Radical Action for Mountains’ and People’s Survival takes many forms, here are some of the projects we are involved in:
Youth Engagement Project (YEP) – Stories from South Central – Whitesville Community Engagement
Clean Water Hub – Kanawha Forest Coalition – Appalachian Mountain Patrol (AMP) – Movement Building
More info coming soon!
Youth Engagement Project
We started the Youth Engagement Project (YEP) because our office had become a busy hub for kids and teenagers in Whitesville looking for something to do. We organize activities for local youth to connect with the land, to build community resilience, to build leadership skills, and to try to guide them out of the cycles of incarceration, drug abuse, and violence that go hand-in-hand with life in coalfield communities.
The project started with trips into the mountains with youth to identify dead trees, fell and split them for firewood, which we then distribute to their families or sell locally—with the youth receiving a portion of the profits. We’ve regularly done arts and crafts projects with younger children. We’re working on a youth media production project (see “Appalachian Mountaintop Patrol” below) and have trained teenagers on how to use video cameras and how to conduct interviews. In the coming months we plan to hold skill-building workshops on knife sharpening, dealing with the police, screen printing, and boxing/self-defense, and continue to conduct plant identification and root-digging walks when weather permits.
Stories from South Central
Stories from South Central was created as an emergency response to the systematic chemical poisoning of people incarcerated in South Central Regional Jail in Charleston, WV, which occurred in the wake of the January 2014 MCHM chemical spill into the public water supply. Our investigations revealed widespread human rights abuses inflicted on the jail’s population during this crisis, and the failed response to the water crisis by jail staff and administration is just an example of a larger pattern of abuse, violence, and negligence.
To combat these abuses, we operate a full-scale prisoner support and advocacy project. We continue to support, advocate for and amplify the voices of those trapped in cages and we are working with former prisoners who want to fight for better jail conditions, more De-carceration and re-entry opportunities, and accountability for past abuses. We are working towards building a network of prisoner supporters and advocates primarily consisting of formerly incarcerated people. Follow this project on Facebook for updates.
Whitesville community engagement
RAMPS is based in Whitesville, a small town (formerly a coal town) along the Coal River in Boone County, West Virginia, in the heart of the coalfields.
We believe in building community power by fostering self-determination and resilience in places that are the most disenfranchised by corporate and state violence. For us, this begins here in Whitesville and the Coal River Valley, where the land and the people have been treated as a sacrifice zone for too long, exploited and mistreated for profit. Since colonization, the people living in these hills have been continually dispossessed of their land, forced to labor in toxic conditions, violently repressed for unionizing, and poisoned by their own well water. The mountains have been literally undermined, blown apart, and carried away in trains. The rivers have been contaminated with acid runoff and chemical by-products. Throughout all this, Appalachians have perennially fought back, and we honor and build upon this tradition of resistance.
Our space in Whitesville stays a hub of activity with neighbors (youth and adults) spending time with us — sharing food, sharing skills, studying, helping us work, asking for support, chopping wood or just hanging out. We work with our neighbors to to expand the inter-generational sharing of knowledge and we talk about racism, sexism, homophobia, class conflict, capitalism, and colonialism here in Whitesville, where few others do. We believe in the slow and circuitous work of sharing resources and showing up for one another as neighbors, allies, and comrades.
WV Clean Water Hub
After the January 2014 chemical spill in Charleston, we helped to form the WV Clean Water Hub, a large-scale community emergency support network, which coordinated bottled water donation and delivery across 9 counties in southern West Virginia. RAMPS members and hundreds of other volunteers brought bottled water to thousands of people whose water had been poisoned. As the months wore on and Charleston’s water crisis ended, the rest of the Clean Water Hub became inactive. But there’s an ongoing water crisis here in the southern coalfields, and RAMPS has continued to support residents of Prenter in Boone County, who have had unsafe, unreliable water for years. We bring a truckload of water every few weeks, and have coordinated larger relief efforts in response to 2 recent water outages there. Follow this project on Facebook for updates.
Kanawha Forest Coalition
We’ve been an instrumental part of this grassroots coalition which formed to fight a new MTR mine just outside of Charleston, and right next to the beloved Kanawha State Forest. This work has involved community organizing and outreach, “paperwrenching”, protest, and direct action. The campaign is winding down, thanks in large part to our efforts to dog the coal company by reporting dozens of violations on site, and mining has been halted for almost a year, with only one-quarter of the original permit blasted. We’re looking to organize around other permits and thinking about how to broaden the impacts of our organizing success. We played a key role in programming events at the coalition’s “pop-up” art gallery and events space in Charleston in late 2015, and we continue to support the coalition’s citizen enforcement and community outreach efforts. You can find updates, photos, drone videos, and more information on the coalition’s Face Book page and website.
Appalachian Mountaintop Patrol (AMP)
RAMPS is taking to the mountains with cameras and water quality meters. We are working with the Appalachian Mountaintop Patrol, a training initiative that puts monitoring technology in the hands of local activists to enhance surveillance of mining activities with everything from hidden cameras to drones! In addition to documenting violations and grievances caused by coal companies, RAMPS is also working with local folks, using video equipment provided by AMP, to help tell some of our favorite stories of community self-sufficiency, resistance to coal companies, and mutual aid. Some of the youth we work with in Whitesville are learning how to use video cameras so that they can choose whatever they think is exciting to film and collaborate on the project, too!
Our home is in The Coal River Valley, but we’re committed to continue being a part of the vital movement-building work happening across the continent. We believe in building connections between different organizations and front-line communities fighting oppression in different forms and in different places. We believe it is our duty to provide ongoing, direct support for the struggles of indigenous people and people of color in their own campaigns. We continue to work regionally and continentally to connect, build, train, and support the larger “movement.” We bring home strength and stories from our experiences supporting communities in resistance across the continent (from Black Mesa to Ferguson to Unist’ot’en).