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The Athena Cinema in uptown Athens displays shows times for "Awake," a documentary about protesters at Standing Rock Sioux Reservation as part of the Sustainability Series on April 4. 

Athena Cinema to bring attention to race and Appalachia with documentary

Appalachia is often seen as a predominately white region, but there is diversity within that deserves to be recognized and celebrated.

The Athena Cinema is teaming up with some Ohio University organizations to show a movie called Coal Black Voices. The documentary gives people a glimpse into life in the American Black South and Appalachian region. The identity group is looked at through poets, who are also activists, with the hopes of celebrating their rural roots and heritage while also heavily covering themes of racism and black identity. 

The event was initiated by the LGBT Center, and is co-sponsored by 14 other groups, including the Appalachian Studies Certificate, the Manasseh Cutler Scholars Program, Diversity Studies and many others. 

The director of the LGBT Center, delfin bautista, who uses the lowercase spelling of their name, was the brains behind the showing of the film. 

“When I first moved here five years ago, the whole region was explained to me as predominantly white,” bautista said. “I quickly discovered there is diversity, and though it may not be widespread, it comes in pockets. We need to focus on how we are affirming those diversities, learning about them and sharing them with the rest of the world.”

The LGBT Center proposed the idea to many different offices, and the organizers were surprised and excited when so many people were supportive of the idea. The film focuses on the perspective of race and ethnicity. Although there’s no direct LGBT issue examined, bautista hopes the film will start an important conversation about the reality of diversity existing in Appalachia, such as LGBT persons and women in Appalachia. 

“Appalachia is not just about poor white people,” bautista said. “There is a richness and diversity that exists, and we need to get the conversation started.”

Students are also excited and impressed with the showing of the documentary and can’t wait to learn more about the Affrilachian culture. 

Reece Wallick, a freshman studying special education, is proud of the LGBT Center and the Athena for teaming up to raise awareness of the Affrilachian people. 

“This is a great way to shed light on the lives of Affrilachian people,” Wallick said. “It is important for us to learn and hear about other cultures and traditions, so making this film available will open young students’ minds to better understand what these people endure on a daily basis.”

The Appalachian region stretches from the Southern Tier of New York to northern Alabama and Georgia. The region also includes Athens, so by bringing the film to the Athena, bautista felt that the movie would be a great way for OU students to learn about Athens and the Appalachian aspect of the area. 

“A lot of folks come here, and spend four years and leave knowing nothing about Athens, Southeast Ohio or Appalachia in general,” bautista said. “Because this is the community that upholds us, we need to get to know it and embrace it for what it is.”


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