An Update from Our Co-Executive Directors!

Greetings, Highlander family!
When we first came on staff, the team told us that summer is the most intense part of the year. As we’ve stepped back to look at where we have been, we’ve been saying to ourselves, “Were they right or what?”
Whether it was the annual Children’s Camp, the Seeds of Fire Living Legacy Tour and its trip to Texas, the steady work of the Appalachian Transition Fellowship and Economics & Governance Program and Beautiful Solutions Project, or simply hosting countless groups on the hill, we have hardly had a moment when we weren’t working with our people in movement. Be sure to read some highlights about the work in the rest of this edition of View from the Hill (to get caught up and to see what’s coming up!).
For the two of us, it’s been a season of keeping things moving and building relationships. If we weren’t working with staff, our allies in the work, or philanthropy partners to meet immediate needs or design long haul strategies, we were connecting with some of Highlander’s friends and family across the country. In May, we took a “Northeastern Tour” to visit with Highlander friends in Massachusetts, New York City, and DC. We launched our 85th Anniversary House Party series with new friends in Worcester, Massachusetts, and then returned to Boston in July for a packed-house party before visiting the Bay Area (CA) and Louisville in August. Most recently, we returned to New York City for a fantastic party, where we saw program participants from the 1940s mingling with toddlers of 21st century frontline organizers, cultural workers, and popular educators. To all who were part of those gatherings: we are humbled by your commitments to movement and to Highlander, and we can’t wait to see you again!
Of course, the 85th Anniversary Homecoming was a real success. About 400 of you came throughout the weekend from around the world; you maxed out the space for every amazing workshop; you took time to engage with the healing justice spaces and practitioners; you stayed up late around the campfire sharing stories and building relationships; and you sang your hearts out at our 85th birthday party with people from across movements and generations.
Now, the fall season has finally started to settle in. The leaves are changing color, and the days are growing shorter, so it has been tempting to think that things are going to take a rest for a moment. But if there’s anything we’ve learned from this year’s emboldened white supremacist organizing, attacks on immigrant and refugee people, man-made climate disasters, or any other assault on the spirits, bodies, and minds of our people and land, it’s that the movement is not going to sleep in this colder season-it’s just putting on sweaters. In response, Highlander is preparing for a number of organizations, front line communities, and strategic gatherings to visit Highlander throughout the winter months; and our staff are going to be holding things down all across the region. What this tells us is that the movement is most certainly alive and well and hungry to come together, and whether that’s at Highlander or out in your community, we are grateful to build movement with you.
With love & solidarity,
Ash-Lee and Allyn

Workshop Center Staff

Our Workshop Center Staff work hard to make Highlander a beloved community by keeping our hearts and our bellies full.

  • Ritchie Carr
  • Dennie Fisher
  • Garry Young
  • Barbara Bridges

Charice Starr

Charice joined Highlander’s Education Team in September 2017. She is from East Gadsden, Alabama and has lived in Knoxville, Tennessee since 2003.  She first became involved with Highlander through the Seeds of Fire program’s “Living Legacy Tour” in the summer of 2017. Previously, she began a food justice and garden program at Inskip Elementary in Knoxville and has provided in-home mental, behavioral, and emotional counseling for low-income youth and families in rural communities. She also collaborated in the founding of the Knoxville chapter of Black Lives Matter. She is on the board of KnowHow Knoxville and has coordinated Knoxville’s Girls’ Rock Camp and food justice camps. At Highlander, Charice is primarily working with the Appalachian Transition Fellowship.

James McKinney

James McKinney serves as Highlander’s Bookkeeper and has lived in Appalachia all his life. As a child, he grew up in a working class neighborhood with friends and neighbors of diverse backgrounds. He graduated from Karns High School in 2010 and went on to become the first in his family to attend college, beginning at Pellissippi State Community College. While there, he was instrumental in creating a community garden, which to this day provides food for community members through the Pellissippi Pantry Program. He then went one to graduate from the University of Tennessee in 2014 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting. James has three years of accounting experience from working with a for-profit accounting and wealth management firm. James’ call to action moment came when he was preparing tax returns for wealthy individuals and realized the outstanding level of social and financial inequality in today’s society. It was then that he began looking for other ways to use his accounting skills and was fortunate to find his way to Highlander. He is passionate about economic equality, immigration reform, and financial literacy. Outside of work, James enjoys circus arts including –but not limited to– stilt walking, teeterboarding, and aerial arts. He is an amateur mechanic who enjoys working on vintage motorcycles and cars. He also spends free time at the Riverside Catholic Worker Community, helping with odd jobs and providing stimulating conversation. James loves the people, the culture, and the mission of Highlander, and is grateful for the opportunity to do impactful work.

“The South’s Got Something to Say!” Highlander’s 85th Anniversary Registration September 22-24, 2017

Click here to register for Homecoming
Join us as we celebrate 85 years of cutting edge work for justice with all of the people who made it happen.

“The South’s Got Something to Say!” is from Andre 3000 of the group Outkast as a rallying call to the Hip-Hop World in 1995 during the Source Awards. 

Friday will include a Translocal Institute that will dive into how local community groups have been effective in gaining political power and ways to collectively build with participants for a larger movement to better of their lives, livelihood, and families. 

Saturday will include a Highlander History at 9am, followed by a welcome from staff. The afternoon will include breakout workshops on various topics of social justice. Following dinner on Saturday evening will be our 85th Anniversary Party with music from the Theorizt, a local hip-hop band from Knoxville. We will have vendors for Saturday lunch that will be included in registration. You will receive a ticket for  one meal. If you want more, you are welcome to pay the vendor directly. 

Sunday will include activist author discussions along with cultural performances in the morning. 

For Friday’s Translocal Institute at 10am, the fee is $85/person from a large institution, $50/person from a smaller institution, $35/individual, and $20/student. The cost for both Saturday and Sunday is a sliding scale of $85-$385, $50 for Saturday and $35 for Sunday.

Those who pre-register and pay for the whole weekend before September 15th will receive a commemorative 85th Anniversary Shirt. (Of course, we also are accepting donations to support the work of Highlander!)

We’re providing childcare for ages 5-12 is being provided from 9am-4pm on Friday, 9am-5pm on Saturday, and 9am-12pm on Sunday.

Camping is available at $15 per person at night. There are opportunities for volunteers who will have their registration fees waived.

If you’ve been to a recent Homecoming, you know it has become the place to be in September. We’ll see you there!

Local Hotel Rooms. Just ask for the Highlander Homecoming rate

Hampton Inn Suites @ Stadium Drive 105 Stadium Drive, Kodak, TN 37764 (865) 465-0590  Kings $139
La Quinta Inn 2428 Winfield Dunn Pkwy, Kodak, TN 37764 (865) 933-3339  $84
Holiday Inn 3526 Outdoor World Dr. Kodak, TN 37764 (865)933-0087  $139
Days Inn 3402 Winfield Dunn Pkwy, Kodak, TN 37764 (865) 465-9840  $54.99
Fairfield Inn 3620 Outdoor Sportsman Pl, Kodak, TN 37764 (865) 933-3033 $139
America’s Best 184 E Dumplin Valley, Kodak, TN 37764 (865) 933-2200 10 $69


Highlander Research and Education Center
1959 Highlander Way
New Market, TN 37820

For more info, contact Andre Canty at 865-360-7321 or [email protected]




The Highlander Center’s Appalachian Transition Fellowship program invites you to join the 2017 fellows, host communities, and folks from across Central Appalachia at this regional gathering on August 16-17, in Abingdon, VA at the Southwest Virginia 4-H Educational Center.

The “Sharing Our Stories” regional gathering will be for folks in Appalachia to share and learn about our history, our people, and our land. We’ll also be crafting and sharing stories about our lives in the region, our work to support communities, and our vision for a just sustainable Appalachia.

We hope you’ll consider attending this important gathering!

To register and/or learn more about this gathering please visit:

For general information about our regional gatherings please visit:

The second cohort of AppFellows welcomes 11 emerging leaders in 11 host communities made up of 32 cross-sector partners throughout the region. Fellows have been hard at work supporting, initiating, and implementing work in central Appalachian counties of Kentucky, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee, North Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia, and regionally by fostering new and strengthening existing collaboration among organizations and entities, boosting networks and connectivity within states and across the region and providing increased capacity in fields that are instrumental to a just transition.

Highlander is excited to host this exciting event for Appalachian change makers as it aligns with our 85 year history of serving the the region as a catalyst for grassroots organizing and movement building in Appalachia and the U.S. South.

We very much hope to see you at this gathering as we think it will be an excellent event and please don’t hesitate to reach out to us at [email protected] if there’s anything we can do to help!

Appalachian Transition Fellowship-Second Cycle

New Market, TN—Highlander Research and Education Center launched the second cohort of its Appalachian Transition Fellowship (AppFellows) January 5, 2017. AppFellows increases the connectivity, capacity, and shared analysis of Appalachian institutions, communities, and leaders to support regional transformation. Ten fellows will spend the year working within host communities throughout the region to help foster cross-sector (education, nonprofit, for-profit, philanthropy, and government) partnerships, provide needed capacity to regional efforts, and build personal and professional skills.

Emerging leaders began their fellowship with a week-long tour of Central Appalachia that will build and support the collective analysis of regional institutions and communities, grounding their work for addressing systemic problems such as healthy food access, economic revitalization, and land ownership to create a just and sustainable Appalachian economy.

For interview opportunities, please contact Elizabeth Wright at [email protected] or call 865-202-5447


For more info, go to

A native of West Virginia, Zach Bailey is excited to learn more about effective strategies and tools to make Appalachia a better place. Although he completed graduate school at Marshall University in 2016, Zach strives to maintain the inquisitive mindset of a student. As such, he possesses a perpetual interest in understanding how people use various forms of interaction, in particular narrative, to construct their social realities. Zach has worked as a self-employed musician, a teaching assistant at Marshall University, and as a communication intern with Ronald McDonald House Charities. In his spare time, Zach enjoys music, most genres of television, and NBA basketball.

Alice Beecher is an activist, writer and musician working with the Mountain Association for Community Economic Development in Whitesburg, KY. A dedicated transplant, Alice grew up in Massachusetts but has spent the past several years organizing for economic, environmental, and social justice in Appalachia. For the past two years, she served as a youth mentor, educator and organizer with High Rocks Educational Corporation in southern West Virginia. Beforehand, she organized against extractive industries and for worker’s rights in Ohio. In her spare time, Alice likes to play the banjo, talk about mental health, write and perform poetry, and find edible plants in the woods.

Courtney Boyd grew up in eastern Kentucky and lived in the state until her early 20’s when she decided that there was a lot left unlearned by the conventional education she had received up to that point.  That’s when she departed from Appalachia, first working for social justice and women’s rights with native peoples in South Dakota.  This started a path of experiential learning where she lived in Utah building beautiful houses with natural materials, worked for solar energy non-profits in Colorado, organically farmed vegetables and worked for a small birch syrup business in Alaska.  Returning to Appalachia last year was a deliberate move to act on the idea that young people need not seek a far off place to find their community but instead can create home where a place needs them.

Although many things have influenced her life, digging her hands in the soil and knowing the love of tender sprouts peeking above ground in spring is what inspires her most.  Courtney believes we have the ingredients already in place to support ourselves and communities in a way that enhances life, not degrades it, and is looking forward to cooking these up with the Appalachian Transition Fellowship.

Brittany Means Carowick is a native of Charleston, WV.  As a first-generation college student, she completed her undergraduate degree at Concord University 2012 and achieved her Master’s in Appalachian Studies at Appalachian State University in 2015. In between, she served a year as an AmeriCorps member in rural West Virginia. Brittany’s academic research examines the Hispanic experiences in Appalachia, but she’s also personally passionate about Appalachian placemaking, youth retention in the mountains, and community self-determination. Brittany co-founded the Appalachian Studies Association’s youth leadership committee, Y’ALL, in 2014 and still serves on ASA’s steering committee. Since earning her Master’s, Brittany’s path has led her back to WV, into the nonprofit community and economic development sector. She lives in Charleston with her husband, Joseph.

Sam Hamlin grew up in a rural community in the New River Valley area of southwestern Virginia. At 19, she left home and went to college in Chicago. While away from the region, she got involved in grassroots community organizing against the war in Iraq and has been organizing for justice ever since. She is passionate about racial and economic justice issues, and has done work around sexual assault prevention education, immigrant rights solidarity, and racial justice organizing with rural communities in Oregon. Though she has been away from the region, she has ached to be back in the mountains for many years. She is grateful for the opportunity to return to Appalachia to give back to the place and the people that reared her.

Brought home to these mountains as an infant, Hope Hart is a Korean adoptee from Ritchie County, West Virginia. A stubborn optimist restless as a bystander, she has worked within affordable housing, literacy and prison reform, open access education, and other causes close to the heart of Appalachia. A graduate of West Virginia University with a degree in English literature, Hope sees storytelling as a powerful tool for social and economic justice, and sees the region as a library of voices ready for the world to read.


Abby Huggins was raised in Wilkes County, North Carolina and graduated from Appalachian State University with a degree in Elementary Education. Afterwards, she collaborated with rural organizations in Grenada, West Indies and Nome, Alaska, working with youth, elders, and families around education, culture, community, food access, and housing justice. Abby spent several seasons working on sustainable farms, first in Alaska, then in North Carolina. She is pursuing a Master of Arts degree in Southern Studies from the University of Mississippi with an emphasis on oral history, foodways, and Appalachia and plans to graduate in May 2017. Her thesis project is based on stories of food and community gathered through oral history interviews in and around Letcher County, Kentucky. Abby is deeply grateful for the opportunity to be a part of the work Highlander is doing and to support movements around food and dance in.

Terran Young’s family has been in the Wise County, Va area for over 100 years. Terran spent her younger child hood years in Virginia before moving to Ohio. She has been back in VA for over 10 years and is looking forward to working with and in the community.

Brennan Zerbe grew up in Charleston, WV.  He left West Virginia to study Spanish at Appalachian State in North Carolina.  Brennan returned to Charleston in 2014 and began work at a bookstore, Taylor Books, where I spent most of my time curating the book selection and trying to get folks to read!





  • The host communities, institutional partners, and projects include:
    • Appalshop and Highlander Center (Whitesburg, KY / New Market, TN /Central Appalachia): Regional communications strategies
    • Community Farm Alliance and Fibershed (Berea, KY / Eastern KY): Revitalizing a regional textile culture
    • Hindman Settlement School, Knott County Chamber of Commerce, and Appalachian Food Summit (Hindman, KY): Economic diversification through cultural heritage and ecotourism
    • Mountain Association for Community Economic Development, Foundation for Appalachian Kentucky, and InVision Hazard (Hazard, KY): Community-based creative placemaking and downtown revitalization
    • Appalachian Sustainable Development, First TN Development District, and Second Harvest Food Bank (Southwest VA and Northwest TN): Increasing economic opportunity and community health by supporting local food systems
    • Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards, Appalachian Voices, and Virginia Tech (Norton, VA / SW VA Coalfield Region): Addressing land ownership issues in the seven county coalfield region of Southwest Virginia via The Virginia Coalfields Land Study
    • Mid Ohio Valley Regional Council and the Calhoun County Park Board (Calhoun County, WV): Developing innovative solutions to rural economic isolation through a local “Dark Skies” project to build ecotourism and community education
    • Unlimited Futures and the Wild Ramp (Huntington, WV): Supporting entrepreneurship to promote the local food cluster as a driver of a sustainable economy
    • WV Center for Civic Life, WV Council of Churches, and Generation West Virginia (Charleston, WV / Statewide WV): Advancing community-based initiatives to strengthen local food economies and rebuild communities devastated by flooding