"Voices from the Misty Mountains: Diversity and Unity, A New Appalachia." That is the theme of the Thirty-Ninth Annual Appalachian Studies Conference, March 18-20, 2016. The conference will be held high above the banks of the Potomac River in Shepherdstown, West Virginia on the campus of Shepherd University. Nestled but a stone’s throw from Antietam Battlefield, Harpers Ferry, Storer College, historic Martinsburg, and more, Shepherdstown is poised to offer attendees a unique experience that builds upon not only the cultural and historic richness of the area, but that of the Appalachian region itself. The Appalachian Studies Association prides itself on the inclusiveness and interdisciplinary content of its conferences and the 2016 theme allows for an in-depth look at the most pressing problems that face the region—issues that both unite and divide us.
Frank X Walker will deliver the conference keynote address on Friday, March 18 in the Shepherd University Frank Center Theater. Walker, a native Kentuckian and graduate of the University of Kentucky, holds an MFA in writing from Spalding University and was named Poet Laureate of Kentucky in 2013—the youngest and first African American to hold the position. Walker cofounded Message Theater and the
Affrilachian Poets and was named one of "the most creative teachers in the South" by the Oxford American: The Southern Magazine of Good Writing. His creation of the word “Affrilachia” is included in the Oxford American Dictionary. Walker has lectured, conducted workshops, and read poetry at over 400 national conferences and universities across the globe. Walker’s keynote address, entitled “Escape from Negro Mountain: Writing Histo
ry, Righting Wrongs,” will utilize stories and literature to shed light on the diversity of Appalachia. Frank X Walker will participate in a number of conference events in addition to the keynote. Special Plenary VII will feature Walker and the Affrilachian Poets in “Affrilachian Voices: A Reading by Affrilachian Poets.” Poets participating in the event alongside Walker include Kelly Norman Ellis, Ricardo Nazario y Colon, Bianca Spriggs, and others. The plenary session is free and open to the public and will take place Saturday in Shepherd University’s Erma Ora Byrd Hall.
Other special plenaries will feature the Cherokee voice of Lloyd Arneach, who will open the conference with a traditional Cherokee blessing and share stories from Appalachia’s indigenous peoples; the storytelling voice of West Virginia’s Adam Booth; reflections on folklore from John Lilly, former editor of Goldenseal magazine; the extraordinary vision of photographer Builder Levy; and finally the cultural and multicultural ethnographic intersections of Appalachian clogging and African-American dance as explored by dance scholars Matthew Olwell, Becky Hill, and Emily Oleson.
Please see the preliminary conference schedule in early 2016 for a full listing of events.