The Queer Appalachia Project and Electric Dirt Zine is the work of several friends of the late Bryn Kelly coming together to bring her vision to life. Since she was 16 years old living in West Virginia, Bryn dreamed, schemed and plotted a path to creating a zine about her beloved Appalachia. Bryn's vision was an intersection of queer's in nature, art, homespun cultural traditions, badass intersectional politics, pop culture and accessibility.
As Bryn’s concept of Queer Appalachia grew and evolved over the past year, a new name for the project materialized. As the group of contributors to this work expanded, we found ourselves no longer contained to just Appalachia, but the region of the South as well. These two areas, while having so many distinct differences, also contain many socio-cultural similarities, especially in regards to queer community. Whether in the coalfields of West Virginia or the forests of the long-leaf pine, the earth beneath us queers committed to collective liberation buzzes. We find ourselves both energized and grounded by that electric dirt.
With under-documented cultures and communities, there is often a gatekeeper. An archivist, sociologist, anthropologist, or historian decides who and what is documented and who or what is omitted from history. Someone with access to higher education and resources that many folks, especially in our impoverished region, do not have. That does not happen with Electric Dirt. We rely heavily on submissions. The underrepresented and misrepresented get to represent themselves. We get to define Queer Appalachia and the Queer South with our own images and truths. By embracing a combination of contemporary technology and social media, we are in a constant state of documenting our culture, community, lives and history/herstory. Electric Dirt is a place for us to share those truths and find each other. We survive and even thrive through sharing tales of wildcrafting our queerness, foraging for pieces of ourselves within the intersections of coal mines and class, race and religion, food justice and colonialism.
Electric Dirt seeks to celebrate queer voices from Appalachia and the South. Our desire to claim our own labels, reimagine our childhood myths, share our own stories, and create a better, safer world for all manifests itself in-between art and activism. The art we share and show is political; the way we show up and resist in spite of all that seeks to invalidate or erase our existence is art.