BY: KALEIGH UNDERWOOD
progress@eku.edu

An Eastern alumna returned to campus as a part of First Amendment Week to explain the First Amendment’s role on Appalachia and diversity.

Ivy Brashear presented her lecture “Appalachia, the First Amendment, and Diversity” in Powell Underground Monday. Brashear, an Eastern graduate from Viper, who graduated with a dual degree in journalism and Appalachian studies, spoke at the inaugural event for the weeklong celebration of first amendment week on campus.

“We as an Appalachian people know what it’s like to not be given equality, but we also know how to stand up and fight for it,” said Brashear, who works for Mountain Association for Community Economic Development (MACED).

Brashear said Appalachian people have struggled for many years starting in coal camps during the early 1900s, this tradition of tyranny over Appalachia’s people has continued even into today as social issues have changed.

The talk began as Brashear reflected on a fairness ordinance passed in Vicco, a small town with fewer than 400 residents only eight miles from her hometown. This ordinance stated that within city limits, people within the lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender community could not be discriminated against in issues such as employment, housing, etc.

This was important because no one knew the vote to pass this ordinance was taking place, let alone that such an ordinance was on the table to be voted on. Brashear then tied the issue to the oppression of Appalachia’s residents because it prevents discrimination of the LGBT community and therefore, there is one less group of people being oppressed in Appalachia.

“Overall, there’s so much oppression in the LGBT community as well as the Appalachian region as a whole,” said Jenna Theisen, 20-year-old criminal justice major from Fort Thomas. “With ordinances being passed, I feel like there’s a new dawn starting to appear and that we’re finally moving in the right direction.”

The lecture continued with Brashear discussing Appalachian people’s ability to stand united during hardship. From helping to feed hungry neighbors, taking care of each other when grieving, or standing up to multi-million dollar coal companies to petition for better salaries/benefits, these grassroots movements have been going on for decades, Brashear said.

“I’m from a pretty large town, so I haven’t been exposed to the cultural aspects that other people from smaller towns have,” said Jessica Underwood, a 19-year-old forensic chemistry major from Louisville. “I think that this lecture really made other people from larger towns like myself think of small town oppression especially and how hard that must be.”

The lecture concluded with Brashear acknowledging that Appalachian people are a perfect example of those who take advantage of First Amendment rights. In particular the right to petition the government and the right to peacefully assemble.