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Shepherd hosting 39th annual Appalachian Studies Association conference March 18-20

ISSUED: 3 March 2016
MEDIA CONTACT: Valerie Owens

SHEPHERDSTOWN, WV — Shepherd University will host its first-ever Appalachian Studies Association meeting when the organization holds its 39th annual conference, “Voices from the Misty Mountains: Diversity and Unity, a New Appalachia,” on campus March 18-20. The conference, which is expected to attract up to 800 participants, will offer a variety of presentations, tours, and entertainment, some of which will be open to the public. Click here to view the Appalachian Studies Association conference brochure.

The mission of the Appalachian Studies Association is to promote and engage dialogue, scholarship, education, creative expression, and action to promote a greater understanding of the region and develop pathways for the future.

The keynote speaker for the event will be former Kentucky Poet Laureate Frank X Walker, who won the 2014 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work in Poetry.

“Frank X is just an incredible poet, activist and individual,” said Dr. Sylvia Bailey Shurbutt, professor of English and conference chair. “He’s a wonderfully dynamic person, and he’s going to deliver the keynote, which is titled ‘Escape from Negro Mountain: Writing History and Righting Wrongs.’ That keynote sets the tone for all of these events and the whole conference, which is about diversity and unity in Appalachia.”

Shurbutt said all the sessions presented during the conference will explore aspects of the diversity and unity theme by focusing on history, literature, sociology, music, culture, education, and health.

Another highlight will be “Appalachia USA,” an exhibit of photographs by Builder Levy, who has published three books depicting life in the coalfields of Appalachia. Shurbutt and photographer Roger May will lead a discussion with Levy about what sparked his interest in the region and about his work.

Other plenary sessions that are open to the public will feature Shepherd adjunct music professor and professional storyteller Adam Booth; representatives from Skytruth, a nonprofit organization that uses aerial and satellite imagery to monitor the effects of environmental events like oil spills and natural gas drilling; former “Goldenseal” editor and traditional musician John Lilly with his reflections on preserving history; and a presentation by some Affrilachian poets.

“The Affrilachian poets, Kelly Norman Ellis, Riccardo Nazario y Colón, and Bianca Spriggs, will read poetry that will honestly knock your socks off,” Shurbutt said.

A Showcase Concert on Saturday evening co-sponsored by the Performing Arts Series at Shepherd will be hosted by Booth and will feature Blue Yonder, storyteller Lloyd Arneach, and the Good Foot Dance Company.

Several tours will give conference-goers and the community the opportunity to visit and hear about nearby historical sites like Storer College in Harpers Ferry, Antietam National Battlefield in Sharpsburg, Maryland, the Historic Roundhouse in Martinsburg, and downtown Shepherdstown.

“We’re just very lucky to be close to Harpers Ferry, close to Martinsburg, close to all of these really wonderful places and that have a historic past that is very deep and rich and interesting,” Shurbutt said. “We want to share these with everybody.”

Thanks to a $13,500 grant from the West Virginia Humanities Council, all conference plenaries and tours are open to the public. However, there are more than 200 papers, sessions, workshops, and roundtables that Appalachian Studies Association members can attend. Anyone wishing to enjoy the full range of events for the three days of the national conference can visit and register for the full conference. Plenary sessions and tours that are open to the public include:

Thursday, March 17

Friday, March 18

Saturday, March 19

Listen to the interview HERE.

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