Re-stitching the Seams: Appalachia Beyond Its Borders

The Urban Appalachian Community Coalition is honored to serve as host for the 41st Annual Appalachian Studies Association Conference: Re-stitching the Seams: Appalachia Beyond Its Borders, to be held in downtown Cincinnati at the Millennium and Hyatt Hotels, April 5-8, 2018.

More than 1,000 local, national, and international leaders, scholars, educators, service providers, activists, advocates, artists and others hailing from more than 40 states will convene in Cincinnati for a coordinated effort to address the issues faced by Appalachians throughout the country, with a particular emphasis on themes of: Diversity and Inclusion, Economic Sustainability, Education, Environmental Sustainability, Health, and Migration. Read more on our Conference Themes page.

Conference activities include:

  • over 200 sessions of conference presentations
  • exhibit room with organization and publisher displays and a silent auction
  • evening entertainment in downtown and Over-the-Rhine, including an Urban Appalachian Showcase at the Aronoff Center as well as participatory gatherings featuring music, literature, and dance.

We hope to stitch together the diverse voices and minds of community members, activists, artists, youth, and researchers to provide a richly textured and colorful fabric of ideas, plans, workable solutions, and support as we move forward in the 21st century.

Join Us!

The Urban Appalachian Community Coalition is the first community organization to host the conference, meaning that we are operating without the organizational infrastructure that a university would provide. We are in the midst of an eighteen-month planning schedule, which includes program planning, community outreach, publicity, and fundraising. We welcome your involvement!

Why Cincinnati?

Cincinnati, Ohio, home of the Urban Appalachian Community Coalition, is not a place typically included in public discourse on Appalachia because it does not fall within the Appalachian Regional Commission’s defined borders of Appalachia. However, some 40% of metro area its residents report some degree of Appalachian family heritage. For over fifty years there have been organized efforts to advocate for and celebrate the presence of this urban Appalachian community. When the Urban Appalachian Council (UAC) closed its doors in 2014, the Urban Appalachian Community Coalition (UACC) emerged as an organizational structure through which urban Appalachians in the Cincinnati region can continue to build mutual support, promote awareness of urban Appalachian people’s contributions, and take action to address common concerns.

Providing leadership for the conference is a groundbreaking opportunity for the Urban Appalachian Community Coalition. 2018 marks the first time in more than a decade that the Appalachian Studies Association Conference is held outside the official borders of Appalachia and the first time in conference history that it is hosted by a community organization rather than academic institution. As we move beyond the third generation of Appalachians living in Cincinnati and other urban migrant centers, and as cities within the region’s traditional boundaries continue to grow, what it means to be Appalachian is evolving to encompass these communities, as well as rural areas and small towns. The 2018 conference seeks to stake the Cincinnati region’s claim to a role in this conversation. We hope to bring our wisdom and experience to bear on issues that affect the wellness of the Appalachian population in this region and beyond.

Restitching the Seams

As we extend an invitation to this conference to the region and our community, we are aware that we are dwelling in a borderland between the known and unknown in our nation. The theme for the 2018 conference resonates deeply on many levels.

  • A common heritage.  While most of the greater Cincinnati area sits just outside the formal Appalachian Region, the population is strongly connected to Appalachia through generations of family histories and strong personal and business ties, as well as common interests and values. This conference will allow us to reaffirm those important connections.
  • Common concerns.  The immensely complex issues of health, education, environmental sustainability, economic self-sufficiency, diversity, inclusion, and migration, affect urban and rural Appalachians in different ways, but are common to us all. This conference will allow us to listen to and learn from each other as we seek workable and creative solutions.
  • A need for dialogue.  The deep fissures in our country’s political and social fabric are painful to all of us, but perhaps are experienced most poignantly in Appalachia where the contrasts seem to be so stark. This conference will provide a forum for listening to each other across some of these difficult divides.

Involving the Greater Cincinnati Community

Community is at the heart of the 2018 Appalachian Studies Association Conference, with all contributing their own experiences, talents, skills, and/or research.  Participation from greater Cincinnatians is an essential to our goal of showcasing our Urban Appalachian community, particularly its significance in advocacy and in the arts. Bringing the ASA Conference to Cincinnati presents an unparalleled opportunity to:

  • Engage in results-oriented dialog about the issues that most directly affect Appalachians,
  • Celebrate the many diverse heritages of Appalachian peoples in greater Cincinnati and the region.

We are actively soliciting the involvement of regional advocacy and support organizations, local sponsors and all members of the Appalachian community, including educators, service providers, artists and community leaders. Beginning in Fall 2017 we will undertake a pre-conference community engagement initiative which focuses on education about and celebration of the Cincinnati region’s Appalachian community, including:

  • Urban Appalachian Literary Salons, providing opportunities to learn about and discuss the diversity of Appalachian people and experiences.
  • Ringin’ in an Appalachian New Year, an annual celebration held noon- five pm the Sunday, January 14, Noon- 5:00 pm, including a potluck dinner, music, square dancing and more.
  • Appalachian cultural education programs for K-12 students and their teachers, including school residencies, teacher training, and Express Appalachia: Journey And Identity, a special Cincinnati Arts Association Schooltime Performance at the Aronoff Center on Wednesday, February 21, 2018.