| Kentuckians For The Commonwealth

We are Kentuckians: Meta Mendel-Reyes

Meta Mendel-Reyes is an Associate Professor of Peace and Social Justice Studies and General Studies at Berea College and a member of KFTC’s Steering Committee. She has been instrumental in racial justice work at KFTC and across the country and in fairness organizing in Berea.

How did you get involved with KFTC?

I have been a member almost since I moved down here, which would be 15 years ago, but I wasn’t very active until the last three or four years. I was focused on my job. Focused on issues on campus around discrimination, including discrimination around sexual orientation. I had been an organizer and began to miss being a part of the community. Organizing was how I really saw how people getting together could solve their problems.

I thought all the issues were really important, but when we started the fight for a fairness ordinance here in Berea, that’s when I got more involved. And I got involved partly because of the issue, but I also got involved because our chapter and organizer were just so good. Everybody had a voice. It just reminded me of why it was so important for people to be members, and active members, of organizations like KFTC.

We are Kentuckians: Martha Flack

How did you get involved with KFTC?

In 2006, I became aware of KFTC through work at my church, Thomas Jefferson Unitarian Church, when we were looking to become a green sanctuary program. We had to partner with an organization for an environmental justice project as part of the requirements. We looked at three different organizations. I was the one to check out KFTC. At my first meeting they were trying to work with the other two organizations around voter issues. My church chose to partner with KFTC and ended up working on the I Love Mountains Day rally in 2007. We’ve never stopped doing that (helping to promote and attend I Love Mountains Day), and I never stopped going to KFTC.

Bonifacio "Flaco" Aleman

Bonifacio Aleman or as many call him, Flaco, is from Milwaukee, Wisconsin and grew up in a single parent household where he recalls that crime and domestic violence were common. Flaco also recalls that most everyone in his family has been to jail.  Since he went to prison before he graduated from Jefferson County High School he ended up earning his GED in prison and also while in prison, started college. He spent 11 years in prison for armed robbery and kidnapping. 

Flaco feels that with a better lawyer or the means to pay for a better lawyer his final charges would have been different. Since his time home, he now serves as the Executive Director at Kentucky Jobs with Justice and volunteers within the social justice field serving as a board member for Fairness Campaign, Hispanic Latino Coalition of Louisville and Sowers of Justice.

Mark Romines

Mark Romines is a Louisville, Kentucky native. He has been happily married for 32 years and has a son, 2 daughters, and 2 grandchildren. Mark has been a member of the Volunteers in Police Services program for 7 years. He is a volunteer usher at the University of Louisville basketball and football games and a member of his local homeowners’ association. Mark is also active with KFTC’s Coal Ash campaign. Mark is a carpenter by trade and served in the military. In his spare time he enjoys watching college sports and riding his motorcycle and ATV.

Mark lost his right to vote in Kentucky almost 40 years ago after being convicted on a drug charge in Nebraska. At the time he was not aware that he was considered a felon. “I was placed on probation and didn’t spend any time in jail.” It wasn’t until he received a call from the ATF more than 20 years later asking that he surrender a hunting rifle he had recently purchased that Mark found out he was a former felon.

Mantell Stevens

Mantell Stevens is a life-long Kentuckian who's a smart guy, works hard, volunteers at Imani Baptist Church, and enjoys the outdoors. “I’m really a country boy. I like getting muddy and riding four-wheelers.” 

But what he can't do is vote.  Though he's telling his story to help change that.  

Steve Wilkins

How long have you been involved with KFTC, and how did you get involved?

I’ve been a member for about 10 years, but I got actively involved about four years ago when I retired. While I was originally drawn to KFTC’s commitment to stop mountaintop removal, the “Stop Smith” campaign (to prevent a new coal-burning power plant) was just ramping up and that’s where I directed my energies. Now, I’m involved in all KFTC’s efforts that relate to the electric energy sector.

Carey Grace Henson

Carey Henson arrest in DC June 2012I was among seven people arrested in Congressman Hal Rogers's office on June 6 [2012]. As a mother of five this was a drastic decision, but one I felt was necessary to bring attention to the issues facing the people of Appalachia.

Rev. Ron Barrow

gIMG_0214"I’m politically active," says Rev. Ron Barrow of Lincoln County. "I read newspapers and pay a lot of attention to what’s going on nationally and locally and it’s frustrating not to be able to participate by voting.

"I know a lot of people who can vote, of course, and I guilt them into getting out and casting their ballots – because it’s the right thing to do and because I can’t. We had a pretty good voter turnout in Lincoln County this past year, which I’m kind’ve proud of.

Sandy Holbert


"I'm a former felon," Says Sandy Holbert of Scott County," …but that's not all I am.  I'm a mother of four, daughter, a sister, a Sunday school teacher, a social worker and so much more."

Like 243,000 others in Kentucky, Holbert can’t vote because of something she did wrong in her past, paired with Kentucky’s extreme felony disenfranchisement laws.  Only Kentucky and Virginia take away voting rights from all former felons unless they can get a partial pardon from the Governor. 

When I received notification that I could no longer vote... I opened it up and the shame and embarrassment flooded me.  Even though I was the only one home I the time, I went to my room and shut the door and cried...  I felt like someone had just stripped me of my voice."

Jason Smith

gIMG_9196A couple of weeks ago, Jason Smith, 32, from Elizabethtown succeeded in regaining the right to vote and plans on voting for the first time in the election this November. 

But it wasn't an easy path getting there, he told us.