In this episode, a young person reflects on the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Appalachian leaders press Congress to reinstate the fees supporting the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund, and ReImagine Appalachia hosts a summit to discuss making best use of coming investments.
Daily Yonder producer Xandr Brown opens the show with her commentary remembering Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as the disruptor that he was.
Next up, we hear from a January 14 press conference organized by the National Black Lung Association, Appalachian Voices and the Appalachian Citizens’ Law Center. The group presented a letter signed by over 65 organizations calling on Congress to take action to restore the excise fee supporting the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund. The excise fee was cut by more than half when the Build Back Better bill was not passed at the end of 2021. Rebecca Shelton from ACLC and Chelsea Barnes from Appalachian Voices explain the urgent need for action. Vonda Robinson, a coal miner’s wife and Black Lung Association leader, and Arven Hanshaw, a disabled miner from West Virginia, describe the debilitating effects of living with Black Lung Disease. They call for an immediate extension of the excise fee supporting health care for miners.
The program ends on a brighter note with excerpts from the January 11-12 Reimagine Appalachia Strategy Summit. Speakers from throughout the Ohio River Valley discussed opportunities for business growth, infrastructure rebuilding, job creation and climate change reduction that are coming to the region. This will be possible because of the funds now available from the historic Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, as well as the American Rescue Plan and other sources of federal funding being prioritized for coal communities. Speakers include Peter Hille, community developer from the Mountain Association in Berea; Rosemary Ketchum, a city council member from Wheeling WV, who talked about her approach as a former community organizer; and Rob Dorans, a labor lawyer and Columbus, Ohio city councilman who spoke about the importance of using this new infusion of federal funding to make lasting changes for workers in the region. The Summit ended with a call for equity and justice from Bishop Marcia Dinkins, a representative of the Black Appalachian Coalition and Executive Director of Ohio Interfaith Power & Light.
*On January 20, Rep. Bobby Scott and Rep. Alma Adams introduced a bill for a 10-year extension of the excise fee supporting the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund.