postheadericon Cricket in Appalachia

I did my research project on cricket in Appalachia. Cricket is a sport that I have been really passionate about and right now, it’s pretty much the only thing that connects me to India. It has a really strong cultural and historical significance all around the world. Since cricket was spread by the British in their colonies and like we learned in this course, America was a British colony and there were British settlers in many parts of Appalachia, I decided to dig into the history of the sport in the region.

As I was doing my research I found some really fascinating facts about the history of cricket in the region. I learned that cricket was, in fact, the first sport with a formal set of rules to be played in Appalachia. The first recorded cricket game was actually played in Virginia in 1709. The first official rulebook for cricket was also formalized in Appalachia in the 18th century. With cricket slowly gaining popularity, many prominent people including the first president of America, George Washington started playing the game. Then I came to the question, what was the role of sport in society in the 18th century and why did people like playing cricket back then? After doing some research on the lifestyle of the people at that time and the economy of the region, I found that most of the people who played the sport were British tidewater planters. Games were seen as a way to socialize and have fun. Having a wager for a game was fairly common. Since the economy of the region at that time was primarily agricultural and the lifestyle of the people was pretty laid back, people really caught on to the idea of playing a relaxing and laid back sport to pass their time and socialize.

The advent of new technologies gave rise to the industrial revolution in the 19th century. The focus of the British shifted from rural Appalachia to the port cities in the northeast. As the British settlers expanded into different parts of Appalachia, the game of cricket went with them. The British set up many big companies in port cities of Philadelphia and New York. With the advent of a proper transportation network, people from the nearby Appalachian region could come to these cities for jobs. What followed next was probably the best period for cricket in America. In the 1830’s and 1840’s people started playing cricket for competition. Many cricket clubs started coming up in these cities which had become heavily populated as a result of the industrial revolution. Large amounts of people started showing up at local club games and soon, teams from Europe including England started touring America to play cricket. At its peak, cricket regularly fetched thousands of people to its games and if we compare it to the size of the American population today, it would probably equal to more than 100,000 people. Yet, somehow by the beginning of the twentieth-century cricket had become almost obsolete in America, It had been replaced by another bat and ball sport, baseball.

So, the question arises, what led to such a rapid decline in cricket? Why did people decide to give it up so easily? Interestingly, out of all British colonies, only America and Canada decided to give up on cricket, in each of the other British colonies cricket is still played and followed by millions of people. Nobody can really say what brought about the decline of cricket. Some say that people preferred baseball because it was played by soldiers during the civil war, some say that people wanted to get rid of their British past and playing an American sport was an important part of it while some just say that cricket was just too slow to adapt to the rapidly changing American society.

Cricket has always been considered a gentleman’s game and has always been about skill, grace, camaraderie and patience rather than strength and athleticism. With the American economy booming at an exponential rate, cricket, and all the values that it stood for lost their significance somewhere along the line. The function of sport in American society gradually changed and people started watching and playing sports for quick entertainment. Nobody had time to play for an entire day anymore. Baseball was easier to market and it quickly became the new favorite sport of the people.

Cricket might not be a top sport in Appalachia anymore, but being the oldest sport in America its significance in the region can’t be denied. It can be studied to learn so much about the economic, social and cultural evolution of the region.

postheadericon #ExperientialLearning: Kayford Mountain

October 29, 2016,                                                All day                                                                             Kayford Mountain, WV

I had the opportunity to go to Kayford mountain for a field trip with my Appalachian studies class. We left at 8 am in the morning. Kayford mountain is an active mountaintop removal mining site so I was excited to learn about the lives of the people living there, how their lives were affected by the mountaintop removal mining, what their opinion about the mining companies was and how they were dealing with the effects of it.

On our way to Kayford, I had the opportunity to have some really good conversations with Miss Laney about the life of people in small Appalachian counties. I learned that most of Appalachia lives without cellular connectivity and proper internet. As a computer engineer, passionate about technology it was really shocking to think that there were kids growing up without smartphones, the internet or even basic cell service. As we moved closer to the mountain, we got to see that firsthand as we got lost and we couldn’t pull up the GPS to help us on our way. While we were able to find our way back soon enough it really got me thinking more about the lives of the people in the region and made me more curious about how they lived.

When we finally got to Kayford, we met a social activist photographer who had been working to get the mining companies out of the region for many years. He was really passionate about Kayford mountain. He talked about the environmental repercussions that mountaintop mining has and how we have a duty to leave a better world for future generations. He later took us to the site of where Kayford mountain was and showed us how the mining company had blown it up to destroy it. He asked us to play our part in the movement and to do our bit. I really enjoyed hearing him speak. It seemed like he was a really respected person in the community and that he was truly determined to make a difference.

Displaying IMG_2284.JPG

Img1: The site of Kayford mountain

After that, we met a lawyer who explained how the people of the region had used the judicial system to their advantage in order to get justice for their land. She showed us the cracks that had appeared in the mountain as a result of excessive mountaintop mining. It was amazing to see what kind of permanent damage had happened because of it.

Displaying IMG_2288.JPG

Img2: Cracks in the mountain

As a result of this trip, I was able to make direct connections between what we had learned in class and what was actually happening in the world. I am so glad that I got the opportunity to actually visit Kayford. I feel like I actually started caring about Appalachian studies after that trip. Before, It was only a class that I had to get over with but after meeting the people of the region my perspective changed tremendously. These trips should definitely be conducted more often so that more people can go.

postheadericon #ExperientialLearning: Indian Festival

October 20, 2016                                            7:00pm-9:00pm                                                                Squires Student Center

The Bengali Student Association organized a cultural program for the east Indian festival od Durga Puja on Sunday, October 20, 2016. The event was held in the theater in Squires and had about 50-60 members of the community in attendance. Most of the people attending were members of the Indian community in the Blacksburg-Roanoke area. Mostly Indian students, Indian professors, and their families. I was surprised to see a few white Americans in the crowd as well.

The evening started with a traditional Indian folk dance being performed by members of the Indian community, including performances by children, students as well as adults. These events made me realize and understand how prevalent Indian culture actually is in Appalachia. To see young kids who have never even been to India perform these dance moves which are very much indigenous to the region was really heartening. It went on to show that even in the Appalachian region there is significant access to Indian culture.

Among many artists featured in the program, were a few Appalachian musicians. I am attaching a video of their performance with this blog. They performed a couple of tracks that related to the history of the region. They also performed tracks that combined eastern Indian music with Appalachian music. It was really cool to see the blend of two really different cultures coming together like this. They used traditional Appalachian instruments to perform. Upon inquiring with the organizers I found out that these people often perform at the farmer’s market and that’s where they met them. They seemed to be really good at what they did and it also explained the small minority of white people that had shown up to the event.

Overall, I thought that the event was a really good way of creating awareness about both Indian and Appalachian music and culture to the other community. I learned a lot about Appalachian music through this event and got to hear some really cool songs. I would definitely enjoy going to more such events in the future.

 

 

 

postheadericon Overview: Communicating what you have learned

The region of Appalachia is a complex place with a complex history and unique issues. Looking at it from the outside, it is easy to disregard the region by looking at problems like drug addiction, lack of education, unemployment and health issues. It is easy to listen to stereotypes and generalizations and disregard the region altogether.

Through this course, I had the opportunity to study the region over a long period of time. Starting with native American settlers in the 17th and 18th centuries to the European settlers in the 18th and 19th century and the internal colonization by the coal companies at present.

As the president of a large Appalachian university, it is your duty to be sensitive to the culture of the region and the issues that it faces. Most of Appalachia is overly dependent on the coal industry for jobs and their people are made to work in abysmal working conditions for meager wages. So bad are the conditions in the mines that workers develop diseases like black lung while working in them and they don’t even realize it. In order to get relief from all the pain that this job causes the people, they find comfort in drugs and often get addicted to them. With parents addicted to drugs or dealing with severe health problems caused by the mining companies of the region, the children have very little motivation to get an education. The students of the region who are lucky enough to be studying in your institution hold the key to the future of Appalachia in my opinion. It is very important that they take courses in the history and social structure of the region so that they can make conscious and informed decisions for themselves and their family. As a part of my Appalachian studies course, I had the opportunity of traveling to West Virginia for a field trip. There I had the opportunity to witness what mountaintop removal mining had done to the lives of the people living in the region. They did not have drinking water, the air is polluted, the water is polluted and they are being exposed to deadly diseases just by being in the region. The most shocking aspect of it all was that the people there did not want to leave. I believe that the reason for this is the lack of education, lack of access to proper technology and overdependence on coal mining for jobs.

I believe that the students of your university have a chance to truly understand the gravity of the situation and work towards getting people out of that region or helping them live a complete life over there. This can be done by focussing on more skill based occupations that cannot easily be replaced by machinery. These include computer programming, handicrafts, embroidery, woodwork, sales and many others. By making people aware of such employment opportunities and helping them acquire the skills to take advantage of them is a role that many of your students can play as volunteers. This would help young people who were not lucky enough to go to college, get a ticket out of the region and to a better life. As far as the people suffering from diseases and drug addictions go, your students can spread awareness about how to stay safe from these diseases and guide them towards better health.

As a university, you are sitting on a gold mine of human resource, It is your duty to guide these young minds in the right direction so that they can provide service to their community and help them break out of this vicious cycle.

postheadericon Coal Flowers

On Friday, we did an in-class activity about making our own coal flowers. We were split up into groups and were asked to follow instructions from a sheet of paper to mix ammonia, coal, toothpicks, pieces of string and other things in a plastic bowl and wait for it to crystallize. It was a very good way to observe the beauty in something which seems as dull and uninteresting as coal. After going through this course I have realized that coal is a very important resource to the people of Appalachia. This activity helped me appreciate the beauty of it even more.

Last week, we watched a film called “the last mountain” in class. It was a very powerful film that talked about how mountaintop removal mining was affecting the lives of the people in West Virginia. I did not know that this was already having such an adverse effect on the communities in the region. It was very interesting to see how the people of the region reacted to this, how they organized themselves into pressure groups and continued fighting for their rights and their land. Going to Kayford mountain last weekend was a really eye-opening experience for me. Having learned about the issues of the community, it was really interesting to hear their views on the issues faced by them and see their plight first hand. I am really happy that I got the opportunity to experience this.

This brings me to the discussion question, Why are many people in Appalachia still pro-coal after having seen what it is doing to their community? Why is it so hard for the people in the region to give up their land, acquire new skills and move to a safer area? Are technical education and engineering possible ways for the children of the region to break out of this vicious cycle?

postheadericon MTR, modern day practices and the future

Women have a really strong role in protest movements in the region. This movement can be very direct like Mother Jones in the coal wars in West Virginia in the  early 20th century. Mother Jones was instrumental in mobilizing people for the Appalachian coal strikes and wars in West Virginia. There was a lot of support from the women in the community too. In 1965, Ollie “Widow” Combs laid down in front of the bulldozer that was preparing to strip-mine her Kentucky farm. She was sent to jail for this but her movement sparked a series of protests which led to a strip mining legislation in 1967. Carrying on the legacy of mother Jones, a group of women played a crucial role in the picket lines during the Pittston strike. These women called themselves “the daughters of Mother Jones”. In Appalachia, women actually played a strong role in starting movements rather than just participating in them.

The Canary Coalition is a national grassroots clean air movement. It focusses on the great smokey mountains and the Appalachian region. Their name is derived from the yellow canaries who were used to gauge the toxicity in mines; these activists work hard to preserve the fresh air of their mountains from degradation due to coal burning power plants and other polluting sources.

From this course, I have learned that coal mining is a huge part of the livelihood of the people of Appalachia. With the 40 million dollars my first step would be to improve the condition of mines in the region so that people can work safely and lead a more fulfilling life. In the long term, though, I believe that this overdependence on mining for jobs needs to stop. In order to accomplish that I would set up skill institutes throughout the region that would focus on teaching young people about technology, engineering, and science so that the future generations can break away from this vicious cycle of coal mining and get better-paying jobs.

postheadericon Colonization in Appalachia: Helen Lewis

Lewis says that ” Appalachia is a good example of colonial domination by outside interests.” This is clearlly seen in the coal mining industry which was really big in central Appalachia. The regions of southern West Virginia, eastern Kentucky and southwestern Virginia were the ones worst affected. Before the industrial revolution, this area was isolated, inaccesible and an area that was supposed to be avoided. It was dominated by blue grass farmers and the land of this region was infertile. The settlers developed a lifestyle of subsistence agriculture and kinship during this period of virtual isolation. With advent of railways, lumbering and coal mining to the region in the late 19th century, many changes occoured that changed the region forever. There were rapid population increases due to migration due to the coal mining industry. People migrated in search of better pay or in hope for a more equitable society. The coal companies who benifitted directly from mining were usually located well outside the region. They had very little sensitivity towards the people of the region. The people were made to work in very dangerous conditions and were paid very little. It is very clear that the colonial domination of central Appalachia was brought about by the outside interests of a small group of people who only cared about making money and didn’t care about how the suffering of the people who worked the mines.

Photo of 19th C poor families in Leeds, shop in background

This image provides a true representation of the effect of the coal mining industry on the people of Appalachia. The majority of the people shown in this picture are dressed up in rags and look miserable while there is one guy who is wearing clean expensive clothes who is standing at a distance from the people and seems to be enjoying himself. The poor people represent the majority of the coal miners of Appalachia who are being exploited by a few comapines who aren’t even from the region which are represented by the rich man in this picture.

This brings us to our discussion question: Did the industrial revolution and colonial domination truly bring development and prosperity for the average Appalachian? What function did colonial domination perform in central Appalachia?

Image Source:

  1. BBC. Poverty In England. Digital image. My Learning. BBC, n.d. Web.

postheadericon The image of Appalachian music (Based on the Mahone reading)

Malone talks about how Appalachian music is diverse and comprises of many different genres, many different instruments and many different functions. There are Ancient ballads, gospel songs, ragtime pieces and Tin Pan Alley ditties. Many people consider the ballads and folk music collected by cecil sharp to be the defining core of appalachian music. In reality though, the music of appalchia is a representation of the varied cultures that inhibit the region. Industrialization played a huge role in this process as well. The laying of railroads and creation of jobs through coal mines, textile mills and other industries ended mountain isolation and brought various types of music and cultures to the reason.[1]

Capitalists thought of this expanding market as a way to make money. Record companies started coming into the region to exploit the traditional music of the region and try to make money off of it. The most historic of these ventures took place in bristol which is on the Tennessee-Virginia border. Record companies started setting up studios in bristol and started producing music by mixing blues and pop music with traditional appalachian music. This practice has led to the creation of the country music that we know today. [1]

My image of Appalachian music is commercial country music which represents rural and mountain scenes that can be easily meshed into the public mind.[1] The link that I have posted on my blog is a song by Blake Shelton which resorts to stereotyping the region. It talks about the various sterotypes surrounding rural life in appalachia. This image of Appalachian music is becoming increasingly popular, which brings me to my discussion question: Are capitalistic agendas misrepresenting appalachian music? Or do you think stereotyping in music is a sufficient way of representing the region?

Sources:

1. Mahone, Bill. High Mountains Rising: Appalachia in Time and Place: Music. Urbana: U of Illinois, 2004. Print.

postheadericon Merchandizing the mountaineer

Merhcandising the mountaineer is an interesting essay by Charles Allan Watkins about the effects of capitalism on the press and media in southern appalachia. The piece begins with the concept of women being expected to stay at home and be wives rather than be proffesionals themselves. This is what happened when Muriel Sheppard got married to her husband Mark. She was identified as a busy proffessional’s wife rather than the promising author that she was. So, it wasn’t natural for her to be pursue her literary ambitions but she went against popular culture and got her work published in North Carolina.

I come from a state in India which has a shameful sex ratio of about 850 women per 1000 men. The concept of women pursuing their proffesional ambitions is almost unthinkable in many households. Women are considered a liability and are supposed to get married and produce sons. So, even in rural India, women are identified as wives, mothers rather than proffessionals themselves. Because the society is even more rigid and conservative in those parts, its even harder to achieve the kind of success that Muriel enjoyed.

Another concept that is mentioned in the reading is, the concept of “pressure to make money”.This essay talks about how the University of North Carolina press which was dedicated to scholarly articles was under financial pressure to produce revenue. The press, under William Crouch started focussing on producing saleable manuscripts, so that they could be sold to outside publishers for a financial gain. Slowly, this resulted in production of litereary material that was not a true representation of maountain life in appalachia.

My hometown underwent a very similar process. When my parents moved there in 1993, it was still a predominantly rural area which was undergoing the process of industrialization. There was a lot of pressure from the government to encourage people to buy houses, factories in the area. This resulted in a widespread campaign to urge people to invest in this new “industrial city”. Advertisements in national dailys, magazines and other sources of print media managed to present a misleading image of a rising industrial city, whereas in reality it was just a bigger town with a few industries.

 

 

 

postheadericon Speculater and settler capitalists – Dunaway

Speculator and settler capitalists is a piece by Wilma A. Dunaway which analyzes the state of appalachian landholding due to events occuring between 1790 and 1860. Speculator and settler capitalists is a term that is used to summarize the thinking of european settlers who wanted to use the lands beyond the proclaimation point of the appalachian mountains for their own economic gains.

“Southern Apalachia was never a unified frontier; in reality it was a region resettled in 4 major historical stages” Dunaway makes a powerful statement here saying that the inflow of european emigrant population began well before the proclamation line mandation of 1763 and occoured in 4 historical phases before the last native americans were resettled from the region in the 1830’s. This westward movement into the appalachian frontiers was caused by privitization of goverment held land holdings in Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia and South Carolina. This basically means that the onset of capitalism and the concept of a free economy had a huge impact on the native american population of appalachia. People were forced to give up control of their lands and work for the european settlers. By the mid-1700’s wealthy tidewater planters and British court favorites controlled most of the lands in the valley of Virginia and western Maryland. Similarly, other private companies like the Greenbrier company and the Loyal company gained control of large parts of the appalachian lands and began utilizing the huge economic potential of the appalachian lands. As time passed by, Absentee-engrossment of southern appalachian lands kept increasing.

Capture1

Larger amounts of land started being owned by smaller groups of people and a larger amount of poor landless native americans depended upon those lands. Economically, the european settlers benifitted a lot from this and it laid a foundation for the America that we know today.

Sources:

Dunaway, Wilma A. “Speculators and Settler Capitalists: Unthinking the Mythology about Appalachian Land Holding, 1790,1860.”