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We’re Traveling to Eastern Kentucky for a Weekend of Dialogue & Cultural Exchange

Fourteen of us, members of Leverett’s Hands Across the Hills project, will travel to Letcher County in eastern Kentucky on April 19 for a three-day visit that includes dialogue, cultural exchange and community events.

Our Kentucky hosts, who visited Leverett for a comparable weekend in October 2017, have planned our stay to include storytelling, a Shriner’s breakfast public event, a coal mine tour, cultural and musical activities as well as six hours of dialogue facilitated by Leverett’s Paula Green. The Kentuckians will host the Leverett visitors in their homes in Letcher County.

We have prepared short presentations about Leverett and will be bringing a large handmade paper “quilt” telling stories of immigration and family, made by Leverett and Letcher County participants together last fall.

The Hands Across the Hills project developed out of Leverett’s response to the 2016 presidential election in which Letcher County voted 80% for Donald Trump, who received only 14.7% of the vote in rural Leverett. Despite this significant political divide, the 2017 visit of the Kentucky group was an unqualified success in reducing stereotypes and increasing empathy. Following her visit, one Kentuckian noted: “We came with curiosity and we left with love.”

David Rabinovitz of DMR Productions in Pelham, MA has created a short film trailer about the October events which you can click to see here. Eventually Rabinovitz will create a longer film reflecting both Leverett and Letcher County visits.

We are documenting this endeavor in hopes that our project will inspire communities to reach out to places and people often characterized as ‘other.’ Meeting face to face, talking together, finding mutual concerns, all can help bridge the differences we currently experience.

Photo credit: Sharon Dunn

Barbara Tiner, left, of Hands Across the Hills with the “quilt” of immigration and family stories we are bringing as a gift to Kentucky on April 19. Folks from Leverett and Letcher County KY, illustrated the squares last October under guidance of artist Judith Inglese, right, who assembled the banner.

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