Winds of Change Newsletter, March 2011 See sidebar for table of contents
Judy Bonds Memorial: Fight Harder!
On January 3, Judy Bonds succumbed to cancer. She was 58 years old and was the executive director of Coal River Mountain Watch (CRMW).
CRMWs co-director Vernon Haltom said, "I cant count the number of times someone told me they got involved because they heard Judy speak, either at a university, at a rally or in a documentary."
News of Bonds death spread quickly. The Associated Press reported that Bonds was a descendant of generations of West Virginia coal miners, who "became an activist after deciding the states coal industry had taken too great a toll on the environment. She became known as a passionate and fearless opponent of mountaintop removal mining for devastating the environment and lives of coalfield residents." AP noted that Bonds was nationally and internationally known for her work. She won the Goldman Environmental Prize for her efforts in 2003.
"Judy was one of the first ones that I met that opposed the practice of blasting away our mountains and covering up our streams," OVECs Maria Gunnoe, a fellow winner of the Goldman Prize (2009) told the AP. "She helped to make us all realize that being a hillbillys a proud thing and theres reasons behind that. Were very unique people and we have the ability to make it when other people cant ... Judy helped me to recognize the value of our culture to our childrens future."
As news outlets and Internet social media spread word of Bonds death, the thousands of people Judy inspired and moved to action mourned. Even as they mourned, though, people encouraged one another to redouble their efforts to end mountaintop removal. That is what Bonds wanted.
Larry Gibson blogged, "Do not let her passing be
in vain. Let her be an example for you to stand and speak out and say Enough is enough."
Bonds was buried on January 5 at her Coal River home in Rock Creek, WV, in a private ceremony. Haltom shared word of the service, "I had the honor to serve as pallbearer, along with Bo Webb, Ed Wiley, Judys grandson Andrew, and two others. The casket, like Judy, was unadorned, simple, straightforward and practical. I remembered Judy saying, long before her cancer, that she had no intention of being embalmed (why put more poison in the Earth?). Green to the end. Rev. Jim Lewis conducted the service."
On January 15, about 500 people attended Bonds public memorial service at Tamarack in Beckley, WV. The service was three hours long, but the time went by in a flash. Hundreds lingered for the reception afterwards. OVECs director Janet Keating later remarked that the service was part tribute and memorial service, part revival and part rally.
West Virginia native and two-time Grammy winner Kathy Mattea sang two songs and gave a moving speech, recounting Judys blunt honesty. Other singers included Jen Osha, and author Shirley Stewart Burns and T. Paige Delporto, both of whom composed beautiful songs in memory of Bonds.
West Virginias famous novelist Denise Giardina spoke, moving many to tears. Author Jeff Biggers and activist Chris Hill stirred folks to action. Bonds daughter Lisa Henderson mesmerized the audience with her remembrances of her mother. Speaker after speaker moved the audience from tears to laughter to applause and standing ovations.
Filmmaker Mari-Lynn Evans said, "Judy Bonds was
a true Appalachian heroine... In her memory, I will continue to fight the good fight to save our beloved Appalachia. I will fight and then I will fight harder." Filmmaker Jordan Freeman presented a video tribute to Bonds.
Janet Keating said, "OVEC has had the privilege of working with Judy for more than a decade. How we admired her for her fire and tenacity her courage, her humor and straight talk, her abiding love for her family, her community, her beloved mountains and state the way she embraced her inner hillbilly. While Judy didnt seek the spotlight, when she was in a crowd, she became the light and inspiration for so many. Booker T. Washington said: There is no power on earth that can neutralize the influence of a high, simple, and useful life."
Heartwood activist Andy Mahler wrote a song just for Judy that seemed to sum up what everyone was saying Judy would have wanted. Heres a verse and chorus of the song that had people on their feet, singing along:
Fight Harder (What Would Judy Do?)When theyre blowing up the mountains
When theyre fillin in the holler too
When theyre building toxic sludge dams, ask
What would Judy do?
Fight Harder! Fight Harder!
For the mountains and the water
Fight Heart-er! Fight Smarter!
For the people and the planet too
Fight Harder! Fight Harder!
She never quit once she started
We could always count on her;
Can she count on you?
What would Judy do?