PUBLIC FORUM: UNION, GOD, AND COUNTRY
March 16, 2020
Featuring Jessica Blank, Steve Earle, Crystal Good, Erik Jensen, Chuck Keeney, and Jessica Salfia
West Virginia’s history of union organizing and activism stretches from the Mine Wars of the early 1900s to the recent Teacher’s Strike of 2018 and beyond. Join playwrights Jessica Blank and Erik Jensen, and artists, activists, and organizers from West Virginia as we dig deep into the process of creating COAL COUNTRY, and the past, present, and future of progress in Appalachia. Featuring poet, advocate, and entrepreneur Crystal Good; labor historian and a founding member of the West Virginia Mine Wars Museum: Charles “Chuck” Keeney; and teacher, writer, and public education activist Jessica Salfia; with special guest artist Steve Earle.
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Erik Jensen & Jessica Blank
JESSICA BLANK and ERIK JENSEN are writers, actors and directors. As writers: The Exonerated ( Lortel, Outer Critics Circe, Drama Desk, Ovation, Fringe First, Herald Angel, The American Bar Association’s, Silver Gavel Awards) and it’s award winning TV movie adaptation; Aftermath ( NYTW; two Drama League nominations); How to Be a Rock Critic ( based on the writings of Lester Bangs), with Jensen starring and Blank directing ( Kirk Douglas, South Coast Rep, ArtsEmerson, Steppenwolf, The Public’s UTR Festival). They are developing Rock Critic for feature film with Likely Story; their first film, Almost Home, was released in 2019. Tv writing: Gaumont, Fox TV Studios, 20th Century TV, Avenue Pictures, Sunswept Entertainment, Virgin Produced, Radical Media. Jensen’s acting credits: TV includes arcs on “The Walking Dead,” “Mindhunter,” “Mr. Robot,” “For Life” (ABC), “Second Sight” (pilot), “The Frontier” (pilot), “Virtuality,” “The Americans,” “Modern Love,” “Turn,” “Elemetary,” “The Blacklist,” “Chicago P.D.,” Thurman Munson in “The Bonx Is Burning.” Film includes Black knight, The Love Letter and over two dozen indies. The includes the Pulizter Prize winning Disgraced (LTC3); The Good Negro (The Public); Y2K, Corpus Christi (MTC). As an actor, Blank’s TV credits include “For Life,” “High Maintenance,” “Blue Bloods,” “Elementary,” “The Following,” “The Mentalist,” “Bored to Death,” “Rescue Me,” “Law & Order: CSI,” “The Bronx Is Burning,” “Shelter” (pilot) and over a dozen films. Jensen and Blank are married and live in Brooklyn with their daughter Sadie,
CRYSTAL GOOD is an artist, advocate and entrepreneur. She is a member of the Affrilachian Poets, a group of writers and artists whose creations and existence combat the erasure of African American identity in the Appalachian region, an Irene McKinney Scholar, and author of Valley Girl. She is the founder and CEO of Crystal Good Solutions a consulting and booking and publishing agency in addition to CEO of Mixxed Media, a government relations consulting firm that leverages social & media engagement strategies for mission-driven organizations. She is a former member of the award winning literary avant garde jazz band Heroes Are Gang Leaders.
Her advocacy bridges the issues that range from the arts, environmental, women's health, Appalachian economic development and agriculture. She is passionate about digital and political literacy and has created a digital commons for voters to express their concerns through her self-made performance art character, Social Media Senator for the Digital District of West Virginia.
She was a presenter for the 2013 TEDx conference in Lewisburg on, “West Virginia and Quantum Physics” and the 2019 TEDx Conference in Corbit, Kentucky.
JESSICA SALFIA is teacher, writer, and public education activist from West Virginia. She has been teaching high school English and Creative Writing in West Virginia schools for over 16 years, and she is the Co-Director of the West Virginia Council of Teachers of English. Her writing has appeared in the Charleston-Gazette Mail, the Martinsburg Journal, West Virginia Living Magazine’s Blog, multiple volumes of the Anthology of Appalachian Writers, Belt Magazine, and the Washington Post. She is the co-editor of 55 Strong: Inside the West Virginia Teachers’ Strike out now from Belt Publishing. She also is a proud member of AFTWV.
STEVE EARLE (Original Music/Music Director). Acclaimed singer-songwriter Earle was a protégé of legendary songwriters Townes Van Zandt and Guy Clark. His songs have been recorded by Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Joan Baez, Emmylou Harris and others. Recordings include Guitar Town (1986), Copperhead Road (1988), the Grammy Award-winning albums The Revolution Starts Now (2004), Washington Square Serenade (2007), Townes (2009) and more. A true Renaissance man, Earle is a novelist; film, TV and stage actor; playwright; record producer; and radio host. In 2018, he appeared in the Off-Broadway play Samara, for which he also wrote the score that The New York Times called “exquisitely subliminal.” His new album Ghosts of West Virginia includes seven songs written for Coal Country and will be released in late spring 2020.
Dr. CHARLES B. KEENEY is a native West Virginian, historian, and activist. He is a founding member of the award winning WV Mine Wars Museum (www.wvminewars.com) and has appeared in five documentaries including the Emmy nominated films American Experience: Mine Wars and Blood on the Mountain. His latest book, The Road to Blair Mountain: Saving a Mine Wars Battlefield from King Coal will be available in January 2021.