In Appalachia, Margo Miller rules from “a place of brave joy”


Ms Miller said her experiences with racism were not the same today. “I am currently surrounded by a community of social justice people who are all concerned with equity, inclusion and anti-racism practices,” she said. “I’m lucky and don’t have the same experience as other sisters who work mostly for white councils and trustees. Many of them have tough battles.

African Americans make up about 10% of Appalachia’s population, while those who identify as Hispanic or Latino make up 5.6% of the population, a growing number, according to the Appalachian Regional Commission. Yet, according to sociologists and historians, blacks and Latinos with roots in Appalachia have a deep connection to the region and their rich history should be studied and appreciated. People like Ms. Miller, who are connected to the region’s history, are contributing to this effort, they said.

“You hear stories about the coal mines or you hear about good race relations here because there weren’t many black people here, but those stories are distorted,” said Dr El-Amin, of the West Virginia University. “Black people have always been in the area. Since slavery.

The fund Ms. Miller leads supports all Appalachia, regardless of race, gender, sexuality or other identities, but under her leadership, which began in 2011, minority Appalachia say they have felt more included . For them, the simple fact of seeing a black woman engaged in the growth and development of the region is a comfort and a source of encouragement.

Richard Graves, an artist from Abingdon, Va., a 2021 recipient of $5,000 from the Community Fund scholarship program, said the money helped him find stability in the first year he worked as a full-time artist. The foundation has given a total of $80,000 to scholars like Mr. Graves. But even more valuable than financial support, he said, was the community support that came with being part of the fund’s network.

“Because of the way these rural communities are siloed and pocketed, doing community work together can be difficult,” he said. “It gave me faces and names of people all over the region. We met on Zoom every two weeks and continue to stay in touch.

Building community and bringing people together is one of Ms. Miller’s greatest qualities, according to several organizers and recipients of the organization’s fund.



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