"Forever taking pictures of mountains" will be carved into the rock above my head when I am laid to rest. I can't help that I am always remembering the structure of my backbone...
Last weekend in Harlan, Kentucky I gathered with folks whose backbone has the same structure as mine at the It's Good to be Young in the Mountains conference to discuss how to stay in Appalachia, and not only how to stay, but to thrive in Appalachia. Last weekend I had the energy of leaving Boone, the energy of being around other passionate young people. Last weekend it felt good to be young in the mountains. Surrounded by so many different kinds of mountain builders it was hard not to hold a vision of tomorrow.
However, as a young black man attending the conference pointed out during the closing of the conference, that vision is not complete and we still have a great deal of work to do before we see tomorrow. Tomorrow cannot continue to be a vision of predominately white people, no matter how well-intentioned we are. Because tomorrow looks like understanding that Appalachia is not just in the hills and the hollars, Appalachia is Charleston, Knoxville, Huntsville, and Pittsburgh. And tomorrow? tomorrow looks like momentum...
Momentum looks like the drive home from Harlan and a 20 minute conversation with Sam at a gas pump in Virginia about how we can love Appalachia actively and how not to just accept the parts that need to change. But momentum feels like your heart in your throat when a girl says that now she is going to write a poem about how the fire is not dead here.