The Core Team with the Urban Appalachian Community Coalition consists of people who have advocated on behalf of urban Appalachian for many years. These are the folks who are present and working for urban Appalachians no matter what may come. While so many of us see the outcomes of the work and dedication of UACC in the forms of things like the cultural events and community engagement, it is the minds and efforts of these Core Members that make these things happen. It is a moment of real gravity to see one of the Core Members head on to other things. Core Team member John Bealle is moving to Paris—that’s France, not Kentucky, and we want to take some time to recognize John and all that he has accomplished for urban Appalachians in greater Cincinnati.
John’s role with UACC has been a paradox in that he has not always been the most visible person to the public, but you see his work every time you visit the UACC website. John is the tech guy behind the internet presence of UACC. The website and now the Cultural Resource Directory exist because John Bealle devotes his expertise and energies to creating and sustaining these things. John told me this role fell to him “long ago because I was the one who had computer programming experience.” Not that this role has been onerous by any means. John said he enjoys keeping the website going. This is John Bealle’s most obvious role as a Core Member, but there is much more to his work within the urban Appalachian community.
John Bealle is also the only musician in the Core. He plays fiddle, banjo, and guitar. He is a scholar with a Ph.D. in folklore from Indiana University and has published studies in the field. Like other Core Members, and so many involved in the advocacy and community engagement with urban Appalachians, John has brought a vast field of learning, experience, and general know-how to his work with UACC.
John Bealle began his work with urban Appalachian back in 2000 when he got involved with the Urban Appalachian Council and the Ringin’ in the Appalachian New Year celebration. It was through this event that he met people like Russ Childers and Nancy Laird, among others involved in urban Appalachian culture and advocacy. As John explained, “I was just blown away by everyone and the commitment they have to urban Appalachians.” With the demise of the Urban Appalachian Council, John saw this as a crisis. Yet, the commitment of the people who have made up UAC as they picked up the pieces to move on is what drew him further into the work. John told me about the meetings in the library at the old UAC office in Lower Price Hill and he said “the UAC library blew me away. I wondered, when UAC closes its doors what’s going to happen to all the books?” This concern would turn into commitment.
As the Urban Appalachian Council coalesced into the Urban Appalachian Community Coalition, the next big leap for John Bealle would be the Appalachian Studies Association Conference in 2018. This was a massive undertaking for everyone involved. Hosting the conference in Cincinnati was major milestone for UACC and for urban Appalachians in greater Cincinnati. John Bealle produced the ASA conference’s show at the Aronoff Center and associated large and small events that unfolded all over downtown Cincinnati at various locations. John likened production at the Aronoff to Midpoint Music festival. In reflecting on this event, John told me: “this was a huge task, organizing and producing the shows, coordinating with all that went on with the conference.”
Most recently, John Bealle helped develop the Cultural Resource Directory. This has become a vital feature of the UACC set of tools for connecting and showcasing urban Appalachian artists, writers, and creatives. John helped develop the CRD with Lampros Labs (https://lamproslabs.com), an Appalachian software development company. As the CRD grows, and more people are connected, John simply describes the registry as “a testament to how much of an impact Appalachians have on greater Cincinnati.”
John Bealle is originally from Alabama. After finding that he is from a county that is squarely within the Appalachian region, he was perfectly happy to claim his Appalachian heritage. He told me that “this was something to be proud of.” And though he has accomplished so much as a scholar and in his work with UACC, he said he never felt entitled to an intellectual life. It is this humility that has kept John Bealle’s work with UACC rather quiet, even if the impact of his work has been anything but quiet.
So what is taking John Bealle from Cincinnati to Paris, France? The simple answer is to be close to his daughter who lives in Paris. But John also expressed his desire for a fundamentally new experience: “I want to experience living outside my own country, to get an understanding of how life is different there.” But even as John feels the draw of international living, he is acutely aware of what he is leaving. With characteristic humility, he said, “It’s not exactly easy to leave behind the important work that UACC is doing. The commitment of UACC, particularly the Core Team, is in the long run more important than my adventure.”
I venture to guess that everyone involved with the Urban Appalachian Community Coalition would say John Bealle deserves all the respect and attention for his dedication to urban Appalachians over the years. While his presence and dedication as a Core Member of UACC will be missed, John Bealle’s accomplishments will continue to serve the mission of UACC even as he heads off for international adventures. And, as Core Member Pauletta Hansel say, “We are happy that when we say, ‘John is going to a better place,’ we mean on this earthly plane, not the next!” We wish John Bealle and his family all the best in his travels and adventures.
Mike Templeton is a writer, independent scholar, barista, cook, guitar player, and accidental jack-of-all-trades. Check out his profile in UACC’s new Cultural Directory. 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.