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.

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).

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.

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.