Beth Howard came up with the slogan “Rednecks for Black Lives,” which has since become the name of a Facebook group interested in racial justice issues.
Howard, who grew up in a poor, working-class mining family in rural Kentucky, is using the platform to challenge her fellow "rednecks and hillbillies" to educate themselves and to stand up in defense of Black lives.
"I wrote the letter 'Rednecks for Black Lives' and it was in response to the largest uprising of racial justice that I had ever seen or experienced," she said. "And it was happening in the wake of the police murder of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor."
Howard said as she looked at her social media feed, she saw many people from her area sharing things that were false and hateful.
"It was heartbreaking," she said.
The situation made Howard think about the Battle of Blair Mountain, which was a multiracial group of coal miners who fought against coal company operators to unionize.
"The miners were called rednecks because of the red bandanas tied around their necks to indicate they were union," she explained. "For decades, the label 'redneck' has been thrown at us to degrade us, but it's time we reclaim it."
Howard works for Showing Up for Racial Justice, a national organization that aims to bring white people into the movement for racial and economic justice.
In that work, Jerome Scott has become a mentor for her and is the founding director of an organization called Project South.
Howard said there are a lot of commonalities in the work she and Scott are doing.
"And so I think our friendship will do a lot in terms of showing to the other folks in our lives that a friendship like this can happen and that if we look outward, we might be able to see where greater and greater numbers of Black and white people have the basis for a friendship, but also a basis for a political relationship," Scott said.
Howard says she's confident the people who call Appalachia home can play a big role in the fight for racial justice, despite the reputation the area may have.
"It's time to make a choice," she said. "We have everything to gain."