On July 1st, Fahe launched its #UncensoredAppalachia Instagram campaign to build awareness of conditions in Appalachia. It was not an easy decision. Many non-profits struggle with the moral questions about using pictures of people in need and wonder if it’s exploitative, especially, in Appalachia, a place whose people and natural resources have been exploited in recent history. In the end, I decided it is the right thing to do.
Appalachia is one of the poorest places in the US where, even before the economic meltdown, middle-class families are poor by national standards. Our low educational attainment and poor health are national news, but people continuing to live without indoor plumbing or proper heat in the winter goes overlooked. Good paying jobs are scarce, forcing families to be torn apart in the pursuit of a better standard of living.
Everyone who chooses to dedicate their career to community organizations has a moment where they can’t unsee how desperately we need each other. And make no mistake, it is uncomfortable. A person, place, idea, or action inspires us, and its not always the most moving experience, but you can’t shake its impression. Mine was in Mount Sterling, Kentucky. We were driving around a historically black and partially abandoned neighborhood. I’d seen lots of dilapidated homes in Appalachia, but here they were close together, and mixed in with newer homes where two old lots were put together.
So it wasn’t the old trailer duct-taped together that sparked me. It was a nice new home with a late model Mercedes in the driveway. And not just one. It looked like a cruel version of Monopoly, and an apt analogy. Having that disparity and injustice shoved in my face was startling.
Our campaign is not about showing Appalachia in a negative light. But it is about showing things how they really are. And it’s about inspiring people who will make great things happen in Appalachia. Yes, these images make us uncomfortable sometimes. But that discomfort is how we know that to do nothing is wrong and someone has to make it right. We’re here to help and we need others to help us get it done.