Four women from Boone’s historically black Junaluska community shared stories and perspectives to a full house in the Rosen Concert Hall auditorium this past February 22 as part of the Walker College of Business Spring 2023 Courageous Conversations Panel Discussion.
The event, titled “The View from Junaluska: Perspectives of a Black Appalachian Community” brought together a multi-generational panel of community residents featuring Anitra Ball, Administrative Support Associate for App State’s Intercultural Student Affairs, Wanda Coles, Retiree of the Child Development Center; Roberta Jackson, Member of the Junaluska Heritage Society; and Lynn Patterson, University Program Specialist at Belk Library. Traci Royster, Director of Staff Development & Strategic Initiatives in the Office of Student Affairs, moderated the discussion.
Panelists shared candid memories from their childhoods, including the experience of living during segregation, the struggles of integration and the changing state of race relations in Boone. Roberta Jackson, who attended segregated school and thus spent most of her formative years within a welcoming black community, shared a difficult memory of her experience with racism. “I had gone on retreat with my uncle and aunt to Morristown, Tennessee and we stopped to get something to eat. We walked into this restaurant and everybody got so quiet and I couldn’t understand why. And they said, ‘We can't serve you in here. If you want to come around to the back, we'll serve you what you want to eat.’ And that made me realize… that people thought I was different from other people.”
Despite the existence of racism in the area over time, all panelists, who were all either retired or current Appstate employees, mentioned the welcoming campus community. As Lynn Patterson said, “The thing that Appalachian does well is that we focus on our students first and foremost, educating our students, making sure that they get the best possible deal out of the money that they’re paying to Appalachian.”
Panelists discussed the struggles of the Junaluska community to maintain its strong sense of family and of self despite the relocation of young people in search of opportunity, the loss of the older generation and the threat of gentrification. Situated as it is on the slopes of Howard’s Knob, this historic community sits in a coveted location for its proximity to Boone and beautiful views. Nevertheless, Anitra Ball shared a hopeful perspective. “The love is still there. The blood, sweat, and tears are still there… There's changes of course, but no matter the changes, it is still there. That deep richness, our roots are still there. So I’m proud.”
Anitra Ball gave the audience sound advice on how to foster an inclusive community. “To me all it takes is just getting to know someone even if they look different or different than you because I think a lot about fear and you fear what you don't know, what you're not familiar with. If you just take your time and get to know someone you might actually like them, you might actually learn something. “
The event was inspired by ”Junaluska: Oral Histories of a Black Appalachian Community,” a collection of interviews of community residents spanning multiple generations, and both the Appstate Common Reading selection and the Walker College of Business Shared Reading selection.
The event was sponsored in part by the Appalachian State University Office of Diversity.
About the Walker College of Business Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Team
The Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) team is composed of Walker College of Business faculty, staff and students who advise college administrators on diversity and inclusiveness opportunities and needs within the college. The team also looks at comparative and aspirational programs to benchmark seeking to make the college a leader at the university in pursuing inclusive excellence.Visit the website for more information: www.business.appstate.edu/diversity
About the Walker College of Business Shared Reading Program
The Walker College of Business Shared Reading Initiative brings students, faculty and staff together to read and discuss a work on social and/or environmental justice. The work selected will highlight ways business can help achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Visit the website for information on this year’s selection and upcoming events: www.business.appstate.edu/sharedreading
About Courageous Conversations
The Courageous Conversations panel discussion and reception create a space for meaningful dialogue to occur around issues of discrimination and implicit bias in the workplace.Visit the website for more information on upcoming events: www.business.appstate.edu/courageous