from the Free Music Archive.)

No One Can Steal Your Hope: Stories of Young People Persevering
  • July 6, 2023
  • 52:33

Two firsthand accounts from young people who’ve weathered major hardships—  childhood cancer, and a historic flood. They share what they’ve gone through, and how it feels to navigate the aftermath. 

First--  When Lexie Brinson was 3 years old, she was diagnosed with cancer. Now, at age 17, she’s been out of treatment for 12 years. She and her mom have joined with other families as part of the West Virginia Kids Cancer Crusaders, to advocate for children and families affected by pediatric cancer. Lexie produced this story during this summer’s WMMT training workshop. She spoke with Brandi Brinson and Ali Wymer about the experience of pediatric cancer.

Second-- Producer Madison Buchanan brings us the story of Nik Lee, a new graduate of Morehead State University whose whose family home in Letcher County was devastated by last year’s historic the flood.

This episode was hosted and edited by Benny Becker. 


Type 2 Diabetes and the 2022 Flood; The Brookside Women; a Performance from Jean Ritchie
  • June 12, 2023
  • 59:20

Ever since last summer’s catastrophic flood changed life forever for so many in our region, we’ve regularly been looking back here on Mountain Talk to the flood, and its aftermath, as told through the lived experiences of different members of our community. And in this edition of Mountain Talk, we begin with two more stories from the flood, this time from Knott County: first, we meet Alice Caudill (at right in this photo), a diabetes educator with the Kentucky River District Health Department in Hindman, and then we meet Pat Hays, of Leburn, who’s been a regular participant in Alice’s diabetes education classes over the years. Together, Alice and Pat share about their experiences both during the flood itself, and in the days and weeks after, when both Alice and Pat helped feed hundreds of people every day, for free, in downtown Hindman.

In this piece, we also hear from Pat about what it was like to experience the flood as someone with type 2 diabetes—and how the disruptions and stress that the flood caused made managing diabetes more difficult. We first spoke with these two last October, and their story comes in part through our ongoing series Prevent Diabetes EKY. (And for more stories of managing and preventing type 2 in the mountains, check out our project website: preventdiabeteseky.org)

Then: this summer marks the 50th anniversary of when, in June of 1973, miners at the Brookside coal mine in Harlan County voted to join the United Mine Workers of America. This was a momentous decision, because the very next month, those miners would go on strike against Duke Power, after the company refused to sign what the miners said was a fair contract that, in part, would give them safer working conditions. The strike was long, grueling, and bloody—with one union miner, Lawrence Jones, even getting shot and killed on the picket line, in 1974—and was immortalized in the national imagination in the landmark documentary film “Harlan County, U.S.A.” Today, in honor of the 50th anniversary of the strike’s beginning, from the Appalshop Archive, we hear from three members of the Brookside Womens’ Club, who were heavily involved with the strike: Minnie Lunsford, Betty Eldridge, and Gussie Mills. These clips come from a program called The Brookside Women, which first aired on Mountain Community Television in Norton, Virginia, in 1974.

And finally, with Appalshop’s 37th (!) annual Seedtime on the Cumberland festival coming up this weekend, on June 16-17, we close our show with clips from a special performance from Seedtime history: the great folksinger, and tradition-bearer, Jean Ritchie’s set at the 1991 Seedtime Festival.

(Music in this hour includes: "Planxty George Brabazon," "Jesus, Joy of Man's Desiring," and "St. Anne's Reel" by John McCutcheon, from the album The Wind that Shakes the Barley [June Appal Records]; and "Traveling Riverside Blues" by Don Bikoff, "Cross" and "Cloud of Unkowing" by James Blackshaw, & "Across the Tappen Zee" by Glenn Jones & Laura Baird, all of these from the Free Music Archive.)

Rand WVa: Community Efforts to Solve Frequent Flooding
  • June 1, 2023
  • 41:09

Thanks to failing infrastructure, Rand, West Virginia gets flooded almost every time it rains. This has been happening for decades. Residents are working toward a solution, and they shared their story with WMMT.

From reporter Tiara Brown, and editor Benny Becker.

Poet Marianne Worthington
  • May 18, 2023
  • 56:30

East Kentucky Poet Marianne Worthington's new book The Girl Singer draws from the history of women in early country music. She reads selections and discusses her process in front of an audience in downtown Whitesburg.

Calls From Home: Louisville Panel Discussion
  • April 27, 2023
  • 57:50

A panel discussion about mass incarceration, with a focus on the system’s impacts across Kentucky, and ways that communities can try to make things better. Featuring filmmaker Sylvia Ryerson,  organizer Savvy Shabazz, journalist Jared Bennett, and moderator Shameka Parrish-Wright.  This followed an advance screening of Ryerson's new "Calls From Home" documentary film. 

The Calls From Home radio show takes place on WMMT Monday nights, taking calls starting at 7pm for broadcast starting at 9. 

You can hear more of our stories at wmmt.org, or by looking up mountain talk on any podcast app. 

The panel was introduced by Téa Wimer, recorded by Parker Hobson, and edited by Benny Becker.

Insulin Needs—and Insulin Heroes—After the 2022 Flood; Diabetes Alert Day; Local Poets
  • April 6, 2023
  • 57:30

In this edition of WMMT's Mountain Talk, in honor of national Diabetes Alert Day (which was Tues., Mar. 28), we begin with two stories about dealing with blood sugar in the mountains.

First, we travel back to the days and weeks after last year's catastrophic flood, for a feature story on the particular effect the flood had on local folks with diabetes. Because many diabetics need to store their insulin in the fridge, many had their supply affected by the flood— either from direct damage to their home, or from the fact that power was out in much of the region for days on end. In this story, we meet Tedd Link (pictured), a resident of Hindman, Ky., who went nearly three days without insulin (or food) in the wake of the flood— and we also meet Mendy Boggs & Mary Collins, two health workers with Mountain Comprehensive Health Corporation in Whitesburg, who helped organize a massive, ad-hoc, insulin donation and distribution program in the days and weeks after the waters went down.

And speaking of blood sugar, it's possible to have diabetes, or prediabetes, without even knowing it. And for living proof, for our next story in this hour, we meet Becky Stacy, a Perry County resident who was one of those people who received a surprise type 2 diagnosis a few years ago. But in this piece, we hear how she was able to make some big changes in her health, energy level, and blood sugar— all by making some small changes to her daily routine. And we bring you this story in honor of Diabetes Alert Day, a national call to action for everyone to get their blood sugar checked, and to think about what they eat & how much they're exercising, two factors which play a huge role in type 2.

Both of these blood-sugar-related stories come from our ongoing series Prevent Diabetes EKY. For more stories of managing blood sugar in the mountains, check out our project website.

And finally, since April is National Poetry Month, we close this show with a rebroadcast of a special program from the WMMT archives: a series of interviews with, and readings from, local poets Pauletta Hansel, Rebecca Gayle Howell, and Rose McLarney, produced by former WMMT producer Rae Garringer back in 2020.

(Music in this hour includes: "Greenville Waltz" by The Dutch Cove String Band, from the album Sycamore Tea [June Appal Records]; and "Traveling Riverside Blues" by Don Bikoff, "Chillicothe" & "Wind Through a Broken Glass" by Mark Fosson, and "Across the Tappen Zee" by Glenn Jones & Laura Baird, all from the Free Music Archive.)

A WMMT Public Affairs Retrospective
  • March 30, 2023
  • 57:55

We at WMMT are in the middle of our Spring Fund Drive, our first fundraising drive since last summer's catastrophic flood destroyed our broadcast studio in Whitesburg.

And in this episode of WMMT's Mountain Talk, here as we ask for your support to keep this station on the air, we thought we'd share with you just some of the reporting and storytelling that your donations make possible.

In this hour, we feature a wide variety of stories and reports from recent months and years, including:

- several reports on last summer's devastating flood from reporter Katie Myers, who was on the ground in the region for the flood, and its aftermath; 
- a piece about food access after the flood from our Prevent Diabetes EKY storytelling series; 
- a story about water quality in Martin County, KY.; 
- a story about broadband access in the mountains, from our Making Connections radio series; 
- and an audio postcard from last summer's Pikeville Pride celebration, which was just one of the joy-filled gatherings held in our region during Pride month last year.

If you appreciate these stories—and the fact that WMMT is a station that's committed to providing a platform for a wide range of local voices, and a wide range of local issues—you can be a part of keeping this station on the air, to make sure that we’re still here for years to come, and able to report about whatever comes next for our region. You can contribute right here at this website, by clicking "DONATE" at the top-right-hand corner of this page.

(Music in this hour includes: "Hard Times" by Doug Naselroad; "St. Anne's Reel" by John McCutcheon, from The Wind That Shakes the Barley [June Appal Records]; and "Traveling Riverside Blues" by Don Bikoff, "Chillicothe" by Mark Fosson, and "Cloud of Unkowning" & "Cross" by James Blackshaw, all from the Free Music Archive.)

Seeking Justice for People Incarcerated in Central Appalachia's Jails
  • March 16, 2023
  • 57:34

This week: first-person accounts of seeking justice for the people locked in central Appalachia's jails.

Quantez Burks is one of more than a dozen people who died in West Virginia’s Southern Regional Jail in 2022. WMMT’s Benny Becker brings us to marches and rallies organized by his family and supporters including the Poor People's Campaign. 

Then, we’ll hear about east Kentucky jails, as WMMT’s Katie Meyers shares updates on overcrowding and re-entry in Floyd County and beyond.

Mental Health, In Prison and After
  • February 6, 2023
  • 28:52

Though incarcerated people are members of our communities - on the electric grid with us, breathing the air with us and drinking water from the same watershed - they are hidden from our lives.

The WMMT listening area contains many jails and prisons, including US Penitentiary Big Sandy in Inez, Ky.; Wallens Ridge State Prison in Wise County, Va.; Red Onion State Prison in Wise County, Va.; Keen Mountain Correctional Center in Oakwood, Va.; US Penitentiary Lee in Lee County, Va.; Wise Correctional Unit in Coeburn, Va.; and, many regional jails and detention centers. And recently, a new federal prison has been proposed for Letcher County, Kentucky.

Prisons have been posited by proponents as an economic development engine for communities, providing jobs for rural people and rehabilitation for inmates in one swoop. However, others say that the presence of a prison in a community can have traumatic ripple effects that spread within families and down generations, and often leaves prisoners without the tools they need to succeed outside the prison walls.

In this episode, Jacob Shouse, a man incarcerated at Wallens Ridge State Prison, shares his story of seeking support for mental healthcare and rehabilitation within the prison system. We'll also hear from former psychiatrist and vocal Letcher County prison opponent Artie Ann Bates, on the psychological toll of incarceration on families and communities, including prison workers.

Railroad Workers in Appalachia
  • January 26, 2023
  • 22:25

On this Mountain Talk, WMMT intern Rowan Roudebush dives into the stories of two Appalachian railroad workers, some of their struggles on the job, their participation in union organizing, and their opinions on the near-mass railroad strike that occurred in December. In this piece you'll hear from Penny Nunes and William Woodring, both rank-and-file railroad workers. Music is "Railroad Man" by Bill Withers.

The Future of Healthcare in Appalachia: Interview with Dalton Hatfield
  • January 11, 2023
  • 56:20

Healthcare in Appalachia can be hard to navigate. With a lack of resources and transportation, many people rely on affordable healthcare options such as ARH and MCHC to receive care.

An upcoming potential change in policy could result in a rise in private medical facilities within Eastern Kentucky. Appalshop's Madison Buchanan spoke with Dalton Hatfield, Director of External Affairs at ARH, to discuss what this change could mean and how it may affect our communities.

Farming After Disaster in Eastern kentucky
  • December 19, 2022
  • 26:23

The catastrophic flood of summer 2022 destroyed not only homes, but livelihoods. In particular, farmers were hard hit. Many lost their summer crops, their high tunnels, and their tools; fields were left covered in silty, toxic flood mud.

But thanks to a massive mobilization of resources nd support in the agriculture community, many farmers are on track to begin growing produce again next year. In this episode of Mountain Talk, hear from Mike Eldridge and Timothy Breeding of Rocket Farms in Letcher County, as well as Chris McKenzie of Grow Appalachia and Valerie Horn of CANE Kitchen and the Letcher County Farmers' Market. Music featured in this episode is "Cabin in Gloryland," performed by Phyllis Boyens.

WMMT reporter Rowan Roudebush contributed to this episode.

WMMT would also like to acknowledge other organizations currently assisting farmers in this time, including:

Foundation for Appalachian Kentucky
Community Farm Alliance
Community Agriculture Nutrition Enterprises (CANE)
Cowan Creek Community Center
North Fork Local Foods
Hindman Settlement School
Kentucky Horticulture Council
University of Kentucky
Cooperative Extension and The Food Connection
Kentucky State University Cooperative Extension
Kentucky Center for Agriculture and Rural Development
Organic Association of Kentucky
USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, Farm Service Agency, and National Institute for Food and Agriculture
Kentucky Dept. of Agriculture and the Kentucky Agriculture Development Fund
Funders of Grow Appalachia and many of the organizations above.

This Is Home: Memories of Raleigh County, WV
  • October 20, 2022
  • 52:40

A radio documentary produced by high school students from Raleigh County, West Virginia. Each interviewed a family member, recording stories of how this place used to be, and how it’s changed over time. 

Produced by Addie Butcher and Lexie Brinson, with Benny Becker. 

This production was made possible thanks to funding from the National Coalfield Heritage Area, a project of the National Park Service, and the state of West Virginia. Support also came from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and from WMMT listeners like you. 

Thanks also to Melanie Cooper, Cyndi Massie, Vickie Webb, Raleigh County HSTA, and all the many staff, volunteers, listeners, and supporters of WMMT and Appalshop.

In Recovery, Helping Communities Rebuild After Flooding
  • September 28, 2022
  • 29:12

On July 28, record flooding killed 40 and left perhaps thousands homeless in Eastern Kentucky. The day after was an uncertain one for many, but it was deeply anxiety-inducing for residents who've spent years struggling with addiction and in rehabilitation and recovery programs. Isolation, loss of structure, financial problems, and loss of community could be deadly, and many worried they'd lose all the stability they had. At the Hemphill Community Center and Troublesome Creek Stringed Instrument Company, two flagship recovery-to-work programs decided to scrape together any money they could find to continue paying their workers for the community support & disaster relief work they were already doing.

For this Mountain Talk, we spoke to baker Jason Fields and director Gwen Johnson at the Hemphill Community Center near the town of Neon as well as director Doug Naselroad and luthiers Anthony Parsons and Jeremy Haney of Troublesome Creek Stringed Instrument Company/the Culture of Recovery program in the city of Hindman.

Music featured is "Hard Times" by Doug Naselroad.


Kentuckians seeking help for substance use can call 1-833-8KY-HELP (1-833-859-4357) toll-free to speak with a specialist about treatment options and available resources. Kentucky River Community Care can be reached at their 24 hour informational hotline, 1-800-262-7491.

Website: findhelpnowky.org/ky
Crisis Line: 1-800-854-6813

FindHelpNowKy.org provides resource listings for hundreds of addiction treatment facilities across the state, providing up-to-date and accurate information about their treatment offerings and availability. If you need help finding treatment or have questions about treatment or recovery, contact our partners at the Kentucky HELP Statewide Call Center to speak with a screening and referral specialist Monday through Friday, from 8:30 a.m.-10 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 pm EST/EDT at 1-877-318-1871. After hours and need assistance? Call the Kentucky Opioid Assistance and Resource Hotline (KY-OAR) at 1-800-854-6813.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Treatment National Helpline
Website: ​findtreatment.samhsa.gov
Crisis line: 1-800-662-HELP (4357); TTY: 1-800-487-4889

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Treatment National Helpline, (also known as the Treatment Referral Routing Service), provides a confidential, free, 24-hour-a-day, 365-day-a-year, information service, in English and Spanish, for individuals and family members facing mental and/or substance use disorders. This service provides referrals to local treatment facilities, support groups, and community-based organizations. findtreatment.samhsa.gov

Overdose Prevention
Website:​ nextdistro.org/kyresourcesyesno

For assistance in obtaining naloxone, a life-saving overdose reversal drug, visit NEXT Distro. NEXT Distro works to get naloxone to people who use drugs and the people who are the most likely to be a first responder in an opioid overdose emergency. If you encounter someone you suspect is experiencing an overdose, call 911 immediately.

This story is part of the “America Amplified” initiative. America Amplified is a national public media collaboration focused on community engagement reporting.

This reporting was also supported by the Solutions Journalism Network.

This reporting is a part of WMMT's labor series.


LGBT Pride in Eastern Kentucky, Past and Present
  • July 14, 2022
  • 1:00:36

After the reversal of Roe V. Wade, many LGBT people fear that same-sex marriage and transgender rights could be up for scrutiny on the national level. Meanwhile, state legislatures are passing restrictive laws curtailing LGBT rights.

At the same time, rural Pride celebrations have proliferated. After a COVID-19 hiatus, Pikeville Pride returned to Eastern Kentucky, accompanied by new celebrations in Harlan, Ashland, and Breaks Interstate Park, among others. For Mountain Talk, WMMT traveled to Pikeville and Breaks Interstate Park to speak with people about the tense political atmosphere in Kentucky around LGBT rights, as well as the increasing acceptance many have found in their personal lives as rural queer folks.

Interviews in Pikeville include Emma Lowe, an organizer with Pikeville Pride; Cara Ellis, who helped found Pikeville Pride in response to a neo-Nazi march in town; openly queer high schoolers Rachel Daniels and her sister Isabella; mother and ally Paige Lewis, and more. Interviews at the Breaks include organizer and musician Pierceton Hobbs, same-sex marriage officiant Debbie Counts, and her son Reece Cumbo, among others.

Music is "Move Up a Little Higher" by Earl Gilmore, from June Appal Recordings.

After that, hear sounds of a past Pride, from the Archive: Rae Garringer speaks with performers and attendants at the first-ever Pikeville Pride.

Eastern Kentucky Remembrance Project
  • June 13, 2022
  • 26:32

Content warning: This episode contains frank discussion of racial violence, including lynching.

In this episode of Mountain Talk, WMMT celebrates Memorial Day with The Eastern Kentucky Remembrance Project in Wayland Kentucky. This campaign, spearheaded by the Big Sandy chapter of Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, aims to encourage learning and action for racial justice and reckon with the local history of racial terror and lynching.

Wayland, a former coal camp town, was once home to a number of Black families and coal miners. Black and White Wayland residents worked together and lived side by side, but sometimes, racist violence bubbled to the surface.

On Memorial Day, the community came together in Wayland to reckon with and reconcile these histories through a day of storytelling and community service. A cookout and speaker series was followed with the cleaning of a long-forgotten and overgrown Black cemetery in town.

Listen for words from Tiffany Pyette, a volunteer organizer with Kentuckians for the Commonwealth and member of the region's Native community; Reverend Steve Peake, a Black religious leader from Fleming-Neon; John Rosenberg, Holocaust survivor and activist, and retired lawyer with AppalalRED Legal Aid; and Emily Jones Hudson, founder and executive director of the Southeast Kentucky African American Museum and Cultural Center in Hazard. Music was performed live by Reverend Peake.

Eula Hall’s Rural Healthcare Legacy
  • April 19, 2022
  • 59:30

In this edition of WMMT's Mountain Talk, we dive into the history and legacy of radical Eastern Kentucky healthcare advocate Eula Hall. Eula was a larger-than-life presence, and over the decades, she organized and agitated around everything from black lung benefits, to food stamps, to clean water, and workers’ rights, among many other issues. But she’s perhaps best known for founding the Mud Creek Clinic in Floyd County, in 1973.

First, follow us to the field, where we visit the Mud Creek Clinic, now called the Eula Hall Health Center. Hear from clinic doctor Jeremy Parsons, Director of Strategic Planning and Development Pam Spradling, business administrator April Herald, and community health worker Jessica Atkins about the clinic's commitment to treating the uninsured, and to viewing healthcare as fully integrated with communities and their daily lives.

Then, we hear from Eula herself, through a 2010 interview with Bev May, discussing the continued urgency of healthcare, SNAP assistance, and workers' rights in rural Kentucky.

This story is part of the “America Amplified” initiative. America Amplified is a national public media collaboration focused on community engagement reporting.

This reporting is a part of WMMT's new labor series.

Building Community in Managing Diabetes in Perry County; an Interview with a Ukrainian Coal Miner
  • April 6, 2022
  • 27:53

In this edition of Mountain Talk, as part of our ongoing storytelling series Prevent Diabetes EKY, we begin with a story on the Healthy Perry Challenge, an initiative of the Perry County Diabetes Coalition last summer. The Challenge aimed to bring people in the community together around building healthier everyday habits, with the ultimate goal of helping to lower participants' A1C (a/k/a "blood sugar") levels.

Also in this episode, while Ukraine is of course a world away, it has something substantial in common with Appalachia: coal, including a long history of mining, and then having to face the thorny question of what to do after coal declines. And the hard times and instability caused by coal's decline in Ukraine have formed part of the complex backdrop for Russia's recent invasions, first in 2014 & then this year. In this piece from the WMMT archive, which first aired back in 2000, Tom Hansell interviews Ukrainian coal miner Valentin Chukalov, who describes the difficulty his country's coal industry faced in transitioning away from the Soviet system and into private enterprise.

Music in this episode was performed by the Dutch Cove String Band (from the June Appal Records release "Sycamore Tea"), Don Bikoff (“Traveling Riverside Blues”, from the Free Music Archive), and by Glenn Jones (“Bergen County Farewell", also from the Free Music Archive).

Evelyn Williams, Lowering A1C Levels in Letcher County, Earl Gilmore
  • March 25, 2022
  • 29:16

In this edition of WMMT's Mountain Talk, in honor of Black History Month, we open with a profile on a one-of-a-kind Black Appalachian: the activist Evelyn Williams. Evelyn was a unique and influential figure in the region, and the subject of an eponymous 1995 Appalshop documentary film (produced by Anne Lewis). This radio story is an adaptation of that film, and includes Evelyn's recollections of growing up Black in East Kentucky in the 1920's and 30's.

Then, as a part of our ongoing series Prevent Diabetes EKY, we hear from Letcher County's Tiffany Scott about a local program & research project, Appalachians in Control, that has been helping people in the area live better with type 2 diabetes. (For more stories of managing & preventing type 2 diabetes in East KY, check out our project website: www.preventdiabeteseky.org.)

And finally, from the Appalshop Archive, we close with a clip of the inimitable Black Southwest Virginia musician Earl Gilmore, who discusses the blues (it's like being in a fight—but with yourself, he says) and closes the show with a gospel tune.

Buffalo Creek 50th Anniversary
  • March 25, 2022
  • 28:27

2022 marks the 50th anniversary of the Buffalo Creek Flood, a disaster that occurred in Logan County, West Virginia, when a coal slurry impoundment dam suddenly burst and inundated multiple small communities along the creek. Over 4,000 were left homeless, 1,127 injured, and 125 killed. Community members in Logan County gathered this February to tell stories, bear witness, and commemorate the event. Benny Becker brings you the story.

Mental Health, In Prison and After
  • February 6, 2022
  • 28:52

Though incarcerated people are members of our communities - on the electric grid with us, breathing the air with us and drinking water from the same watershed - they are hidden from our lives.

The WMMT listening area contains many jails and prisons, including US Penitentiary Big Sandy in Inez, Ky.; Wallens Ridge State Prison in Wise County, Va.; Red Onion State Prison in Wise County, Va.; Keen Mountain Correctional Center in Oakwood, Va.; US Penitentiary Lee in Lee County, Va.; Wise Correctional Unit in Coeburn, Va.; and, many regional jails and detention centers. And recently, a new federal prison has been proposed for Letcher County, Kentucky.

Prisons have been posited by proponents as an economic development engine for communities, providing jobs for rural people and rehabilitation for inmates in one swoop. However, others say that the presence of a prison in a community can have traumatic ripple effects that spread within families and down generations, and often leaves prisoners without the tools they need to succeed outside the prison walls.

In this episode, Jacob Shouse, a man incarcerated at Wallens Ridge State Prison, shares his story of seeking support for mental healthcare and rehabilitation within the prison system. We'll also hear from former psychiatrist and vocal Letcher County prison opponent Artie Ann Bates, on the psychological toll of incarceration on families and communities, including prison workers.