While I may not currently live in Appalachia, my Appalachian identity and roots also run deep. Having grandparents and great grandparents from Appalachia and spending time with them brought about the tiredness and fatigue that we still experience today. We were finding ourselves living on a land with valuable natural resources and the reminder that the Black body was also a resource for the economic gain and greed for the institution of capitalism and white supremacy. We mustn’t forget that being a black woman in Appalachia was met with desire and despair. The despair of knowing the quality of life wanted for our family was always at risk, and the desire for a quality of life, clean water, clean air, and economic mobility. Unfortunately, the desire and despair haven’t changed much as those same disparities are still in grave existence today. Poor air quality, lead in the water and pipes, and environmental hazards kill us softly reduce our mortality while increasing infant and maternal mortality.
I know this all too well; living in a home that had extreme hazards caused three children to be prematurely born and created a well of mental and financial anguish for my family and me.
This birth of my children and why they were born prematurely is a constant reminder that illuminates the health indicators and daily health risks black mothers and women are faced with daily. Poor air quality exacerbated the health conditions of my children, who had to be placed on oxygen machines for the first couple of years of their lives. My son could not go to school until the physicians released him due to the toxins in the air and the health risks associated with those toxins that contributed to severe asthma, whole facial infections, and shots that cost over $10,000.00 per shot. This hurt me as a mother as I felt as though I failed my children and as a mother.
Today I find myself faced with the reality that while my son likes to drink tap water, it is a risk for him due to the lead in the water. Something as simple as wanting clean drinking water is also monumental when I think of the long-term health of my children. To continue to erase and exclude the black lived experience only diminishes our voices while constantly extracting resources to broker power arrangements that create more community trauma due to black suffering from adverse pollutants, toxins, and denial of preventative resources and access to healthcare and other human infrastructure.