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FSU to Explore Appalachian Issues, Activism at Appalachian Festival Symposium

FSU to Explore Appalachian Issues, Activism at Appalachian Festival Symposium
Silas House

As part of the annual Appalachian Festival, Frostburg State University will host a film festival and afternoon symposium on Appalachian topics. The theme of this year’s symposium is “Unveiling Appalachian Otherness and Stories for Change.” It is free and open to the public.

The film festival will take place on Thursday, Sept. 18, from 7 to 10 p.m. at the Palace Theatre, 31 E. Main St. in Frostburg. The symposium will be held on Friday, Sept. 19, from 2 to 9 p.m. on the Upper Quad of FSU’s campus.

The symposium will emphasize stories that rarely make the headlines – stories of racial, ethnic and sexual diversity in the region; stories of exploitation and marginalization in the coal fields; stories of environmental and social injustice and efforts addressing these issues; and stories capturing the power of place.

The symposium’s highlight will be keynote speaker, author and activist Silas House. House is an award-winning Appalachian author of four books of fiction and one play, and the primary editor of several collections of essays. He is the NEH chair in Appalachian Studies at Berea College in Berea, Ky. At 6 p.m., there will be a dinner and book discussion on House’s book “Eli the Good” (2009), which emerged as a number one bestseller on the Southern lists and received the first annual Storylines Prize from the New York Public Library system, an award given to a book for use in the ESL and literacy programs of New York City.

House will speak at 7 p.m. He is also the author of “Clay’s Quilt” (2001), a finalist for the Southeast Booksellers’ Association fiction award and the Appalachian Writers’ Association Book of the Year Award; “A Parchment of Leaves” (2003), winner of the Award for Special Achievement from the Fellowship of Southern Writers, the Chaffin Award for Literature and the Kentucky Novel of the Year Award; “The Coal Tattoo” (2004), winner of the Appalachian Writers’ Association Book of the Year Award and the Kentucky Novel of the Year Award; and “Something’s Rising” (2009) with fellow anti-mountaintop removal activist Jason Howard, which is a series of profiles of various anti-mountaintop removal activists.

Other symposium events include:

At 2 p.m., three community members will respond to the Regional Economic Studies Institute’s report on the impacts of Marcellus shale drilling in Western Maryland.

At 3 p.m., storyteller, farmer and activist Wess Harris will talk about unionization and the Coal Field Wars of the early 20th century. Trained as a sociologist, his most important credentials may be his black hat (a certified underground miner) and background as a union organizer. Harris has edited two books depicting the history of the Coal Field Wars, “When Miners March” and “Dead Ringers: Why Miners March.” He has also been active in the movement to preserve Blair Mountain from the ravages of mountaintop removal mining. Recently, he located and digitally preserved more than 50 Appalachian portrait paintings. Harris lives in central West Virginia.

At 4 p.m., Adam Booth, a four-time West Virginia Liars’ Contest winner, will blend story, education and traditional and contemporary music in his presentation. He has participated as a storyteller at the Appalachian Festival for several years and appears at major conferences and festivals across the country. With a background in music and Appalachian studies, Booth recently released a CD and website, “The Mountain Came Alive,” using stories and song to capture the life cycle of a mountain and encourage listeners to consider the impact of mountaintop removal on the region’s fragile ecosystems.

At 5 p.m., Booth will continue storytelling with musician Jay Smar, who for more than 30 years has chronicled and collected oral histories and written songs about Pennsylvania’s coal heritage.

At 8 p.m., there will be a performance by Davis and Elkins College Appalachian Ensemble String Band and Dancers, a student ensemble that focuses on North American string band music and percussive dance traditions of the Appalachian region.

This year’s film festival on Thursday will screen “Triple Divide,” Public Herald’s first investigations into inevitable, negative impacts from shale gas industrial development and how those impacts are handled by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. Narrated with help from actor and solutions advocate Mark Ruffalo, major findings include stark negligence and endangerment of public and environmental health due to shale gas extraction. Through personal stories, expert interviews and investigation of state case files, “Triple Divide” tells a cautionary tale about a public agency meant to protect the public and environment that is instead protecting industry.

The film festival and symposium lead up to the free festival on Saturday on FSU’s Upper Quad. There will be live music, games, food and more.

For more information, contact Kara Rogers Thomas at 240-522-7635 or or visit

Situated in the mountains of Allegany County, Frostburg State University is one of the 12 institutions of the University System of Maryland. FSU is a comprehensive, residential regional university and serves as an educational and cultural center for Western Maryland. For more information, visit or Follow FSU on Twitter @frostburgstate.

FSU is committed to making all of its programs, services and activities accessible to persons with disabilities. To request accommodations through the ADA Compliance Office, call 301-687-4102 or use a Voice Relay Operator at 1-800-735-2258.


For further information on this release, contact:

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Frostburg State University
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Telephone: 301-687-3171
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