What We Do
When most people picture the Appalachian region, they don’t see Black people. Black Appalachians have been erased from the region’s history and replaced by a whitewashed image of rural America. In a region where economic prospects are grim, racism compounds the problems. The Black Appalachian Coalition (BLAC) is working to change that. BLAC provides a platform where Black residents are seen and heard as leaders, credible messengers, and experts. By changing the narrative, BLAC can begin to change the power structure of the region and confront the discriminatory practices which left Black Appalachians with fewer opportunities than their white neighbors. Through listening sessions, BLAC is helping to shape how policymakers create and implement inclusive policies addressing things like air and water pollution, food insecurity, healthcare access and more.
When I think of West Virginia, and I think of how people think of poor, poor white poverty, recognize that, inside that, not everybody is white, and that ‘poverty’ impacts those people greater. So what we have to do is be visible, because we’re invisible in this narrative.
~Crystal Good of Kanawha County, West Virginia, BLAC Coalition Member
LISTEN TO US
Our goal for the listening sessions is to hear the voices of people and walk alongside them to identify solutions for their community. In other words: What are people of color experiencing as a result of pollution, a lack of infrastructure, limited opportunities, disparities in resources, and other issues in their areas? What is the change that they believe must happen to improve their quality of life? Once people have answered those questions, then policy solutions can be proposed. And the solutions will often differ based on a community’s size, available resources and other factors. For example, if residents are impacted by pollution from an industrial plant that uses fossil fuels, they don’t want the pollution to continue. But they may not necessarily want the plant to shut down and hurt the local economy. And they may resent comments that they should move away if they don’t like the pollution. Instead, people near the plant may want stricter enforcement of environmental laws and regulations, so plant owners are held accountable for the harm they cause. Also, they may want the plant’s owners to rectify pollution problems that are hurting people’s quality of life.
Bishop Marcia Dinkins, BLAC Founder and Executive Director
MAKE DECISIONS WITH US
The time to tell such stories is now–when the region is positioned for economic recovery. The Biden Administration has pledged rapid action on climate change and once-in-a-generation investments. Since Appalachia plays a pivotal role in both presidential elections and congressional votes, it’s critical for its residents to play a part in the decision-making. The next wave of investment could begin to rectify the past decades of discrimination and lead to green infrastructure, federal job programs, and accountability measures for the fossil fuel industry and the damage it has caused.