By Caliesha Comley
Last Thursday, Sept. 19, over 500 people crowded into the Lyric Theater and Cultural Arts Center in Lexington to attend “OFF THE ROAD! A Rally to Stop the I-75 Connector.” The proposal of a new road to circumvent Interstate-75 is in consideration, and has been praised for potential for progress and business connectivity. The $400 million project aims to decrease traffic incidences on the stretch of I-75 between southern Jessamine and northern Madison counties.
Many Kentuckians, however, oppose what is now being referred to as the “Vampire Road.” The near–inevitable destruction of the road will cause the rural population in this area, valuable acres of farmland, wildlife and historical Kentucky environmental and social landmarks such as the Kentucky River Palisades, Marble Creek, Raven Run Nature Sanctuary and the Valley View Ferry to be disrupted.
Kentucky artists have long assumed a leading role in environmental and social justice issues, and this cause is not an exception. Providing the voice for the rally to stop the I-75 connector were a plethora of Kentucky-born authors, poets, musicians, academics and environmental justice advocates – many of whom assume more than one of these titles. The authors shared poems and excerpts of their writing in turn, taking time to express their support for the fight against the connector road. Intermissions between speakers were enlivened by local musicians including the Matt Duncan Band and Steve Broderson and the Northside Sheiks with special guest Tee Dee Young.
One of the keynote speakers for the event, Barbara Kingsolver, native Kentuckian and author of The Poisonwood Bible, explained, “I think artists are not efficiency experts. We are advocates of the beautiful daydream.” The dream in this case, for many Kentucky artists, is one in which the environment is protected for its intrinsic worth, the way in which it gives meaning to the lives of its inhabitants and the environment’s value as a muse for several Kentucky artists.
Wendell Berry, renowned novelist, poet and environmental activist followed Kingsolver with a humorous account of the impending damage of the road. He read a letter he drafted on behalf of the Buzzard General Assembly, which, in light of the excess death of farm animals and woodland creatures, would be forced to compromise ethical and dietary standards to clean up the mess.
Joining Kingsolver and Berry at the rally were other notable Kentucky writers including Erik Reece (author of The Last Mountain), Maurice Manning, Crystal Wilkinson and Richard Taylor, former Poet Laureate of Kentucky. Each writer drew on his or her own experiences in Appalachia and the unique culture and relationship with the land the people of Appalachia have established.
With their words, the writers created vivid pictures of Kentucky’s landscape. They also expressed the often untold narratives of Kentucky life, giving beauty and value to an experience many perceive as mundane or backward.
To learn more about the movement to stop the I-75 Connector, visit http://www.stopi75connector.com.