Relating to an African-American who lives in Appalachia. Also: Afrilachian.
Frank X. Walker gets credit for coining the word "Affrilachian" a decade ago. He was attending a Southern Writers conference in Lexington where the only African-American (and non-Kentuckian) among the invited authors was Nikky Finney.
Danville, Ky., native Mr. Walker, an artist, arts administrator and activist, looked up the definition of "Appalachian" in his dictionary. He read that Appalachians are "white residents of the mountainous regions of Appalachia" and, says Mr. Walker, "I knew I could never be a part of that great body of work." Then he asked himself what the face of Appalachia was. He saw many commonalities. Appalachians of Kentucky share a heritage of tobacco, horses and bourbon, of love for land and family. They share the concerns that come with everything that is living and dying. But there are differences, too: in political views, urban Appalachian experiences, in a strong awareness of spirituality.
So Mr. Walker created a word that is more relevant to the Appalachian experience today. What began as a word has become a literary movement filled with powerful voices, whether their writing is personal or political.
Jackie Demaline, "'Affrilachian' writers to congregate here," The Cincinnati Enquirer, September 26, 2002
No doubt some scholars dropped bombshells, unearthed forgotten history or significant new research and shook the status quo at this year's Appalachian Studies Conference. As a non-academic, it is hard to know and appreciate what these were. But from a purely soulful standpoint, two events stood out: writer Gurney Norman's keynote address a mixture of personal essay and social biography that earned a long standing ovation. And readings by four young African-American poets Kelly Ellis, Nikky Finney, Paul Taylor and Frank X. Walker.
The four of them teach and work at the University of Kentucky. They are self-identified as "Affrilachian" poets. It's a term Walker coined that captures an unexpected, but refreshing, meeting of Appalachian identity with the region's African-American culture.
Douglas Imbrogno, "'Affrilachian' poetry a conference highlight," The Sunday Gazette Mail, March 30, 1997
This word combines African (or African-American) and Appalachian, with an extra f thrown in to match the latter's two p's (a poet coined the word, and poets can get away with that kind of thing). The Appalachian adjective relates to people or things that come from Appalachia, an area that follows the Appalachian mountains from southern New York state to the northern sections of Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia. The Columbia Encyclopedia describes it as a "region characterized by marginal economy, isolation of its people from the U.S. mainstream, and distinctive folkways."
I'm a Black woman born in Charleston, WV, at the start of the baby boom. I heard the term 'Affrilachian' on the radio yesterday -- WPFW in Washington, I think -- and was stunned. Although I am not an active poet (have gone on occasional binges in the past), it occurred to me I may finally found a term to describe some of the complexity of my perspective on the world. Thank you to Frank X. Walker.
Posted by Marinda H. on February 3, 2011 at 1:14 PM
It's wonderful when someone can put something into words, or a word, in which everyone can buy into or at least get a better idea of a place and/or persons. It's like if Sherman Alexie had not written about his hippie dad, the public wouldn't know there were actually Indian hippies. It's been an honor to know Frank X. Walker. He has taken the time to give to our little reservation here in Idaho and speak at the Nez Perce NHP. We hope he comes back soon!