KFTC Blog

We Are Kentuckians: Celebrating Our Common Heritage

Posted by: KFTC Staff on May 6, 2015

On March 20, 2015 the Jefferson County Chapter of KFTC (JCKFTC) hosted “We Are Kentuckians: Celebrating Our Common Heritage,” an event that honored the important but often unheard stories, culture, and heritage of Black Kentuckians. The celebration took place through art, music, poetry, and storytelling. During the evening program at the Clifton Center, Kentucky writers, musicians, and artists shared their work, personal stories and vision for Kentucky’s Bright Future.

In November 2014, a team of six JCKFTC members began planning this celebration with the goal of building off of the success of last year’s event. Judi Jennings, We Are Kentuckians planning team member said the first We Are Kentuckians event “was one of the most inspiring and affirming programs I have experienced in the 23 years since I left the mountains and moved to the city. Both the program participants and the audiences included folks of all ages, backgrounds and ethnicities who wanted to learn more about the cultural bonds binding the coalfields to the banks of the Ohio. It inspired joy and hope for real change in Kentucky.”

The team began the planning process by having intentional conversations about the goals of the event and how it could be used to connect audience members to KFTC’s statewide and local work. They discussed the importance of using African American culture and heritage as a lens for the social, environmental, and economic justice issues that KFTC works on throughout the year. Starting in December the team began inviting Kentucky poets, speakers, artists, and musicians to participate in the event. The final line-up included Quinn Chapel AME Church’s Committed choir, rapper Joshua Outsey, DJ Yared Sound, Affrilachian Poet Joy Priest, poets Jeremy Clark and Tarsha Semakula; author and journalist Michael Jones, and speakers Tiffany Bellfield, and Eastern Kentucky Social Club and Harlan County Chapter members Benny Massey and Rutland Melton.

The Clifton Center, a restored 1930's performance and meeting complex located just east of downtown Louisville, graciously offered JCKFTC the use of their theater for the event. Per the suggestion of Clifton Center director John Harris the team decided to have the entire event on the theater stage. Clifton Center staff were able to set up the seating, stage area, and space for the silent auction, cash bar, and food on the stage. This non-traditional arrangement made for a very intimate and unique experience for audience members.

“The set-up on the stage of the Clifton Center surprised some folks at first.  As a Member of the Planning Team, I tried to greet many of the early arrivals and welcome them to come up to the seats on the stage. Mostly, their eyes lit up and folks went "oooohhh" when they saw we would be seated on the stage and not in the auditorium. Seating on the stage made it possible to see all the other great folks, check out the silent auction, talk about the food and anticipate the program to come. Again this year, Kentuckians of all ages, backgrounds and identities came out for KFTC's Jefferson County Chapter celebration of the common heritage we share as Kentuckians. People came willing to listen, share stories, learn and greet each other as neighbors, friends and community members,” says Jennings 

Painting by artist Bessie Johnson (photo courtesy of the Voice Tribune)

Another wonderful feature of the event was a delicious chicken dinner catered by the family-owned restaurant Dasha Barbour’s Southern Bistro. Dasha Barbour’s often serves up food sourced from their family farm in Hart County, KY. The Barbour family has been farming in Kentucky since the Civil War era and is currently working with New Roots, Inc's Fresh Stop in Louisville. During the event the Barbour family shared their family’s story and talked about the importance of supporting local businesses and farmers. 

Aside from bringing together people from diverse backgrounds to celebrate African American heritage and culture, the planning team also wanted to help raise money and members for KFTC. To this end members reached out to local businesses and artists for silent auction donations. Donations were received from Please & Thank You coffee shop, Carmichael’s Bookstore, WHY Louisville, Sustainable Health Choices, Safiyyah Dance Company, Heine Brother’s Coffee, Old 502 Winery, Songs of Sheba, and members of the Art of the Rural’s Rural-Urban Exchange. Tiffany Bellfield also donated an original painting by her grandmother, Madison County native Bessie Johnson. Thanks to a a few bidding wars and the generosity of several audience members, the silent auction raised $455.

Funds were also raised through admission fees and KFTC merchandise purchases. Attendees could also sign up to have their $10 admission go toward a KFTC membership or the renewal of their existing membership. By the end of the evening 9 people renewed their membership and 19 new people joined KFTC. In total the event raised a little over $2,000 on top of generating a lot of excitement about KFTC’s work and giving audience members a chance to visit with old friends and meet new ones. 

Reflecting on the event, We Are Kentuckians planning team member and event emcee Cassia Herron said,  “I really appreciate being asked, encouraged and supported to host this wonderful event for the second year! It gives me an opportunity to use my leadership skills in a different kind of way. I like the event because it makes me feel proud and helps connect my small town upbringing to many others. The space is warm, inviting and inclusive. It is one of very few spaces that uplifts Black culture in Kentucky and puts us on center stage and at the same time helps connect Black Kentuckians to social justice issues that affect us in a big way yet we aren't seen as a group working on them. My hopes are that through this annual event KFTC continues to bring new faces to our work and helps move the needle on those issues in a big way.”

Jennings shares, “People came expecting to share and find commonalities, and they did.  Once the program started, so many great folks, young, old and in between shared their stories and songs and visual art and foodways, that the feeling of our common heritage began to grow.  People nodded and smiled and shared a happy moment with other audience members who happened to meet their eye as they looked around. And it just got better as the program went on.  People really wanted to learn about KFTC and greatly appreciated all the information shared about the work.  They really wanted to enjoy themselves and connect with each other and be happy about living in Kentucky and believe that together we can make a better Kentucky for all. And they did. The hard work and planning paid off as people sat together, ate together, clapped together and really could imagine a better Kentucky where we recognize and celebrate our common heritage together.”

The chapter is already making plans for the 2016 We Are Kentuckians event and is organizing a We Are Kentuckians Exchange to Southeastern Kentucky to meet with Harlan County and Letcher County KFTC members and participate in the Eastern Kentucky Social Club’s annual Memorial Day weekend reunion.

Clicking this link to view more photos from the event by 

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Benham Power Board launches innovative residential energy efficiency program

Posted by: KFTC staff on April 24, 2015

Residents of the town of Benham in Harlan County, Kentucky will soon benefit from an innovative energy efficiency program, called Benham$aves, which was established today in a special called meeti

Raising the wage in Fayette County: what you need to know to get involved

Posted by: Beth Howard on April 10, 2015

The Central Kentucky Chapter of Kentuckians For The Commonwealth wants Fayette County to raise the wage!

Brooklyn sends love to the mountains

Posted by: KFTC Staff on April 10, 2015

 

Shelby County KFTC Year of Community-Building

Posted by: Shane Ashford on April 6, 2015

Members from the Shelby Co. KFTC chapter will be kicking off their ‘Year of Community Building” this April. Just in time for Spring and Earth Day, the first event will be a film screening and discussion of Annie Leonard’s short film “The Story of Stuff”, a film “about the way we make, use and throw away all the Stuff in our lives.” 

KFTC asks for public hearings on Stream Protection rule

Posted by: KFTC staff on March 31, 2015

KFTC has asked the U.S. Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement for a series of public hearings in eastern Kentucky concerning that agency’s plans to propose a new Stream Protection Rule.

The letter, sent to Robert Evans, director of OSM’s Lexington office, asks for a “formal public hearing and public education event as part of the rule outreach strategy.

“In order to assure the best participation by impacted citizens, we request that the hearing be held in the evening if possible. We also suggest that the public education outreach occur before the actual hearing so that citizens will be better informed as to the actual contents of the proposed rule,” stated the letter from Joanne Golden Hill and Mary Love, co-chairs of KFTC’s Land Reform Committee.

Big Sandy chapter hosts sixth annual Growing Appalachia conference

Posted by: Jessie Skaggs on March 30, 2015

Sharing ideas about community!On Saturday March 21, more than 80 people from around eastern Kentucky came to the sixth annual Growing Appalachia conference in Prestonsburg, which is a day of workshops about small-scale farming, energy efficiency and renewables.

Workshops were organized so that whatever scale you were working at or whatever your interest was, there was something for everyone that day. Covered topics included beginning beekeeping, learning about the cooperative business model, planning your home garden, a discussion on growing our own clean energy future in the mountains, soil building and nutrient management, do-it-yourself energy efficiency, seed saving, and more!

Madison County KFTC celebrates Pi(e) Day with 5th annual Pie Auction

Posted by: KFTC Staff on March 27, 2015

More than 60 people came out for the Madison County KFTC chapter’s 5th annual Pie Auction, and it was a rousing success, chock-full of laughter, puns, cheers for KFTC, and, of course, lots of pie! This year’s annual event was held on Saturday, March 14 at Union Church in Berea. The Pie Auction was extra special this year as it landed on Pi Day – 3.14.15, making this a once-in-a-century Pie Auction. 

Northern Kentucky Returning Citizens Forum

Posted by: Joe Gallenstein on March 23, 2015

The Northern Kentucky chapter of Kentuckians For The Commonwealth held a forum on March 15th raising awareness about the challenges facing former felons upon returning to their community. Member Rick Traud opened the event by welcoming the 40 people who attended, and talking about his personal expreience dealing with former felons trapped in a cycle of poverty as the result of mistakes in their past while working as a volunteer with Saint Vincent De Paul in Northern Kentucky.

Growing Appalachia on WMMT’s Mountain Talk

Posted by: Jessie Skaggs on March 19, 2015

Growing Appalachia on WMMT's Mountain TalkLast week, members of the Growing Appalachia planning committee were guests on WMMT's Mountain Talk, which is a weekly program that covers a wide range of topics pertaining to life in the mountains. Floyd County’s Sister Kathy Curtis and Letcher County’s Valerie Horn were in the studio to talk with host Elizabeth Sanders about the history of the conference, how they got involved, and what people can expect at Saturday’s conference. They were joined in the studio by Jonathan Hootman and Hillary Neff and then joined over the phone by Mark Walden.

SOKY members work toward statewide renters’ rights bill

Posted by: KFTC Staff on March 12, 2015

KFTC Southern Kentucky chapter members used the 2015 General Assembly to give their local work on renters’ rights a statewide platform.

The Uniform Residential Landlord Tenant Act (URLTA) is a set of codified best practices to clarify the terms of agreements between tenants and landlords.

It simply clarifies and standardizes the terms of a lease and protects renters from retaliatory evictions for reporting housing that is not up to code.

Based on best practices from the rental industry, URLTA is called a “win-win” for renters and landlords. Several states have adopted URLTA statewide. Kentucky’s state law, however, only allows individual communities to opt in to URLTA; it falls short of adopting it statewide.

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