The pipelines resistance and environmental movement lost a beloved and important member of our family on September 28 — April Pierson- Keating. Despite being diagnosed with cancer four years ago and fighting it vigorously, April continually worked to stop fracking and protect her West Virginia community and water up until the very end.
April did whatever she could — she led fracking tours, she was a founding member of the POWHR Coalition (Protect Our Water Heritage and Rights) and president of Mountain Lakes Preservation Alliance, she rallied against the Mountain Valley and Atlantic Coast pipelines, and I promise you the list goes on and on and on. In the days since her passing, I’ve heard numerous people say that they probably would never have known she was fighting cancer if they hadn’t heard the news from someplace else. For April, that wasn’t what was important. What was important was getting people working together to stop fracking and other industries that harm the environment.
I am so thankful to have known April. I am so thankful to have witnessed an example of steadfast and powerful leadership and someone who practiced active love for place and people. I was so impressed with April’s relentless hope. She believed in and could see the world, community and place that she wanted and knew we all deserved, and she never gave up on that mission.
We all have a unique role to play in this resistance family that moves our work forward and ensures we have a fighting chance at necessary victory; the phenomenal notetaker for conference calls, the great public speaker, the one who checks in on folks who’ve had a hard day. April filled a lot of these roles, but one in particular stands out to me. She made sure that West Virginians, and particularly directly impacted communities in northern West Virginia, were never forgotten or left out of the conversations to stop fracking and fossil fuel use.
We all know that these campaigns are a struggle and a lot of people “come to the table” that makes up this fight. But the table can be hard to access for some. It can depend on so many things: financial resources, campaigning experience, whether or not you have Internet access, what your gender is, your race, your socioeconomic class, if your car is working that day, and where you live, just to name a few. Many well-intentioned people see environmental devastation in the region and make an effort to stop extractive industry in Central Appalachia, but they don’t recognize the people at the center of the destruction. The directly impacted communities must be the decision-makers when it comes to environmental and health impacts and their autonomy. April insisted on this. She always talked about West Virginia, she always made sure directly impacted people were sitting at the table. And at the head of the table, at that.
April lived in Upshur County, West Virginia, a place targeted early on for exploitation by the fracked gas industry, where everyone and their neighbor is connected to the fracking industry and so opposition to infrastructure – and pipelines – is almost blasphemous. But there are people in Upshur County, and across the Marcellus shale region in West Virginia, who fear for the safety of their water, their health and their homes. And those people speak out because April stood with them and advocated for them always. She was them. Appalachian. And a fighter.
April, we love you. We miss you. We’ll keep fighting for you and for our future. I will always be looking at who’s at the table because of you.
From April’s family: A celebration of life will be held at the Buckhannon Opera House on Friday, Oct. 19. It will kick off with a water blending ceremony at 4 pm, followed by a chance for conversation and remembrance until 8 pm, at which time there will be live music. The celebration will honor April’s work as a water protector. All are welcome.