Over twenty years ago, poet and scholar Frank X Walker coined the term “Affrilachia” to describe people of African American decent in the Appalachian region. "Affrilachia!" announced the presence of Blacks in Appalachia. In a multidimensional sense of cultural identity, "Affrilachia," situates place as a central theme, along with race, gender, and class, in the identity experiences of Appalachia’s African American women inhabitants. As a marginalized group in the region of Appalachia, I found Black Appalachian women to be a compelling case for understanding identity. This is where my work began.
Starting with a Black woman and scholar, Kimberle Crenshaw, I sought to create performance pieces that acknowledged and analyzed “intersectionality” in the personal expressions, poetry and creative works of Black Appalachian women. This work, the Affrilachian Memory Plays was ignited by black women. It should come as no surprise that African American women in Appalachia have lived, survived and long been overlooked by dominant narratives that support stereotypical depictions of the Appalachian region and its inhabitants. I am grateful for the scholarship of bell hooks, Wilburn Hayden, Kathryn Taylor Trauth, CeCe Conway, Bill Turner, Joe William Trotter and others who have added to that narrative through their research. I am doubly grateful to creatives like the Affrilachian Poets, Affrilachian Artist Project: Fertile Ground and the Black in Appalachia film makers for their contributions. I would be re-missed not to mention the literary and archival works of the region, like the story of Memphis Tennessee Garrison, the Appalachian Oral History collections in Virginia and West Virginia that have documented the experiences of SOME of these women.
Moving beyond an investigation, I am more interested now in interrogating experiences of people of color, no just women, within the region of Appalachia through performance. What started out as an investigation of the personal expressions of four modes of survival by African American women in/of Appalachia to understand the multiple dimensions of Affrilachian identity and memory has grown into something deeper. A deep desire to add to the narrative of "Affrilachia," and if possible expand its creative contributions on the stage and page. Welcome to my (our) Journey.