Crystal Wilkinson, Candy-Makers And A Cross-Cultural Music Collaboration


This week’s episode of Inside Appalachia is an encore episode filled with rich storytelling and cross-cultural collaborations. What happens when a musician from Belarus gets together with Appalachian folk musicians? And we’ll talk with Affrilachian writer Crystal Wilkinson, who has been named this year’s Kentucky Poet Laureate. You’ll hear these stories and more in this episode.

In This Episode:

Kentucky Pull Candy Harder Than It Looks

You can find recipes for pull candy online. But be prepared to fail, if you’ve never made it before. It’s hard to get it right. But it’s amazingly soft and creamy to eat.

Joe Parcell pull candy

Zack Harold
Joe Parcell has been using the same simple hook to pull his cream candy for 20 years.

Inside Appalachia Folkways Reporter Zack Harold caught up with a man who’s a confectionary master.

Crystal Wilkinson Named Kentucky’s ‘21-’22 Poet Laureate

Crystal Wilkinson is the first Black woman in Kentucky to hold the title of Poet Laureate. Wilkinson is an associate professor of English at the University of Kentucky. Over her career, Wilkinson has focused much of her writing on Black women and their experiences in Appalachia.

“In a way, this book is sort of dispelling these sorts of stereotypes about blackness. I think many people think of blackness as being a rural phenomenon. So I think that so many of us who are from the mountains from Appalachia are sort of dismissed or sort of invisible to mainstream society — others don’t really think that we’re here,” Wilkinson said. “So the title also sort of leans into that idea that a rural blackness and an Appalachian blackness can also be a perfect blackness. There is no one way to be black in America.”

This week on the show, we hear Wilkinson read a poem she says is an ode to her grandfather and tobacco. Wilkinson’s first collection of poems, “Perfect Black” was released this month.

Pulitzer Prize Winner Discusses New Book

Final arguments wrapped up this week in Purdue Pharma’s bankruptcy case. The opioid manufacturer is just one of several companies to come under fire in recent years for what some believe is their role in the opioid epidemic. With several of these cases currently making their way through the court system, we thought it would be a fitting time to listen back to an interview with reporter Eric Eyre, who won the Pulitzer Prize for his reporting into the issue. He compiled his reporting into a book called “Death In Mud Link: A Coal Country Fight Against the Drug Companies That Delivered the Opioid Epidemic.”

Last March, Eyre spoke with West Virginia Public Broadcasting’s Eric Douglas about his reporting and the future of the epidemic’s impact in Appalachia.


From National River To National Park

Last year, West Virginia’s New River Gorge National River became the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve. It’s the 63rd national park in the U.S. and the first in West Virginia. Those who fought for the change say it could make all the difference for the local tourism economy.

Reporter Duncan Slade looks at one of the oldest and one of the youngest national parks to find out what the future of the New River Gorge could look like.

Musicians Collaborate To Create Slavalachia

Appalachia is no stranger to music as a form of protest. A new, cross-continental connection between Slavic and Appalachian folk musicians has given the form a unique flavor.

slavalachia 100 days in appalachia

Char Reich/100 Days in Appalachia
Brett Hill attended Belarusian musician and activist Siarhei Douhushau first American show at a small bar in Athens, Ohio, in March 2019, which was the start of a music collaboration that has now reached across an ocean during a global pandemic.

This week on Inside Appalachia, we hear a story from 100 Days in Appalachia’s Chad Reich about the musical collaboration known as Slavalachia and how this musician collaboration has lent its voice to an uprising halfway around the world from its roots in Athens, Ohio.


Our theme music is by Matt Jackfert. Other music this week was by Florence Reece, Wes Swing, Dinosaur Burps and Slavalachia.

Roxy Todd is our producer. Jade Artherhults is our associate producer. Our executive producer is Andrea Billups. Kelley Libby is our editor. Our audio mixer is Patrick Stephens. Zander Aloi also helped produce this episode. You can find us on Twitter @InAppalachia. You can also send us an email to