Appalachia’s Bright Future | Kentuckians For The Commonwealth
Release Date: 
Wednesday, August 27, 2014
Press Contact: 
Josh May
KFTC member

Appalachia’s Bright Future
Weekend activities will showcase local efforts to build diverse and sustainable economy

Additional Contact

Ada Smith, 606-422-5902

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Appalachian Community Funds's press release on the Kentucky Appalachian Heroes to be honored Friday night.

KFTC's principles and policies for shaping eastern Kentucky’s future

Appalachia’s Bright Future is beginning to come together through the efforts of individuals and mountain communities working for a just economic transition.

That’s the message organizers of the second Appalachia’s Bright Future gathering invite Kentuckians to hear and experience firsthand on the weekend of September 12-14.

The event is described as “a transition adventure, a multi-day tour and celebration that will give participants the opportunity to meet and learn directly from people and communities on both sides of Pine Mountain who are working to build a healthy and diverse local economy.”

“We’re inviting folks to eastern Kentucky to see some real examples of the transition that we’ve been talking about for awhile,” said Josh May of Whitesburg, a member of the planning committee with Kentuckians For The Commonwealth (KFTC). “We’re going beyond the concept of transition to actually seeing examples of people putting this new framework into action.”

“This is about Letcher and Harlan KFTC chapters welcoming folks from the rest of the state to come and visit us and learn about our vision, what we want in eastern Kentucky and what we want for our kids,” added local artist Sharman Chapman-Crane. “There’s a lot of good work going on by people envisioning what we want to see happen.”

The weekend will give participants the opportunity to visit a number of organizations and businesses that approach their endeavors with a just transition frame.

“Saturday will be an open-ended tour; we have a whole list of places for people to go and visit,” said May. “People can pick and choose based on what appeals to them or they would like to experience.”

Tour stops are categorized as “arts and culture” related or “food and energy” related and include crafts co-ops, art studios, places where music and culture are celebrated, coal mining exhibits, local food production and an energy efficiency project, among others.

“This is a wide array of businesses and organizations,” said May. “They are based in the community by local people working to create jobs right here. It’s people trying new approaches to how do we have a good living in the mountains. It takes all these pieces for a successful transition away from a mono-economy.

“Everyone knows that we have to figure out a new way of doing business, that’s the new common understanding,” May said of the values that connect each of the tour stops. “There’s an underlying theme of people wanting to make their communities more livable places and more sustainable, socially and economically.”

For May, a just transition frame guided how he and his partners structured their business, Roundabout Music Company, which opened earlier this year and is one of the possible stops on the tour.

“We formed as a worker cooperative,” he said of the business that sells CDs, vinyl records, turntables, and vintage musical instruments and supplies. “That means the workers, the four employees of the business, are also equal owners of the business. We all play a role in the leadership and decision-making. It’s shared decision making, shared responsibility and we all share in the profit.”

It also is important to May that the business be part of the community, that it highlight the local music scene and support the creative community that exists in the area. “It’s a new way of trying to make things work,” May said.

The weekend will kick off at 7 p.m. on Friday, September 12, with an awards ceremony in Lynch (Harlan County) honoring Bennie Massey and Stanley Sturgill, two KFTC members who have worked for many years to protect the region’s land, water, workers and communities. The Appalachian Community Fund is presenting them with Eastern Kentucky Appalachian Hero Awards for their commitment to civic engagement and social justice in eastern Kentucky. The celebration will take place at the Eastern Kentucky Social Club in Lynch.

On Saturday morning, participants will gather at the Benham Theater for an opening session on efforts to shape a just economic transition in the region.

Then participants are invited to choose their own adventure and visit as many of the more than 20 possible stops in Harlan and Letcher counties where entrepreneurs, artists, farmers, organizers and communities are working to build a bright future in the mountains. A late afternoon convening in the Appalshop Theater in Whitesburg will allow participants to reflect on the day. Saturday dinner will be at a Civil War homestead in the beautiful community of Carcassonne before attending the longest-running community square dance in the state in a nearby one-room schoolhouse turned community center.

On Sunday the schedule is flexible, with many suggested options for worship, hiking or swimming nearby.

Registration cost for this event is a sliding scale of $15 to $100 per person and covers participation in the weekend program and entrance to the awards ceremony and dinner on Friday night, dinner on Saturday night, and entrance fees to the Kentucky Coal Mining Museum in Benham and the Portal 31 underground coal mine tour in Lynch (spaces limited).

Registration and more information is available at

The Appalachia’s Bright Future weekend is a followup to a conference by the same name hosted by KFTC in April 2013. More than 200 people gathered in Harlan County to shape a conversation about the opportunities and challenges faced in building the next economy in the mountains. The conference helped connect many people, projects and ideas that are already at work in the region, and it lifted up promising opportunities and next steps for families and young people of eastern Kentucky.

The energy and spirit from that weekend have carried forward in many positive ways, and led KFTC members in Harlan and Letcher counties to share their transition stories with others in eastern Kentucky and around the state.

“This is an opportunity for the whole state to engage in a meaningful way in the transition that’s happening in eastern Kentucky and support people who are trying to adopt this framework and move things forward in a positive way,” said May.

“There’s a lot of work going on with buying local, growing our own food again, supporting our local communities, providing local jobs that are sustainable and helping,” Chapman-Crane said. “Everyone is a vital component, everything from the square dancing at Carcassonne to the Mercantile to the farmers markets and campgrounds like Wiley’s Last Resort – we realize how valuable these pieces are in our community.”