NMAP’s Rights Reframed mentorship program aims to change narratives about social issues by experimenting with new approaches to storytelling and exploring creative forms of audience engagement. This time, the program focus is on building hopeful, community based narratives in the mountains of Central Appalachia where the consequences of fossil fuel dependency weigh heavy on communities.
Appalachia Reframed builds on two years of narrative research that NMAP conducted with environmental advocacy organizations in the region to better understand the narrative around the petrochemical industry. Our goal was to learn more about how environmental advocates could expand their movements by listening to the people they hoped to activate. Out of this work, NMAP recognized the need for new messages and narratives in the region that convey hope for a better future in Appalachia, one where individuals and communities could put down roots and thrive.
This cohort centers community storytelling as a vehicle for imagining new futures for Appalachia–futures that break free of fossil fuel corporate control and that embrace concepts for healthy, thriving, self-determining communities. Young Appalachians will inherit the consequences of decisions made today like the proposed expansion of the fossil fuel industry in the region. LGBTQIA+ and BIPOC Appalachians disproportionately bear the environmental and economic consequences of fossil fuel projects, and have often been excluded from economic policy discussion and mainstream environmental rights narratives. Appalachia Reframed centers these communities and their vision for the future.
Meet the Appalachia Reframed Cohort!
Erika Lawson (she/her) is an artist based in Huntington, West Virginia. Erika makes music as ‘Buni Muni’, her PopStar alter ego. She is also a fashion designer making costumes for various music video clients. Her Appalachian street wear brand Loved By Erika is handcrafted and recently became available at the Tamarack heritage market. Erika’s experience teaching various digital media courses as an adjunct professor at Marshall University make her well suited for the role of project mentor. She has a BFA in theater with a focus on costuming & directing from Marshall University and a MFA from Loyola Marymount University with a focus on Writing and Producing for Television. Erika enjoyed her years of working in the Los Angeles entertainment industry but is glad to be back in West Virginia where creating new arts opportunities is a major motivation for community involvement.
Crystal Good (she/her) is a writer-poet and founder-publisher of Black By God The West Virginian, a news and storytelling organization to center Black voices. Crystal holds the completely made up but totally real office of Social Media Senator for the Digital District of West Virginia, which encourages digital and political literacy. Crystal tweets @cgoodwoman
Peshka Calloway (she/her) is an Affrilachian artist from Parkersburg, West Virginia. Calloway is a single mother, disabled US Army Veteran, and red-card carrying member of Industrial Workers of the World. She serves as a co-director of Holler Health Justice, which centers on building power with Appalachian communities and individuals most disproportionately affected by health inequities — including Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC), those in rural areas, those with low income, and LGBTQIA+ folk. Peshka Calloway is a digital and mixed media artist who will be utilizing her abilities to expand on “Black Diamonds of West Virginia” to uplift profiles of Black civil rights leaders, activists & organizers.
Xena Bunton (she/her) is a journalist empowered by sharing stories of those unheard. After graduating from Marshall University in December 2021, she started a reporting position at Herald Dispatch in January 2022. As a full-time reporter, she still craves to put time in consuming and creating artistry among Appalachia and the queer community. Xena has reported on West Virginia sustainability changes, the petrochemical industry, Appalachia features, media trends and anything she can get her hands on within her general assignment beat at HD.
Baleigh Epperly (she/they) is a Queer Artivist hailing from Huntington, West Virginia. Baleigh graduated from Marshall University in 2021 with a Bachelors in Sociology. They have experience with organizing and advocating for sustainable and just change and now work with Coalfield Development as the Reuse Corridor Manager helping to create wealth from waste. Baleigh is also a multi-medium artist who is inspired by nature and people power. For the Appalachia Reframed project she will be organizing a team to create Holler Space Magazine, a creation by and for weird and wonderful West Virginians.
Alexander Vance (he/him) is a freshman at Marshall University pursuing a graphic design degree. Alex is interested in all mediums and hopes to be able to explore that through the project that he is creating. For the Appalachia Reframed project, Alex aims to educate adults and children via a book project about what it is like growing up as transgender in rural Appalachia, in hopes of creating a more understanding and accepting generation.
Isa McMullen (they/them) is a video, photographic, 3-D artist and author hailing from Huntington, West Virginia. They are currently pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Video Production with a minor in sculpture at Marshall University. Throughout their work runs a theme of intense exploration of the human experience. Capturing small moments of humanity in portraits, films and writings. Displaying grotesque but beautiful parts of the human body throughout 3-D art. McMullen will forever be chasing the dragon of making audiences uncomfortable with their unapologetic presentation of life as they see it. McMullen engages in many community based events and had a short film (Pink.) shown at Localization in October of 2021. They are also a founding member of the Huntington based art collective Bible Camp.
Sa-Rai Robinette (she/her) is a multidisciplinary artist based out of Huntington, West Virginia. She is a collaborator, a printmaker, a video artist, a curator, and a book-maker. Her work often deals with themes of dark humor, awkwardness, and the absurd. Through the utilization of old and new media techniques, she investigates and critiques established institutions and power structures.