Media Advisory May 1, 2021

Mother Jones Community Foundation

Contact:  Director: Maria Gunnoe 304-989-9581 or
PO Box 494 Van, WV 25206-0494

Mary “Mother Jones” Harris was born on May 1, 1837.  On May 1st, we also recognize “May Day” or International Workers Day.  This was the first  Labor day designation in 1886.  May 1st was set aside to be a day of remembrance and recognition of the workers’ lives lost.  We at Mother Jones Community Foundation recognize this date by announcing the launch of our new website  Mother Jones Community Foundation stands firm on the principle that the people of the coalfields are owed a little something in return for the past 200 years of service. Mary “Mother Jones” Harris as she was called by the miners, was a labor organizer.  She confronted the coal barons and the coal-friendly politicians at every level of government to help the coal miners, their families, and communities that had sacrificed their very existence to this industry.  History has repeated in Southern West Virginia.  After all the” boom and bust”  over the past 100 years, it seems we have seen the finale. Again we find our communities suffering in dire poverty in the land that has given so much to build the infrastructure that we all depend on daily.  Our people deserve better.  We at Mother Jones Community Foundation are reminding the people in power what it is that is owed to our communities.  We still await the prosperity promised to our people throughout time here. 

Mother Jones Community Foundation has been active in WV since 2018.  We quietly work within our network to improve the lives of the people left behind by the exploiters of our resources and labor.  Our communities have seen huge challenges during the past 5 years as the coal economy has failed us once again and addiction has ravaged generations of our families.  Our communities are up to this challenge.  We recognize that we are all here for the same reason.  We love this place and we will do anything to stay.  Mother Jones Community Foundation is helping to support community caring by helping to sustain community needs through our network of partnerships and community members who truly love West Virginia and all of Appalachia.  We have many volunteers who further the work by paying kindness forward in their communities.

We have worked to do  COVID19 support to assist elders in staying home through the crisis by supplying them with basic needs from local stores.  We have identified local people doing good work and helped to support them in their community-guided efforts.  We do not work from a ‘hands over’ approach. We identify good work as we see it happening.  We fully believe that these communities know what they need; they just need the support and resources to obtain these goals.  We are happy to be a part of the solutions in the communities that have been abandoned and forgotten by so many.  The people here are very unique people.  Their heritage is one of great pride, as it should be.  They belong in these mountains.  Their survival depends on the mountain culture they’ve grown to know.  When you destroy the mountains you destroy the people and culture that depends on those mountains.

Mother Jones Community Foundation Board of Directors brings some tremendous value to our work.  We have many successes in our work and much of it is done quietly as to not exploit the people we work with who honestly have had enough.  Our resiliency is not one of forgetting or forgiving our past.  We embrace who we are as a people in a world of people who get dismissed as being less than others.  Our people have been the backbone of this country for far too long to allow our future generations to suffer.  We have struggled long enough.  It should be embarrassing for our leaders to walk away now.

One of our many successes has been historic Blair Mountain being returned to the protection of the National Register of Historic Places.  Our Board Chairwoman and Founder Mari-Lynn Evans is one of the key people who was at the table to demand that this happen.  Blair Mountain is the site of the largest labor insurrection in American history where 100 years ago (1921-2021) 10,000-15,000 miners and citizens marched 50 miles in 5 days to demand better working conditions.  Many unnamed strikers died during the Battle of Blair Mountain. Because of this battle, today most people enjoy an 8-hour workday.  Mother Jones was called the coal miners’ “Angel“ for her tireless fight to protect the miners by bringing attention to their plight.  In the face of extreme danger and opposition, Mother Jones organized for a better life for not only the miners but also for the miner’s wives and families.  For more information on this history see the “education” link on our page.   Also, see our “about us” link on the website to find the books that accurately document this important part of West Virginia’s history.  This is the history of the land and the people of southern WV that wasn’t taught in our schools. 

Mother Jones Community Foundation would like to invite everyone to visit our website and read more about our partnerships and our work.   Revisit often to keep updated and get involved in rebuilding what others have left to fail.  This year we will be working to support community gardens and food security projects throughout WV.  Part of this will be teaching and relearning the food culture in our mountains and learning to celebrate who we are through music and the arts.  We will be building opportunities where communities can unite around their needs and demand a better future for the simple reason that it’s owed to us.  The people of West Virginia didn’t spend decades mining coal to see their communities fail.  They mined coal because they loved this place enough to do anything to stay.  That hasn’t changed.  We will demand that our communities be cleaned up and sustained long term for our future generations.  This will be what jobs look like here in the future and we want to help ensure that this happens so that our communities can finally prosper from all their commitment, sacrifice, and hard work to serve this country.

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