West Virginia Cool

** Scroll down for NASCAR/ Hip Hop Poem

I’ve long believed that if West Virginia is going to attract young people or keep the good ones here, we’d better get “cool.”

My friend Elizabeth Gaucher has a post this week on The Revivalist: Word from the Appalachian South  about West Virginia’s urgent need to attract and retain young people who “get it.”  The post has me thinking  about what our “cool” might be, the cool that gets this challenging job done.  I believe it’s in our blending of culture and cause. Steve Stoute, author of The Tanning of America, says when referencing marketers who pursue cool in his firm, Translation, ” The job of a translator, as a rule the new economy, is to find the sweet spot between a brand’s (ours being West Virginia) core values and cultural cues.”  Stoute’s whole book, in fact, is about America’s diversity and how the more juxtaposed branding is, the better. Differences no longer scare the generation we call the Millennials,  and these Millennials are the people with whom West Virginia wants and needs to connect.

It seems as if West Virginia is desperately missing “the cool factor,”  but I think it’s also that most people just don’t know about West Virginia. We are one of America’s best kept secrets, and maybe that will turn out to be part of our cool.   I’m darn-skippy proud to be from West Virginia — I  was country before country was cool.  I make the best of life. I seize every opportunity, and if I can do what I do here,  I know I can do it anywhere.

Like Frank X Walker says in his classic Affrilachian poem:

if you think
makin‚’shine from corn
is as hard as Kentucky coal
imagine being
an Affrilachian
poet

It’s not easy, but what worth anything is? I know I’m making history by planting seeds in West Virginia. I am part of a movement, and I don’t have to sleep in a tent. I create, dream, and sell my state in poems and Hollywood conversations.  I also  fully understand those like Jason Headley  when they say, “I’ve never had a problem being from West Virginia. I just had some difficulty being in West Virginia.”

It is not a catered life, being in West Virginia (I also love taxi cabs, four star restaurants, upscale shopping and my groceries delivered).  But there is a balance and blending  that the southern-most northernest state can really own and create its own unique American brand of making a difference for the world.  This potential is really cool.

It’s going to be about a fusion, and I know a little something about that, too.  I even wrote a poem about it. Like to hear it? Here it go:

HOT PASS
By Crystal Good

My Hot Pass 2010 Bristol Race

I was raised NASCAR—Talladega Speedway

Lava soap—Ford tough. Lynard Skynard/Public Enemy.

I can talk a rainbow of shit—to anybody.

304 girl/ all terrain or two wheels/ look Ma’ no hands

on the dance floor.

Rolln’ my eyes/ whatever you got

Burp Bud or 40 O-Z/ easy as sipping champagne

Greenbrier flutes/ suites for me.

Mountain made, tame—white water/ cat fish, zip the line

just in time to watch Uncle Boy and Bubb…

Finish paintn’ my Chevy cherry red—durin’ the Steelers

half-time.

I can take a turn/ drive the straight, away

flare/full spare/ Hemi engine, I get anywhere.

Say my prayers/pay my tolls, tunnel myself out

to any big city—they always speak Español to me.

Si’ just you wait Miss Crystal got laps to go

a rhythm/a ripple, a page to read  about Sweet Home

West V — before the checker flag, black/ white, me.

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