Appalshop Executive Director and Berea College alum (’08) Alex Gibson, J.D., will deliver the commencement address at Berea College’s Recognition Service for Mid-Year Candidates for Graduation at 3PM ET on Sunday, December 9, 2018. Alex is the youngest alumnus ever to deliver this annual address, which celebrates the culmination of students’ hard work and accomplishments at Berea.
The address will be available via livestream on Berea’s Graduation & Commencement homepage.
Alex has spoken at length about his time at Berea College and how it shaped his identity as a young Appalachian, preparing him for community leadership as well as legal service:
When it came time to consider college, Alex set his hopes on the “Ivy League,” but a visit to Berea changed his mind. “We were walking in front of Boone Tavern,” he remembers, “and across the street was a guy with dyed red hair, a beard he had dyed a dark cherry red, wearing a full-length dress, riding a skateboard across the street to go to food service. In my home county, that would not exist –not without being stoned or something. I knew then I would not have the same racism problems at Berea, and I fell in love with the place.”
Berea was the only school he applied to.
Alex says attending Berea College changed his view on race. “Berea taught me I had a simplistic view of race, and focused on the shared experiences people have together.” This focus led him to some major realizations about shared experience in the Appalachian region where he had spent his youth. The changes in how he thought about it began during a Berea-sponsored trip to Mexico.
“In rural Mexico, I saw another Appalachia. I was in the mountainous areas, where they didn’t speak Spanish. They lived off the land. There was a deep, antigovernment feeling. The roads were bad, the schools weren’t great. They reminded me of Appalachians.”
This renewed awareness of his cultural identity brought Alex to Appalshop in 2015. In his role as Executive Director, Alex uses the skills he acquired at Berea to grow communities’ awareness of their own strengths, and to expand Appalshop’s reach and programming.
“With the support of our allies,” he writes, “Appalshop engages place-based media, arts and education to document life, culture, and voice the concerns of people in Appalachia. In a time of seemingly deep, unabiding distinctions, Appalshop’s mission is to uplift the commonality and dignity inherent in all people. Whether you can visit us here in Whitesburg, KY or welcome us to your community, we hope to see you as we build toward our 50th Anniversary.”
Join Alex in supporting Appalshop – Donate online today!