Music for the Mountains

Pulitzer Prize Nominee Ron Whitehead to perform at “Music for the Mountains”

Market Square event caps summer of civil disobedience and community mobilization

What: The Mountain Justice Summer (MJS) campaign concludes a season of intensive outreach and protests with a free, open-to-the-public concert at Knoxville’s Market Square this Saturday, August 27th from 12:00 p.m. until 7:00 p.m. Local favorite Band of Humans and Southern Appalachian folks singers will be joining local hip-hop artists and poets for the day long event. While primarily a merry-making event, the show will also be a celebration of the achievements of the summer’s campaign to end mountaintop removal mining. From Tennessee to Virginia, MJS has reached thousands of coalfield residents through door-to-door listening projects, engaged in numerous civil disobedience actions resulting in more than 30 arrests, and pressured politicians and agencies to change existing mining regulations. MJS’s goal is to end the destructive practice of mountaintop mining (also known as contour and strip-mining), which poisons watersheds, encourages landslides, and releases cancer causing pollutants. Everyone is welcome at this celebratory concert and local MJS activists will be present to discuss their plans for the future.

Where: Market Square (Knoxville), located at 60 Market Square between Wall Avenue and Union Avenue.

When: Saturday, August 27 12:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.

Who: Ron and Sarah Whitehead, Elaine Purkey, Jen Osha, Band of Humans, David Rovics, and more.

Biographies of Performers:

  • Ron Whitehead, Kentucky poet, writer, author of new book ‘The Third Testament: Three Gospels of Peace has been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize for poetry. He has also been nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature.
  • Kentucky singer and songwriter Sarah Elizabeth Whitehead has performed in ten different countries in the past three years. Her voice has its roots in Kentucky with “a sound sweet as the smell of freshly cut bluegrass and old as the coal that sleeps in the hills.” Sarah’s music and literature has received critical acclaim from around the world including praise from Jean Ritchie, David Amaram, Mark Reese, Billy Bob Thorton, The Lord Mayor of Newcastle-on-Tyne, Paul K, The Courier-Journal and numerous others.
  • Jen Osha, singer, songwriter and musician who produced the all-volunteer compact disc of “Moving Mountains: Voices of Appalachia Rise Up Against Mountaintop Removal Mining” (Falling Mountain Music, 2004). A graduate of Yale University, Jen Osha has been involved with the struggle against mountaintop removal mining since hearing West Virginia “mountain man” Larry Gibson speak against the mining around his family’s cemetery in Kayford, West Virginia.
  • Elaine Purkey from West Virginia is daughter of a coal miner and recognized by Pete Seeger as “carrying on the great traditions of Ella May Wiggin of Gastonia, South Carolina, and Aunt Molly Jackson of Harlen County, Kentucky.”
  • Local act Band of Humans presents “Literature to Humanity” through lyrics, poetry, or epistle. As much a musical experience as a literary one, the band prides itself on appealing to the body, mind and soul through transcendent grooves that are good to dance to (Metro Pulse Music Guide, 2005).
  • Internationally known political folk singer David Rovics will also perform. Other local bands performing include Army vs. Navy, Black Sunshine Poetry, and various punk bands.

Why: Mountaintop mining is destroying the Appalachian Mountains, which contain the most biodiverse temperate forests in the world. Mountain Justice Summer, a nationwide movement, has been spurred this summer to bring awareness to the issue. Heavy explosives are used to take up to 1000 feet off the top of the mountains. The overburden (or former mountaintop) is then dumped into the valleys creating one large plateau. Over 1,200 miles of streams in Appalachia have been covered. Local economies have also been destroyed and thousands have been left homeless due to increased flooding in the mined areas. According to the federal government’s scientific analysis, mountaintop mining, if continued unabated, will cause a projected loss of more than 1.4 million acres by the end of the next decade – an area the size of Delaware. Many fishing, hunting, camping, rafting and kayaking opportunities would be lost (Union of Concerned Scientists). Within the next 20 years, half the Appalachian Mountains of West Virginia will be gone due to the rate of permits being passed by the state for strip mining.

MJS Takes on Gordon Gee at Vanderbilt

Today about a dozen mountain defenders from MJS paid a visit to Vanderbilt University in Nashville, home of Chancellor Gordon Gee who sits on the board of directors of Massey.

While some layered the campus in flyers explaining the connection between Gee and the mountain destroyers at Massey, “Gorden Gee”, with his over-sized bowtie, and “King Coal of Massey” with her over-sized tophat, strolled arm-and-arm through the campus while others handed leaflets to staff, students and prospective students who walked by.

Later in the afternoon, a public rally of about 15 people outside Gee’s office was met by a spooky “private security” officer, media from both NPR and Channel 4, and the Vice Chancellor of Public Affairs for Vanderbilt.

The spokesman was questioned several times about the role of Gee in the destruction of mountains and said that Gee “appreciated our interest” in his role in MTR and that Massey is and will continue to be an “environmentally friendly” company. We delievered a letter to Gee calling on him to use his position as a respected member of the community to acknowledge the harmful effects of surface-mining

When we asked if he thought our photos of some Massey mine sites in West Virginia looked environmentally friendly, he thanked us for coming without answering the question. Better luck next time…

All in all, we got a few hundred leaflets out, a few hundred posters up, and blew Gee out of the water to a lot of people. The security presence as well as the Vanderbilt spokeman show that we hit the nail on the head, that Gee knows we are on to him, and that we are serious about ending mountaintop removal mining throughout the Appalachian regions.

Protesters Gather at TDEC to Raise Awareness of Mountain Top Removal Mining

On Thursday, August 10, 2005, people who reside throughout the Appalachian Mountain Region and Tennessee came together to assure that the employees of TDEC (Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation) are aware of the environmental laws that their department refuses to enforce. The assemblage convened at Legislative Plaza and marched to the L & C Building where the TDEC offices are located.

Despite these regulations, TDEC is handing out permits to allow for Mountain Removal Mining and other forms of surface mining that pollute Tennessee’s waters. Mountain Removal Mining inevitably destroys headwaters and is detrimental to the health of the wildlife in the area.

By enforcing the TWQCA, TDEC can prevent the further environmental devastation threatening Tennessee’s precious mountains and wildlife, as well as opening the door for sustainable development in the coalfields of Tennessee.

According to Governor Bredesen in a 2005 press release, “Along with education and job creation, environmental preservation is a fundamental issue for the future prosperity of our state, and the Cumberland Plateau is a critical area to target.”

Over 600 leaflets and papers were distributed throughout downtown as well as media coverage from local Channel 2 and Channel 5 news.

In addition to today’s action, members of United Mountain Defense Nashville and Mountain Justice Summer will be conducting other demonstrations against mountain removal coal mining.

Coal Field Resident, Local Activist, Vandalized

Mountain Justice Summer is issuing an urgent request for donations on behalf of Larry Gibson, who has been the victim of destructive vandalism this past week in which the vandals targeted his outdoor lighting and solar energy system. Larry Refuses to sell the 50 acres of Kayford Mountain that have been in his family for over 200 years. He has campaigned against mountaintop removal strip mining (MTR), even as all of the land around him has been systematically destroyed by MTR since 1986. Larry’s home used to be one of the lowest lying ridge points of the area. Today, his land sits hundreds of feet above the 7,538 acre moonscape of the mountain that has already been flattened by MTR.

Right now monetary contributions are desperately needed to keep Larry Gibson safe. At least $1300 is needed for surveillance cameras and motion-activated lighting, as well as solar panels to power this equipment which is necessary to deter and monitor the consistent threat to Larry and his home.

For the eighteen years Larry has been living on Kayford, he has been the target of numerous acts of violence and vandalism. He has been run off the road, one of his dogs was shot, and another dog hanged. Just this past week his only source of power, a small solar energy system, was damaged. He found wires torn out and the motion detector light smashed leaving the outside of his home completely dark. This weekend, shots were fired at his cabin. This was not the first time this has happened.

Today the movement to end MTR is stronger than ever. Different groups fighting this scourge are networking across state lines, and the Mountain Justice Summer campaign has added an influx of energy and awareness into the struggle. The very existence of this movement is due in no small part to Larry Gibson’s passion, leadership, and willingness to open his land up for all to see the destruction caused by mountaintop removal.

Please help Larry by sending money to:
PO Box 86
Naoma, WV 25140

A shameless plea for cash for Mountain Justice Summer

Donate Money

This is an appeal for money.

Mountain Justice Summer needs gas cards, copy cards and cash so we can do even
more against Mountain Top Removal. Everyone hates to
ask for money—its one of the hardest things for
organizers to do. Perhaps because sometimes it feels
like begging. Big non profits bury their fundraising
pleas among long list as if they are ashamed of them.
You know what I mean. You get the letter in the box
and you know that if you read it long enough they are
going to ask for money.

Asking for cash to support causes should be hard.
Perhaps because it screens out the less serious. To be
an effective fundraiser you must really believe in
what you are asking for—otherwise it just feels like
begging for your salary, especially if your paid to
raise money. To ask for money for a cause you must
really believe you cause is worth asking for.

Mountain Justice Summer is worth asking for. MJS this
summer has done the ground work for a mass movement.
MJS volunteers have gone door to door in coal
communities and hollows to hear what the people who
live next to the mines had to say, and they told us
a lot. People in Marsh Fork, West Virginia told us of
their fears for their children and their communities.
People in Appalachia Virginia expressed outrage at the
death of a 3 year child who had been crushed in his
sleep by a boulder from an MTR site in the middle of
the night. In Eastern Kentucky we were told of coal
trucks driving people off of roads, and listened to a
woman who told us of the time her daughter was crushed
by a another overweight coal truck.

And now we are in Tennessee. In the first week of
Tennessee MJS volunteers spent 3 days in Braden
Tennessee listening to the residents who live under a
mountain range removal project. Days later MJS marched
on Zeb Mountain to protest the destruction of 3 peaks.
Over 50 MJS volunteers marched in solidarity to the
gates of the National Coal Corporations three peak
destroying mine and for two hours shut the main gate
down with music, speeches, more music and our demands
we presented to the mine—ceasing all strip mining
immediately, jobs doing full restoration (not
“reclamation”), and reparations to be paid to all the
people of Appalachia who have been adversely effected
by their strip mine operations. And the work in
Tennessee is just starting.

Mountain Justice Summer is working. MJS has surpassed
everyone’s expectations. In West Virginia MJS was
instrumental in winning a clear victory against Massey
Coal. The West Virginia media’s positive coverage to
the defense of the mountains was against Massey. Even
the governor of West Virginia is making noises against
Massey at the end of over a month of nearly non stop
demonstrations and actions. Hard work paid off, hard
work and shoe leather. In Richmond, Virginia we
organized one of the most colorful creative marches
and protest that Richmond has ever seen.

Gas cards and copy cards and cash. We promise to stop
hassling you for Mountain Justice Summer at the end of
the summer. We are throwing every grassroots tactic in
the book at the coal industry and ITS WORKING. There
are stumble and imperfections no doubt—but
fundamentally MJS is achieving every tactical goal we
announced at the start of our campaign. Mountain
Justice Summer has systematically done listening
projects in the coal fields in four different states.
Mountain Justice volunteers have been marching non
stop for our mountains. Over 20 MJS volunteers have
been arresting in non-violent acts of civil conscious
to save our mountains.

Justice Summer in the news

This is for those who care about Mountains. We are not
paying a dime for staff people. 100% of your
donation goes to 100% action with MJS. Mountain
Justice Summer has become a community, a very
effective community. August 27th is the end of
Mountain Justice Summer. MJS has an ambitious schedule
for Tennessee for the month of August. With no money
at all MJS volunteers are committed. This month is
going to happen regardless of the resources at MJS
disposal. But we can do magic with cash right now. MJS
has fielded a major counter offensive against Mountain
Range Removal with less money that anyone believed
possible. We just want to fight for our watersheds and

Justice Summer Actions

Send cash, gas and copy cards to:

Mountain Justice Summer
POB 16309
Knoxville, Tennessee 37996

Donate cash online with a credit card through PayPal:

Elk Valley Rally Press Advisory

Press Advisory
2 August 2005

For more information:
john johnson – 865.522.6527
Amanda Womac – 865.406.2964

Environmentalists and Citizens Take a Stand Against Mountaintop Mining in Tennessee

Who: Mountain Justice Summer

What: Protest Rally and March

When: Sunday, 7 August, 2005, 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. est.

Where: Elk Valley, Campbell County, North of Knoxville (Directions: From I-75N take exit 141 to Hwy 63W. Follow 63W for 4.6 miles and turn right at Pioneer Post Office on to 297E. Follow road about 5 miles down, passing a cabinet shop and a church on left. About .5 mile after that, turn left onto Lick Fork Rd. Please park in the area provided. We will gather in the lot and then march to the mine site about an eighth of a mile down on right.)

Why: Mountain Justice Summer is a coalition of environmentalists and community members across Appalachia that seeks to add to the growing anti-mountaintop removal citizens’ movement. Specifically MJS demands an abolition of mountaintop removal, steep slope strip mining and all other forms of surface mining for coal. We want to protect the cultural and natural heritage of the Appalachia coal fields. We want to contribute with grassroots organizing, public education, nonviolent civil disobedience and other forms of citizen action.

We will deliver demands to the National Coal Corporation regarding their Mine #7 at Zeb Mountain where they are currently removing three peaks using cross-ridge mining, a form of area mining that blows off the top of the mountain. This practice of strip mining differs from mountaintop mining in that the peaks are “reclaimed” after the mining process is over; meaning the coal companies put the peaks back together. The demands Mountain Justice Summer will make to the National Coal Corporation are as follows:

1) Shut down the Zeb Mountain mine and stop all surface mining because it destroys watersheds, pollutes drinking water, blocks access to public land, and destroys forest ecosystems, fishing and hunting areas;

2) Employ local residents in FULL restoration, not reclamation, of previously mined areas;

3) Give reparations to those who have been adversely impacted by destructive strip mining.

We also seek to raise awareness of mountaintop mining in Tennessee at the rally. Speakers from across Appalachia will testify on mountaintop mining and how it affects them. Musicians will play guitars and fiddles, and colorful theatre will demonstrate the effects of mountaintop mining in Tennessee.

Folks from all over the country stand in solidarity with the impacted folks in Appalachia. This area is one of the most biologically diverse areas on the planet and has been recognized as a National Treasure. Our mountains define our culture, our heritage, and our existence. Appalachia is a biologically rich area that does not need to be destroyed for coal. Governor Bredesen and the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation have a duty to enforce laws and protect water quality in Tennessee. We ask that they enforce laws to prohibit destructive forms of strip mining from destroying water quality in Tennessee.

For more information about Mountain Justice Summer, go to

For more information:

Amanda Womac – 865.406.2964

john johnson – 865.522.6527