A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Constance Alexander: Immerse yourself in poems this April in celebration of National Poetry Month

In Murray, poems are popping up like daffodils: free, wild, and suffused with hope after a winter that swallowed a whole year. Now that it is April, National Poetry Month, and the shroud of Covid seems to be lifting, it is time to mix a few metaphors and raise a toast to poetry. L’Chaim! It is good for what ails us. WKMS-FM, the National Public Radio affiliate, has invited listeners to pen their...

Constance Alexander: Spate of anti-Asian violence underscores need to support greater diversity

As if COVID-19 has not already caused enough upheaval, now — instead of celebrating the flowering of Japanese cornel dogwood as a glorious harbinger of spring — all I see in the clusters of its opulent golden buds is their similarity to images of the virus. Photographer Kate He, a biologist and a Ph. D., provides a different perspective on the blossoms. “They are signs of hope, renewal,...

Constance Alexander: Chalk it up to commitment, cold water doesn’t dampen call to “Remove Robert”

Rituals associated with turning twenty-one tend toward alcohol and wild parties, but when Katie Trzepacz hit that milestone in August, she opted for attending a demonstration in downtown Murray in support of removing the Confederate monument that has resided on the courthouse lawn since 1917. Since she usually worked weekends, Katie had missed the regular round of Saturday protests to “Remove Robert”...

Constance Alexander: Crystal Wilkinson’s ‘The Birds of Opulence’ will enthrall Kentucky readers

Imagine a tree, a bird in the tree, the hills, the creek, a possum, the dog chasing the possum. Imagine yourself a woman who gathers stories in her apron. With those twenty-nine words, author Crystal Wilkinson lured me into her stunning novel, “The Birds of Opulence.” With no fanfare, this rara avis swooped in, ruffled its feathers, and snagged me in two breathtaking sentences. Right then I wanted...

Constance Alexander: Caving to the pressure to edit out ‘hard history’ leads to a valuable lesson learned

About six months ago, an editor I was working with at the time asked me to make a few adjustments to a piece I had written about a new book by poet DaMaris B. Hill, “A Bound Woman is a Dangerous Thing.” The editor was uncomfortable with the story of Ruby McCollum, who’d been forced into a sexual relationship with the town doctor and soon-to-be senator C. LeRoy Adams. On August 3, 1952, she shot...

Constance Alexander: Teaching the history of our country is hard enough, but living it is even harder

Schools are not adequately teaching the history of American slavery, educators are not sufficiently prepared to teach it, textbooks do not have enough material about it, and – as a result – students lack a basic knowledge of the important role it played in shaping the United States and the impact it continues to have on race relations in America. Even as I consider how I learned history, with many...

Constance Alexander: Rand Paul fights on, with boorish behavior as his sullen superpower

A Genius of calligraphic swordsmanship, swashbuckler Zorro proudly wears a mask as he traces a Z onto a villain. Armed with a mask and shield, Captain America fearlessly routs the Nazis in World War II. Astride a splendid white horse, a masked Lone Ranger rides with Tonto to right the wrongdoings of the world, declaring, “We ride for justice. Justice is what I seek.” All swagger in suit and tie,...

Constance Alexander: Availability of COVID vaccine inspires deadly sins, and a couple of virtues

Pride, covetousness, lust, anger, envy, sloth, scandal. That was how we memorized the Seven Deadly Sins at St. Francis School. Our source was the Baltimore Catechism, which the Sisters of Mercy used relentlessly as they drilled us in the finer points of our faith. The good nuns did such a thorough job that every girl could recite the no-no’s flawlessly. Today, thus indoctrinated, I still remember...

Constance Alexander: Challenger anniversary invites study and reflection on events from the past

Those of us who tuned in remember the moment the Challenger exploded. Liftoff was 11:38 a.m., eastern time, January 28, 1986. Although not much of a space enthusiast, my interest was sparked by the Challenger. Like millions of others, I was taken by Christa McAuliffe, the science teacher who was part of the seven-person crew. Her enthusiasm, her infectious smile, the joy she brought to a perilous task...

Constance Alexander: Pandemic leaves legacy of loose ends and unanswered questions

The only photo we have of my maternal grandparents is typical of the Victorian era. Sitting ramrod straight in an ornately carved chair, my grandfather, Sydney John Kelly, is decked out in his Navy uniform. My grandmother stands beside him, solemn and stalwart, her right hand on his shoulder. Her hat features a stylish tilt to the brim, and she wears a brooch on the lapel of her fitted coat. In her...

Constance Alexander: Classic western cinema offers escape from current state of domestic affairs

With the current death toll from the coronavirus nearing 400,000 and projections that the total will reach a half-million by the end of next month, states are scrambling to secure enough doses of vaccine to inoculate first responders and other vulnerable populations. Moreover, after the Trump administration revealed there was no stockpile of vaccine, public health professionals are grappling with shortages...

Constance Alexander: Speaking out more important than ever as country grapples with radical ideals

My mother always taught us to speak out when there was a reason to do so, but she coached us to be polite in the process. She suggested beginning with the phrase, “I don’t mean to be rude…” to temper hostility or waylay physical attack. So today, with a plethora of situations that warrant speaking out, I try to apply mom’s advice. First, consider the official list of Kentucky public holidays,...

Constance Alexander: West Kentucky virus survivor tries to make sense of the COVID-19 puzzle

Ronda Dalton Gibson lives in Ballard County at the confluence of Ragland, Monkey’s Eyebrow, and Bandana. Compared to her birthplace in rural Crittenden County across the river from Illinois’ Cave- In-Rock, the farm where she resides with her husband and teenage son is relatively cosmopolitan. “Paducah and Murray are big metropolitan areas to me,” she confessed. Anyone who knows Ronda is not...

Constance Alexander: Isn’t it about time our communities remove symbols of oppression

Boxing Day in Murray was a quiet an affair. At 10 a.m. the day after Christmas, the town may have gotten up early but is still shuffling around in its slippers. The courthouse is closed, as are many of the businesses. In homes around the county, families are picking up the debris from yesterday, sorting through who gave what to whom, figuring out meals for the rest of the weekend, throwing in another...

Constance Alexander: Santa Claus, the lost house key, and a doll named Suzy Walker

“Walks, flirts, rolls her eyes, turns her head, sits, stands, cries, sleeps. Wash, curl her SARAN hair. 22 inches tall.” The ad sounded perfect to me at seven, the year I wished for a little sister, but decided a Suzy Walker doll would do. I’d made it clear to my mother that Suzy was my dream doll, and she assured me – if my behavior warranted it – that Suzy would nestle beneath the boughs...

Constance Alexander: Yes Virginia, that is a Confederate statue in the center of this friendly town

My name is Virginia and I am eight years old. I live in Murray, Ky, the “Friendliest Small Town in America” according to Rand McNally and USA Today. Some of my little friends say Murray is friendly, as long as you ignore the statue of a Confederate soldier on Main Street in downtown Murray, right on county property. There are grownups who say if you don’t like the statue, you should move somewhere...

Constance Alexander: ‘Abundantly enriched’ by the living history depicted at Homeplace 1850

With no dreamy-eyed profile on eHarmony, and not even a come-hither pitch via Tinder, chances are that Homeplace 1850 at Land Between the Lakes will stay single. Without a partner, the living history site that depicts day-to-day activity of a rural farm family in the antebellum South is on life support. Nothing is definite, but word is that the Homeplace might be converted to a museum. There is also...

Constance Alexander: Will we witness the end of an error or beginning of the end? It’s time we spoke out

Even though I am the youngest of five children, I am the keeper of family history, including momentous events that predated my birth. For as long as I can remember, I listened to the stories told by my parents and older siblings about life before I was in the picture. As the “baby,” I learned to shut up, stay out of the way, and pay attention, which is how I learned about my family’s life during...

Murray writer, KyForward columnist releases latest book, the spoken word opera, The Way Home

The Way Home, by Murray writer and KyForward columnist Constance Alexander, has been published by Finishing Line Press of Georgetown. The spoken word opera was inspired by a collaborative project on end-of-life issues between Alexander and WKMS-FM, the National Public Radio affiliate in Murray. Throughout the project, Alexander interviewed two women, one from Murray and the other from Trigg County....

Constance Alexander: In wake of unprecedented pandemic, virtual artifacts abound in COVID museum

It’s official. Word of the Year 2020, according to Collins Dictionary, is “lockdown.” Defined as “imposition of stringent restrictions on travel, social interaction, and access to public spaces,” the word registered a 6,000 percent increase in usage from 2019 to 2020. With the world in the grip of a pandemic, and an eye toward documenting this historic lockdown era, museums are seeking documentation...