Reflections from an Organizer Apprentice: Party on the river in Hart County | Kentuckians For The Commonwealth

Reflections from an Organizer Apprentice: Party on the river in Hart County

Members in Hart County attended a Party on the River last weekend at Thelma Stovall Park in Munfordville. While enjoying burgers and the beautiful, summer weather, folks reminisced about lobbying efforts to protect our water, soil and air in the 1980s and 1990s. It was during that time that a proposal to turn the historic Aetna Furnace into a landfill was threatening Rio Springs and the Green River in Hart County. Thanks to their hard work the proposal was stopped. 

I am from Hart County and was born in 1988, around the time that this landfill proposal was defeated. It occurred to me while I was listening to members talk about their activism that I could have had a childhood filled with health problems created by the landfill and incineration of garbage like so many people in our state and the world. If this landfill project had been completed, our water would’ve been poisoned and growing up on the Green River wouldn’t have been as happy as it was. Instead it is among the most biologically diverse rivers in the country. If the project had been completed, our soil and air would’ve been contaminated. Instead I breathed fresh air, and enjoyed food grown in our family’s garden. If not for the hard work by the members who cared about generations to come, I would have grown up in a much different environment. I am thankful for this hard work. 

As an organizer apprentice for the southern Kentucky chapter, I found organizing in Hart County to be both a challenge and a blessing. I found it challenging to describe our organization to folks who do not know who KFTC is, and may or may not be trusting of a progressive nonprofit who does voter work. Some of my friends and family do not totally align with our values, so managing their concerns and questions about those values isn’t always easy. But it’s so worth it. For instance, some members who attended the party affiliated with Republican values, but also are strong supporters of unions and worker’s rights. 

An ongoing challenge for me is to manage my own relationship to the issues that affect us and use it as strength and a driving force in my work. Organizing in Hart County brings up the fact that my family is struggling just down the road. I am organizing because of the struggles they and so many of us go through for reasons that we cannot help. I am in this because grassroots organizing is the way that gain the power to overcome poverty, systemic racism, attacks on our public resources that are vital to our livelihood and other forms of institutional violence. But at the same time, in real life, many people are unable to fight this battle. Like my Mamaw and Papaw who couldn’t attend the party because they have to worry about getting through the day. Everyday. Doing this work is a privilege. It’s sacred. 

Looking back, now that the party has come and gone, there are many things I recognize that I can learn from and take forward with me in my organizing work in rural areas. I am so grateful for Jarrett Cox, of Cub Run, KY, who put in lots of time and energy to gather some of the first ever KFTC members and folks who are interested in our work. His dedication to this gathering was unwavering, despite having to reschedule because of stormy weather and difficulty in finding a venue. Jarrett truly believes in the power of people and our work together on this party on the river has sparked a resurgence of grassroots efforts in Hart County. Without Jarrett, this party would have not been as beautiful and powerful. 

I learned that rural organizing takes more time, more energy, and the gifts that result from it look different than in Bowling Green where I do most organizing work. There are less people in Hart County who have the ability to show up in this way. There were twelve people who attended the Party on the River and I am very happy about that, but we planned for thirty. I learned through this that twelve people is actually a nice turnout! The conversations were empowering, hopeful, and lovely. 

I learned that showing up exactly as we come is okay. Being heartbroken for our shared struggles, angry at the people in our government who seek to hurt us and corporations who choose profit over people, hopeful for a brighter and healthier future, and thankful for the resilience of our elders, can and must all happen in the same space in time. We also have to build where we can with each other and assume the best intentions even when our values don’t align perfectly. We all need to continue making room for growth and nurturing that in others with patience, kindness, and an understanding that we are all fighting for the same thing and against the same thing in this work. We have to celebrate and appreciate the unique offerings each of us bring with us and not give up on each other when we just don’t have anything to give. 

It is exciting to imagine what further grassroots organizing looks like in Hart County and the people who attended the party are committed to it. So am I. Judy Petersen and Sam Avery holding Judy's KFTC awards for spending time lobbying in Frankfort.

Add new comment

Filtered HTML

  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
Enter the characters shown in the image.