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In Appalachia, Margo Miller Leads from “a Place of Courageous Joy”

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Ms. Miller said her experiences with racism weren’t the identical today. “I’m currently surrounded by a community of social justice folks who’re all about equity and inclusion and anti-racist practice,” she said. “I’m fortunate and should not have the identical experience of other sisters who work for mostly white boards and trustees. A lot of them have uphill battles.”

African Americans make up about 10 percent of Appalachia’s population while those identifying as Hispanic or Latino account for five.6 percent of the population, a number that’s growing, in accordance with the Appalachian Regional Commission. Still, sociologists and historians said, Black and Latino individuals with roots in Appalachia have a deep connection to the world and their wealthy history must be studied and appreciated. People like Ms. Miller, who’re connected to the region’s history, help with this effort, they said.

“You get coal mining stories otherwise you’ll hear of fine race relations here because there weren’t many Black folks here, but those stories distort,” Dr. El-Amin, of West Virginia University, said. “Black folks have all the time been within the region. From slavery on up.”

The fund that Ms. Miller heads supports all Appalachians, no matter race, gender, sexuality or other identities, but under her leadership, which began in 2011, minority Appalachians say they’ve felt more included. For them, merely seeing a Black woman who’s committed to the expansion and development of the world is a comfort and source of encouragement.

Richard Graves, an artist in Abingdon, Va, a 2021 recipient of $5,000 from the community fund’s fellowship program said that the cash made it possible for him to seek out stability throughout the first 12 months he worked as an artist full-time. The inspiration gave a complete of $80,000 to fellows like Mr. Graves. But much more beneficial than the financial support, he said, was the community support that got here with being within the fund’s network.

“Due to how sectioned and pocketed off these rural communities are, doing community work together will be hard,” he said. “It gave me faces and names of individuals across the region. We met on Zoom every two weeks and proceed to be in contact.”

Strengthening community and bringing people together is one among Ms. Miller’s strongest qualities, in accordance with several organizers and beneficiaries of the organization’s fund.

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