eastern Kentucky

Higher Ground

George Floyd was murdered by police officer Derek Chauvin in Minneapolis, a cold and faraway place from the vantage point of Harlan County, Kentucky. But the energy of that long, hot summer reached a group of Harlan high schoolers, and soon enough, this small, rural town was in the midst of a national movement. 

The events stirred the community. Some saw it as a call to action on long-unaddressed racism in rural eastern Kentucky, and others saw it as a threat, including members of the local Ku Klux Klan. For the rest of the year, the memories of that summer still sat high in the community’s memory, alongside the deep divisions sown by COVID-19 and the election.  

Some tried to forget, hoping for some newfound peace of mind. But Higher Ground, a Harlan-based theater ensemble, decided to take the year and make a play about it.

Corinne Boyer

Katrina Bostrin had never seen the lake come up that quickly before. She’d lived in Jackson, the county seat of Breathitt County, Kentucky, on and off since she was a child. It had come up to the garage before, but never inside her home. 

As she spoke, a volunteer crew from a local church ripped out a ruined floor. They had just finished with the living room, where Katrina stood on the bare wooden subfloor. “This was where we celebrated Christmas every year,” she said, as afternoon light streamed in through the window. 

During the flood that started on the final weekend of February the water was six to eight inches deep indoors. Katrina and her two sons waded to her aunt’s house, but their trials weren’t over. “The next day,” she said, “that was when they came through, saying we had to evacuate immediately.” 

  

Screenshot/SHARK

Members of an Illinois-based animal protection group say one of their members was assaulted and another was driven off the road recently after confronting a suspected cockfighting event in southeastern Ohio. 

Animal rights activist Steve Hindi said his group Showing Animals Respect & Kindness, or SHARK, received a tip from the group’s hotline about a cockfight planned in Lawrence County, Ohio. It is a felony in Ohio to engage in a cockfight. Hindi and another member approached the rural property on Jan. 3 where the suspected cockfighting event was said to be happening. 

Sydney Boles / Ohio Valley ReSource

Heavy rains caused extensive flooding across eastern Kentucky this week, and city and county officials say it could take weeks to fix some of the damage.

Some residents were evacuated from their homes, and officials across the region declared states of emergency, including mayors in Whitesburg and Jenkins, and county judges in Letcher, Harlan and Knox counties.

“We want people to understand that they’re safe. They’re out doing everything they can do, from the volunteer fire department pumping out basements still today, to the city workers,” said Jenkins Mayor Todd DePriest.


J. Tyler Franklin, WFPL News

In one of his first community meetings since taking office, Gov. Matt Bevin spoke Friday with residents in Hazard about the decline of the coal industry and the area’s economic depression.

Kentucky has lost more than 11,000 coal industry jobs since 2009, and the Eastern Kentucky coalfields have been the hardest hit. Numerous factors have contributed to the decline: competition from natural gas, environmental regulations and rising production costs. But for the past eight years, many Kentucky politicians have placed the blame solely on President Barack Obama and his environmental policies.

Bevin largely stayed away from using the “war on coal” rhetoric* during his community meeting in Hazard, though he did include several pointed mentions of EPA “overreach” and blamed Obama for the region’s woes.

“The EPA and this current presidential administration have absolutely gutted coal,” Bevin said. “Our current president said he was going to bankrupt the coal industry, and boy has he worked his hardest to make sure he’s done exactly that. I tell you, the fall of 2016 can’t come soon enough as far as I’m concerned.”

McConnell Courts Coal Country Votes

Aug 7, 2014

Sen. Mitch McConnell is campaigning for re-election in Kentucky's coal country, blaming the loss of thousands of industry jobs on President Barack Obama's Environmental Protection Agency and saying his Democratic rival would be a vote to continue them in Congress.

The Republican incumbent is in a close race with Alison Lundergan Grimes. He rarely, if ever, mentioned her by name Thursday as he set out on a two-day bus tour. But he blasted Obama as well as former President Bill Clinton, who campaigned in Kentucky for the Democratic challenger on Wednesday.

Hoping to discredit the former president, McConnell told each of his audiences that Obama had renamed the building that houses the EPA in Washington for Clinton.
  
Grimes has said repeatedly she disagrees with Obama's approach on coal issues.

Alltech is investing about $24 million in a new Eastern Kentucky facility to help shore up economic development in the area.

Touted by Gov. Steve Beshear and Kentucky Congressman Hal Rogers, the development will expand Alltech’s distillery operations on a 380-acre reclaimed surface mine, and will grow to include aquaculture fish farms and an  egg laying operation.

Deirdre Lyons is director of corporate image for Alltech. She says Eastern Kentucky brings back memories  of her native homeland.

An Eastern Kentucky farmer’s market has become the first in the state to be  designated a “Summer Feeding Site” by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

As part of a joint effort led by the Community Farm Alliance, the program will provide farm-to-table meals free of charge to children under the age of 18  during summer break.

The program also aims to shore up business among local farmers by providing them with a steady source of income, and to improve community health.

According to U.S. Census data, about a quarter of Letcher County’s 23,600 residents live below the federal poverty line.

The CFA will celebrate the announcement July 26.

Congressman Hal Rogers and Governor Steve Beshear have announced the creation of a 15-member executive committee to lead their SOAR initiative. They held a joint press conference Monday at Hazard Community College to discuss the appointments.  Rogers and the Governor will co-chair the panel, which will be composed of public officials and leaders from the private sector.

The congressman says the group will keep listening to ideas to boost the region’s economy and improve its quality of life.

One of the executive committee’s first tasks will be hiring a permanent director, which it hopes to do by September. SOAR stands for “Shaping Our Appalachian Region” and was created to help eastern Kentucky recover from the slump in the coal industry and the loss of thousands of jobs.

A health department has confirmed flu cases in eastern Kentucky and is urging people in the community to get vaccinated. WYMT-TV reports the flu cases confirmed by the Ashland-Boyd County Health Department are the first cases of seasonal flu reported in Kentucky.