West Virginia is a complex region with diverse people, places, and cultures. It’s known for its hills and hollers. In fact, it’s the third most forested state with 77.5% of its land covered in trees—preceded by Maine (89%) and New Hampshire (77.7%). West Virginia is famous coal, natural gas, timber, old time music. It’s also unique for housing an extremely rare and purposeful 13,000 square mile National Radio Quiet Zone surrounding the Green Bank Observatory, a solitary cocoon designed to stay out of Internet range.
West Virginians have been blind sided by economic challenges on several levels caused by shifts in job opportunities and the devastation to communities flooded with opioids. But as a recent New York transplant Lisa Elmaleh explains, her new home in West Virginia, “has everything that Brooklyn doesn’t. In Paw Paw, Elmaleh found a ”community of people who live more deliberatively and close to the land… and there’s more of a sense of belonging and being there for your neighbor when they need help.”
This Sunday (July 14, 2019), teens from throughout the Charleston WV area are invited to come together and share their views about how to make their community better for youth. I’m hopeful about the creative and meaningful ideas that teens may offer. I am thankful to those who are calling youth out to be heard.
Recalling words that have motived me, I share two poems here to tell teens that everyone’s message will be heard. No voice is too small.
In her July 12, 2019 podcast of the “Slow Down” Tracy K. Smith reads “This Is Not a Small Voice” written by Sonia Sanchez. I hope these words inspire Charleston teens to see how important it is for them to speak their minds and share their visions for a better future.
Teens in Charleston and everywhere throughout West Virginia need to speak up and sound out their ideas. For as this poem, Choice, by Emily Dickenson tells us, we are each a unique DNA mixture. Each of us must choose what our individual life experience will be.