Editor’s note: Harlan County, Kentucky has a long history of coal miners striking for better conditions despite intense backlash from coal companies. Now a group of miners is showing that, like their forebears, they aren’t afraid to stand up–or sit down–for their rights. Since July 29, miners in Harlan have been blocking a train from leaving with about $1 million worth of coal that they mined, but haven’t been paid for.
The coal is owned by Blackjewel, a company that declared bankruptcy and shuttered without warning in early July. Blackjewel employees say their last paychecks bounced, leaving many with negative bank accounts and no foreseeable options for paying bills and buying groceries. Filmmakers Shaylan Clark and Oakley Fugate interviewed protesting miners about what’s at stake for their families and communities. Bringing you more than a soundbyte, their short documentary powerfully centers miners voices, enabling those outside the region to bear witness. Clark and Fugate are alumni of the Appalachian Media Institute, which trains youth from across Central Appalachia to explore their home communities and address local issues through place-based media-making.
Shaylan Clark is a filmmaker and an alum of the Appalachian Media Institute. Oakley Fugate is a filmmaker and an alum of the Appalachian Media Institute.