The Urban Appalachian Community Coalition’s mission is to provide an organizational structure through which urban Appalachians in the Cincinnati region can build mutual support, promote awareness of urban Appalachian people’s contributions, and take action to address common concerns. UACC recognizes that being Appalachian is not a singular experience, and the social issues that impact the Appalachian community are complex and dynamic. Our Urban Appalachian Leadership Project (UALP) is one way of developing and supporting community leaders and activists by providing small grants and connecting people from across the community to cultivate new ideas and perspectives which will further and renew the mission of UACC.
The Urban Appalachian Leadership Project is envisioned as a coalition of students and young adults, community advocates, scholars, artists, and others who empower community members to acknowledge diversity within cultural identity, connect with our history and shape our future by engaging in conversations and activities exploring what it means to be Appalachian. One way we achieve this is through our Innovation Grants Program, which accepts applications from Greater Cincinnati residents to plan and implement projects that expand knowledge of and involvement with well-defined aspects of Appalachian history, culture, and/or current issues affecting rural or urban Appalachians. For example, writers and researchers may be funded to work with educators and experts in areas of interest to the Appalachian community. Scholars, community leaders, and artists of all kinds may receive assistance for their work in areas that can provide life and color to how UACC is operated and the work we do. Residents of urban Appalachian communities may work with their neighbors to highlight community strengths and address community issues.
These grants have also helped connect younger participants with experienced mentors. As UALP’s first and outgoing Coordinator Dale Marie Prenatt explained, when she came on board as UALP Coordinator, “wonderful work had been done by others which identified UACC’s desire to become more connected with students, faculty, and staff at the university-level who wish to promote community engagement with urban Appalachian identity.” Funds have supported projects such as student-led educational outreach, researching West Virginia coal mine history and arts-oriented performances at schools, festivals, and the 2019 Appalachian Studies Conference. This brought greater awareness to those involved and brought the work of these students to a much wider audience. It is this kind of symbiosis that helps fresh minds to breathe life into our work, and help those interested in Appalachian culture to get the resources and mentorship they need and deserve.
Since that time, the Urban Appalachian Leadership Project Innovation Grants Program has been expanded to accept applications from community members of all ages, not just those involving youth. Some general ideas for project-related activities include:
- Planning and hosting Appalachian cultural events such as literary and/or musical performances, film series, or theatre and art exhibitions
- Creating/archiving material uniquely reflective of Appalachian issues including oral histories
- Presenting lectures, panel discussions or workshops on issues that connect to Appalachian themes or topics of value
- Action research related to social matters affecting urban and rural Appalachians, including health conditions, economic or other social injustices, school leaving, unemployment, and the opioid crisis
- Development of educational and other resources for use by the Appalachian community
In reflecting on her work with UALP, Dale Marie Prenatt expressed hope that it will continue “to highlight our region’s contributions to this country while keeping at the forefront the idea that Appalachian problems are American problems.” In fact, as Dale went on to point out, the research and study that comes out of the Urban Appalachian Leadership Project is one way of connecting with the larger context. The rest of the country,” as Dale explains, “can learn from the way Appalachians build coalitions to fight against the economic and societal forces that encourage us to be divided.”
We invite Cincinnati-area residents – adults and youth — who want to grow in leadership to develop project proposals through the Urban Appalachian Leadership Project (UALP) Innovation Grants. Projects should be related to learning about and engaging in Appalachian history, culture, and current social issues affecting rural or urban Appalachians. Visit our webpage at https://uacvoice.org/the-urban-appalachian-leadership-project/ to learn more, and to download the application.
Mike Templeton is a writer, independent scholar, barista, cook, guitar player, and accidental jack-of-all-trades. He lives in downtown Cincinnati with his wife who is a talented photographer. They spend their free time walking around the city snapping photos. She looks up at that the grandeur of the city, while Mike always seems to be staring at the ground.