By Mike Templeton

The Urban Appalachian Community Coalition has partnered with WordPlay Cincy and local activists Kelly Cornett and Corinne Aquino for a benefit for the Hindman Settlement School in Eastern Kentucky who is working to distribute aid and supplies to flood victims, as well as rebuilding their own facilities. The Eastern Kentucky Recovery Benefit will be at WordPlay Cincy, 1556 Chase Avenue in Northside on September 9, 2022, 6:30 -10:00 pm. Tickets at the door or for presale (linked below). Donations may also be made by clicking the “ticket” link at that site.

The organizers have managed to pack plenty into this event, and there is certainly something for everyone. Here is the schedule in progress.

6:30: Welcome and readings by Pauletta Hansel & Carter Sickels

7:00: Dale Farmer & Ma Crow Duo

7:30: Readings by Richard Hague & Michael Henson

7:45: Mark Messerly (of Wussy)

8:15: Readings by MoPoetry Philips & Robert Gipe

8:30: Jay Hill

9:00: Final short readings by the poets and thanks from the sponsors

9:15 Tina Fey Band

We are about six weeks out from the initial flooding in Eastern Kentucky, and, as it happens, the disasters have fallen from the headlines. However, the people of Eastern Kentucky are still in dire need of assistance. It will take months, if not years, to completely re-build a part of the country that already suffered from challenges to infrastructure. UACC and friends are determined to keep these needs in front of our constituencies. This fundraiser is one way to do that.

The music end of things will begin with our own Ma Crow and Dale Farmer, so come on the early end! It is always a rare treat to have this duo on the bill. I got a chance to talk to Ma Crow about her thoughts on the event. “When I was asked to perform, I just thought it would be my pleasure and honor to help out,” she said. We talked about the flooding, and its causes and she added, “I just hope we don’t have to keep doing this over and over again,” referring to the man-made nature of these disasters. But keeping to the music, Ma Crow told me she and Dale Farmer have some old-time music lined up, maybe a Celtic tune. She did say she has a flood song, one that illuminates the tragedy of these events.

Other musicians on the bill include Jay Hill who is definitely going to kick things up a few notches. Jay Hill is a rapper and hip hop artist whose music is decidedly not old-timey but certainly exciting. I got see Jay Hill perform at the Cincinnati Entertainment Awards back in 2018, and I can tell you he is riveting. If you are not awake when you get to the event, you will be once Jay Hill takes over the mic. Tina Fey Band will give us something rockin’ (and potentially loud). Mark Messerly of Wussy fame will also be performing. Messerly brings his own style of American roots music which will make for an ideal complement to Ma Crow and Dale Famer.

Photo taken from Pauletta Hansel’s trip to deliver supplies to Hindman Settlement School

We are truly blessed with the writers reading at this event, including four Weatherford Award winning authors, Appalachia’s highest honor. Of course, Core member Pauletta Hansel will be the first to read and address the audience and welcome everyone to the event. Pauletta Hansel just returned from a trip to deliver supplies to the Hindman Settlement School. More on that below. Carter Sickels, whom we profiled here on the UACC blog, will contribute. Carter’s debut novel, The Evening Hour, is a feature film and his newest novel, The Prettiest Star, has created some real buzz. We also have readings by UACC friends Michael Henson, Richard Hague and MoPoetry Phillips, who are undoubtedly among the finest practitioners of urban Appalachian poetry and literature. Finally, Robert Gipe will share from his work. In addition to authoring the award-winning “Dawn Jewell” trilogy, beginning with Trampoline, Robert is founding producer of the Higher Ground community performance series, and has served as a script consultant for the Hulu series Dopesick and a producer on Carter’s feature film The Evening Hour. Truly one of the most powerful voices in Appalachian fiction, we are grateful Robert Gipe will be contributing to this event.

I spoke to Michael Link form WordPlay Cincy to get a sense of how they are preparing for the event. Link told me: “we are super excited to help with the recovery efforts. Our city is one of the richest areas for artistry, and we are happy to be able to bring so much talent to this event.” Link also gave me some of the backstory of how this all came together: “I was talking with Greg Kornbluth, Carter Sickles, and Kelly Cornett when the idea for an event to help provide relief to flood victims came up. It was really just a lucky confluence of people who got this rolling.” Greg Kornbluth is the owner of Downbound Books in Northside which has already raised substantial funds for relief efforts in southeastern Kentucky. This entire project was the idea of Kelly Cornett who teamed up with Corinne Aguino to get things rolling; she had also reached out to the Urban Appalachian Community Coalition for assistance. After talking things over with Core members of UACC and Libby Hunter, Executive Director & Co-founder of WordPlay, the benefit for Eastern Kentucky flood victims came together.

Event flyer

Pauletta Hansel has seen first-hand the damage in Eastern Kentucky. She explained that “Hindman was hit hard by the floods themselves and the Hindman Settlement School were working to get their own damage under control while simultaneously working to get supplies out to the surrounding communities.” The Hindman Settlement School suffered some serious losses in the floods. Hansel told me: “they lost some of their lodging facilities, offices, and some of their archives.” Hindman Settlement School has a long history of working within the communities and working to support Appalachian culture and history. It seemed a natural choice for all the co-sponsors of the benefit to work with them as a partner in relief efforts.

Pauletta Hansel said further that it “is clear that people are interested in and concerned about what has happened in Eastern Kentucky. This includes people with direct ties to the area and those who do not.” It is important to keep in mind that weeks after the initial flooding events, people in Eastern Kentucky are still living without electricity and entire houses are completely gone. The need for assistance is still urgent. The Urban Appalachian Community Coalition in partnership with WordPlay Cincy and all the sponsors are excited to bring you this event to benefit the Hindman Settlement School in Eastern Kentucky. Downbound Books and Shake It Records are providing support as well. Tickets available at the door or for presale (purchase link below).

If you cannot attend and wish to make a donation, you can do that by clicking the “ticket’ link at that site as well. Or just show up to the event with cash or a checkbook in hand!

Cover photo:

Mike Templeton is a writer, independent scholar, barista, cook, guitar player, and accidental jack-of-all-trades. He is the author of the forthcoming The Chief of Birds: A Memoir. Available later this year from Erratum Press. 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.

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