Celebrating a forgotten community: a West Virginian uses her art to spark interest and change.

Author:Alleyne, Sonia
Position:THE WORK I DO - Crystal Good
 
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NAME: Crystal Good

JOB: Poet & Social Entrepreneur

EDUCATION: Bachelor's in Communication and African American Studies, West Virginia State University

AGE: 39

Crystal Good's lineage in West Virginia is six generations deep. As a committed creative voice in the African American Appalachian community, she uses her poetry in the spirit of activism to bring dignity and awareness to a population often dismissed and ignored.

Life as an Affrilachian:

Frank X. Walker, poet laureate of Kentucky, coined the term Affrilachian around the year 2000 to describe African Americans from the Appalachian region. "He claimed that word to be inclusive of the diversity of Appalachia," explains Good, "because when you think of the stereotypes of Appalachia, what America thinks of Appalachia, it doesn't think of the traditions and the stories of black Appalachia. And there are plenty of those stories and traditions here."

A forgotten community:

In January, roughly 10,000 gallons of coal-processing chemical MCHM spilled into West Virginia's Elk River, contaminating the public water supply. The company responsible for the spillage neglected to report it promptly and 300,000 residents--many of them African American--have been affected. "In West Virginia, the African American community is 3% of the state now," says Good. "The majority of the state's African American population was affected by this crisis. If this was any other place--like the majority of Georgia not having water--there would be outrage. That 3% makes us a forgotten inside a forgotten. But it also gives a sense of excellence, a sense of 'I have to try harder to achieve.'" It's why she says that so many talents have come from her home state: singer Bill Withers; historian Henry Louis Gates; and evangelist and entrepreneur Bishop T.D. Jakes. "I look at T.D. Jakes. How did he go from South Charleston, West Virginia, to the cover of TIME magazine [and this month's BLACK ENTERPRISE]? There are also plenty of unsung heroes. There's something special here that encourages that level of excellence. I think it comes from the physical community where you still know your neighbors, and you're a part of a tradition as difficult as it is for people to understand why you stay."

Finding a creative home:

Good describes herself as always having creative interests. "I come from creative people," she says, noting, "my grandmother and father were both in theater." Her interest in poetry, however, was piqued at West...

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