Guest Post: Kentucky Is My Fate
Shortly after I moved to South Carolina in 2018, I made a Spotify playlist filled with songs either about Kentucky or by Kentucky artists. One is a poem by bell hooks, which bears the same title as this essay. In it, she speaks of being comforted knowing that Kentucky will be her final resting place and imagines her ashes being spread across the Appalachian foothills. Though I have not yet returned, I know that, much like bell hooks, Kentucky is my fate, and it is where I was always meant to return.
Appalachia is forever a part of those who grew up there, and she will make her presence known in each of her children. After learning to code-switch early on in college, I primarily spoke in Standard American English for the remainder of my four years at Western Kentucky University. Despite bearing the name of Kentucky, WKU did not have many students or faculty who spoke (openly, at least) with the same Appalachian dialect I did. I was tired of the teasing (however gentle or friendly) and tired of being asked to repeat what I’d said, so I adopted a more enunciated, clipped way of speaking. After I moved to South Carolina, speaking in the dialect of my youth became more and more natural. The most logical explanation would be that since I live in an area where everyone speaks with a thick accent, I feel more comfortable bringing mine back out, but I like to think this is Appalachia’s way of staking her claim in me, showing the world where I come from and am fated to return.
I don’t say “fated to return” reluctantly. This is something I’ve always known, even when I denied it. I am on loan, seeing the world, gathering stories and experiences before ultimately returning home to Kentucky.
There is a special resilience that comes with being Appalachian. You grow up proud, surrounded by the walls of mountains and hills, distrusting anyone who doesn’t turn “oil’ and “foil” into a single syllable. We are descended, whether by blood or spirit, from coal miners who went on strike against the men from the North who exploited their labor. We know our worth, we know that our home is beautiful and sacred, and we know that one day, we are fated to return.
Guest post by Rachel P.