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I used to cry a lot. Like a lot, a lot. Hysterical, wailing kind of crying that would leave my eyes swollen and face red for hours afterwards. The waterworks were worst when someone was leaving after a visit. For example, if my grandmother was leaving to go back home to Texas after a visit to West Virginia, I would spend the better part of a day crying into a pillow or busting into tears while I was eating dinner. This is just what would happen to me until the age of 12: Somebody would come for a visit, they would leave and I would cry manically for hours.

Then, all of a sudden, my crying stopped. And not just when somebody left after a visit. I mostly stopped crying period.

Now, yes, of course, I will shed tears at a funeral, or at the end of the Pixar movie Coco, or that one viral video about Dwayne Wade when he retired, or whenever I read Paula Vogel’s plays. But outside of nothing more than watery eyes or a single, dramatic tear droplet rolling down my cheek, I find myself incapable of the almost inconsolable crying like I did when my grandma was leaving for the airport.

So, why this sudden shift? It was most definitely for a variety of reasons, but if I was to bet on something, one of them would be that the cathartic feeling you get after a good crying session is the same thing I experience in creation.

Artists, in my personal definition, do at least two things: 1) think about art everyday and 2) package emotions into tangible modes of communication. I say “think” about art because practicing art everyday can be both personally and financially taxing. When an artist creates art, I believe that he/she/they are doing so as a way to take deep, complex, unspeakable emotions and communicate them in a way that can be consumed by other people. They take their sadness, happiness, pain, love, hurt, joy, or whatever they feel, wrap it up and share it with the world.

My favorite artists, in whatever medium they create, do this practice of “emotional packaging” so effortlessly. Actors, writers, painters, musicians, or anybody who makes art have this innate and practiced skill of taking the internal and making it external. When complete, they make their audience mirror the emotions that they felt during their creation process.

And that is what I hope to do through the art I make! So laugh! Cry! Experience all the emotions and more whenever you listen to a song, look at a picture, see a movie, or read a book. Because that is exactly what the artist wants – you to feel.

Appalachian Movie Club

Feel like you spend more time scrolling through Netflix instead of watching something? Have HBO, Disney+, Hulu, and Amazon but still can’t find anything to watch? Want a mix between international hits and locally made films? Well I got you with some recommendations!

Judas and the Black Messiah (HBO Max – 126 Minutes): Amazing acting, directing, writing, cinematography and much more is in this movie about the real life events of Fred Hampton and the Black Panther Party during the 1960s. Oftentimes, biographical films can have slow moments, but not this one; it is a rollercoaster ride from beginning to end.

15 Minutes Late, Episode 2 (YouTube – 18 Minutes): This week on our Appalachian-made late night talk show, I check-in with the businesses that vowed to do better in the wake of the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests​, some promises made, and maybe a refresher on how long these systemic changes actually take. Plus, there is an amazing interview with activist/educator/TikTok icon George Lee Jr.

Liminal Space (VandaliaTV – 11 Minutes): Taking place in 1996, this brand new short film from Huntington, West Virginia, director Gavin Grizzle investigates a small Appalachian mountain town where mysterious missing persons reports bear connections to long-forgotten Cold War era secrets of extra-dimensional tampering. Well made, Appalachian content – can’t get much better than this! 

Homecoming King (Netflix – 72 Minutes): Comic Hasan Minhaj mixes storytelling and stand-up comedy in this powerfully funny special. I have watched this special more times than I have watched anything else on Netflix; I encourage everyone to watch it once because you do, you will want to watch it again and again.

Guest Corner

Each week, I ask one of my Appalachian art-making friends a question and share with you their answer. This week I asked filmmaker and photographer Kadin Tooley of Huntington, West Virginia: “Who would you define as an ‘artist’?” 

“An Artist is somebody who is making something or creating something that is an expression of the inward…making what is in the inside visible to the outside.

In 2021 that’s anything…that could be coding, that could be street art, that could be fashion, any medium that requires ‘making’ in any facets…more so than anything before.”

Final Thoughts

West Virginia tight end Jovani Haskins (84) and other players sing West Virginia's official state song "Take me Home, Country Roads" by John Denver after defeating Kansas 38-22 in an NCAA college football game in Morgantown, W. Va., Saturday Oct. 6, 2018. Photo: Craig Hudson/AP
Whether you are from West Virginia or not, there is something universal about when “Country Roads” plays and everybody knows every word.

In Service,

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