Thursday, April 28, 2016

Five-part series takes a look at Central Appalachia

Oxycontin/Stacy Kranitz photo
Vice, a print magazine and website focused on arts, culture and news, this week published a five-part series on Central Appalachia called "Ain't No Grave." The series "focused on the effects of the declining coal industry, systemic problems with the health-care system, the struggle against the obliteration of mountains due to strip mining, the drug epidemic, and the history and meaning of the terms 'redneck' and 'hillbilly'," Stacy Kranitz reports for Vice. She said those involved in the series didn't want to focus on "mass media's view of Central Appalachia as a poverty-ridden region," but didn't want to ignore those traits either.

One story, "A Portrait of Coal Town on the Brink of Death," is a first-person narrative of Boone County, West Virginia. "Handley's Funeral Home buried most of my family," Jacob Knabb writes. "The stone structure sits on a corner lot near the terminus of Phipps Avenue, a couple miles downriver from my parents' house in Madison, W.Va., and right across the street from the old Bank of Danville building. The funeral business is one of the few that remain viable here in Danville—these days home to a smattering of churches and fast-food joints, a shocking number of for-sale signs, and not much else. But there are always going to be bodies to bury, grieving families to comfort, and so Handley's remains, its logo emblazoned on the menus a few blocks up Phipps at the Park Avenue Restaurant, on the fence at the Little League Ballpark in Madison, and on the press box perched above the football field where the Scott Skyhawks play."

Another story, "The Hard Times, Struggles, and Hopes of Addicts in Appalachia," looks at opiate addiction. "The opiate epidemic in Beckley, W.Va., is something that reveals itself quickly and casually—on the side of the road, in the parking lot at Walmart, in line at Taco Bell," writes Juliet Escoria, a Beckley resident. "Burnt bits of aluminum foil, paper packets that once held heroin. People nodding out, buying drugs on playgrounds, smoking heroin on the side of a busy road. It's worse on hot days, immediately after snowstorms, and especially on the first of the month, when paychecks and government benefits come through."

Other stories include: "What It Means to Be a 'Redneck' or a 'Hillbilly'"; "How Environmental Activists Are Fighting Back Against Pollution and Big Business in Appalachia"; and "Inside a Life-Saving Rural Clinic in Appalachia".

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