By Bethany Miller
This story is part of a five-part series featuring this week's featured guests of Ohio University Zanesville Campus' fifth annual national conference, Women of Appalachia: Their Heritage and Accomplishments.
Music and dance are more than just forms of art. For the Morrises, they can explore significant themes that deal with issues important to society. As featured guests of Ohio University Zanesville's fifth annual national conference, The Women of Appalachia: Their Heritage and Accomplishments, Christine Ballengee-Morris, David Morris and son Jack will present the voices of Appalachian women through ballads, songs and flatfoot dancing.
"Together, everyone will experience the issues women have had to deal with all our lives," Ballengee-Morris says. "We will celebrate the good and the negative, not only as women but as members of Appalachian society and culture."
The conference, running from Oct. 23 through Oct. 25, is not limited to women even though it celebrates female achievements and tradition. Men also need to learn from and about Appalachian women, Morris says.
"Women have been the backbone in Appalachian culture in many ways," Morris says. "We need women with their life struggles to bring their points of view to society's attention."
Morris, who in addition to nine albums, provided music for the 1977 Oscar–winning documentary, "Harlan County U.S.A.," will play guitar, mandolin and banjo with his son, accompanying Ballengee-Morris's flatfoot dancing with songs about women written by women.
The music documents all aspects of Appalachian culture, Morris says. And it is up to the artists to grasp the music and to present it to the public.
The conference is also a means to break down the stereotypes that popular culture creates for Appalachia. For people of American society not native to the region, the Morris' want to be a part of the educational process to extend truths about the culture.
"We are as diverse and complex as any other culture," Ballengee-Morris says.
Ballengee-Morris also recongizes the national conference as a way for Appalachians to have dialogue with one another. As an Appalachian Culture Curricula Scholar, executive director of The Multicultural Center and associate professor with the Department of Art Education at The Ohio State University and former public school teacher, she sees students and other Appalachians silenced about their roots and background. The conference is another step in creating a safe space for natives to feel comfortable identifying themselves as Appalachians, she says.
"We can make connections and create a community and a support group for one another," Ballengee-Morris says. "So the Appalachian community becomes less invisible."
The Morrises' performance on Friday, Oct. 24, is one event of the conference open to the public.
Bethany Miller is a student writer for University Communications and Marketing.
For a complete schedule of events for The Women of Appalachia: Their Heritage and Accomplishments, visit www.zanesville.ohiou.edu/ce/wac/default.asp