“I just think that my people here need help.”
Growing up in Pound, Virginia, in a family supported by her father’s coal mining wages, Jane Branham could not wait to get out of the coalfields and change the world. She lived all over the Southwest and worked as a traveling nurse, but plagued by dreams of her home, she returned to Wise County, Virginia. When she first saw mountaintop removal from the top of Fox Gap, she said to herself “right here is where I need to be changing the world.”
Since Jane returned home, strip mining had taken a new and more extreme form; it was very different from the underground mining her father had done. She got involved with the Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards in 2006 when she met one of the leaders at a town festival. The mission of the organization’s work touched her deeply, so she threw herself into the work. Since 2007, she has served as a board member and leader of the organization, using her words and her music to spread the message that mountaintop removal must end.
Through her experiences fighting to preserve the land, her eyes have opened to a new vision for Appalachia. Better access to quality, affordable health care, good education systems, and new political leaders in the coalfields are amongst her many passions in the struggle for justice. “We need education, jobs, resources, and we need to preserve what we have,” says Jane.