Front Porch Blog

Public events at the Water Justice Summit in Blacksburg

Mountain stream in Virginia. Photo courtesy of Brad Striebig.

On June 1 and 2, individuals from across Appalachia and the Southeast will gather in Blacksburg, Va., for the Water Justice Summit. The event is being organized by and for individuals fighting mountaintop removal coal mining, fracked-gas pipelines, and other industrial threats to streams, rivers and drinking water sources in their communities. The aim is to unite the many local, often isolated movements resisting polluting industries and negligent government entities under the common theme that water is a basic human right. (More info in our press advisory.

The public is invited to two open events associated with the summit, a public reception of the “What Color is Water” art exhibit, and a keynote panel discussion entitled, “Mothers for Water Justice.”

“What Color is Water” is an art collaboration between Virginia Tech and community members is inspired by issues affecting water quality. An artists reception will take place on Friday, June 1 from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. in the Perspective Gallery of the Squires Student Center at Virginia Tech. The evening will include remarks by Kawvol Hi’osik, indigenous water protector and leader in the Gila Indian Community.

Following the art reception, from 7:00 to 9:30 p.m., a group of experts will gather for a keynote panel discussion titled “Mothers for Water Justice.” The event will take place in the Virginia Tech Graduate Life Center Multi-purpose Room. Featured speakers include:

  • Mary Cromer, an attorney with Appalachian Citizens Law Center representing communities whose water is threatened by strip-mining, and by neglected public infrastructure in Eastern Kentucky
  • Kwavol Hi’osik, a community organizer for food sovereignty and water defense in the Gila Indian Community in so-called Arizona
  • Elise Keaton, an attorney in southern W.Va., and an activist with experience fighting mountaintop removal coal mining and fracked-gas infrastructure

The summit itself will include trainings in water quality monitoring methodologies and tools for grassroots community organizing. Participants are coming from Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia, West Virginia, Georgia, North Carolina, Ohio, and Alabama to examine how the right to clean and accessible water is being violated or threatened by the potentially imminent construction of the Mountain Valley and Atlantic Coast pipelines, mountaintop removal mining projects in continued violation for sediment controls and other stream impacts, and impacts from fracking and other natural gas infrastructure.

Registration for the summit is currently full, but please contact Willie Dodson at with any questions.

The Water Justice Summit is supported by community partners including Appalachian Voices; Alliance for Appalachia; Protect Our Water, Heritage, Rights; Young Appalachian Patriots; Stay Together Appalachian Youth. The summit is also supported by Virginia Tech partners including Institute for Peace Studies and Violence Prevention; Appalachian Studies Department; Perspective Gallery; Gloria D. Smith Professorship in Africana Studies; and Institute for Policy and Governance.

For more details, visit

A Virginia native who now splits his time between Johnson City, Tenn., and Wise County, Va., Willie has organized with environmental and social justice campaigns in the region for more than a decade. He is Appalachian Voices' Central Appalachian Field Coordinator.

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