A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

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...

Constance Alexander: Boone’s bones come home to Kentucky in Ted Franklin Belue’s new book

Even if you didn’t know Daniel Boone was lost, you will be relieved to discover that historian Ted Franklin Belue has tracked him down. To be more precise, he has located Boone’s bones. Or has he? In his new book, Finding Daniel Boone: His Last Days in Missouri & the Strange Fate of His Remains, Belue blazes a path between Boone’s final years in Missouri and his years in Kentucky, both before...

Constance Alexander: Oral History interview with CCPL director highlights community and family

In her official capacity as Executive Director of the Calloway County Public Library, Mignon Geniviene Reed is dignified and soft-spoken. Her quiet authority is the North Star as she guides a major community project — a long-overdue addition and renovation of the library. When the going gets tough, Ms. Reed instinctively manages with grace and restraint, but ask about her earliest memories of...

Constance Alexander: The 2020 Kentucky Book Festival will be a virtual trove of literary treasure

Karen Salyer McElmurray writes with a longing for home, and for her that means Kentucky. “It’s my deepest heart’s home,” is how she puts it. Both sides of her family are from the commonwealth, but she has lived in many other places. Right now residing in Maryland, she describes the feeling as “living in two worlds,” and expresses the hope that maybe when she retires, it could be in Kentucky,...

Constance Alexander: Breast cancer requires affordable care but relies on kindness of others

Twenty years ago today, Theresa Flowers stood on her porch in rural Trigg County directing me down the sporadic gravel path to the trailer she rented after the recent break-up with her long-term partner. “Right here.” She held up the palm of her hand and pointed at where to park. Unfurling the towel that was wrapped around her head, she smiled and said, “I just took a shower and my hair fell...

Constance Alexander: Preparaing for a lofty career in the field of journalism begins at home

While many of her students have lofty hopes for jobs at the Washington Post or the New York Times, Dr. Melony Shemberger, Associate Professor of Journalism and Mass Communications at Murray State University insists, “They have to get dirty in local news.” “Everything’s local,” she adds, and students in her in-depth reporting class learn the truth of that assertion through a rigorous approach...

Constance Alexander: During National Newspaper week celebrating local news starts at home

Since 2005, more than one-fourth of the country’s newspapers have disappeared, leaving thousands of communities in vast news deserts. In the months of April and May alone, at least 30 newspapers closed or merged. In addition, dozens switched to online-only delivery, and thousands of journalists have been furloughed or laid off. As circulation numbers decline, readership dwindles. In our town of Murray,...

Constance Alexander: How to best define Appalachian writing? Well, that depends…

Discussion begins with one word: Appalachia. What is the proper pronunciation? Long “a” or short? The dictionary confirms there is a “latch” in the middle, but is the latch fastened or not? Is the door opened, closed, or locked? Is it an entrance, exit, or both? Is there a secret password for admission, or are tourists welcome? Answers to these questions may spark disagreement because the way...

Constance Alexander: Vigils attract mourners of all ages, nationwide, determined to prevail

But for the whisper of new moon and random dots of starlight, the night sky was soft as a bolt of black satin on Saturday night. All over America, people congregated at courthouses to honor Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. In Murray, about forty people met in front of the Calloway County Judicial Building to celebrate the life and mourn the death of Justice Ginsburg. Her passing, of course,...

Constance Alexander: Always prepared, Girl Scouts embrace fashion update, seek ‘something cooler’

Today, when a Girl Scout opens the door to her closet, she is not greeted by a sea of green. As a result of a recent fashion update, official Scouts-branded apparel now includes blue denim, black leggings, and a khaki utility vest with a notch collar, epaulet shoulders, and a gently cinched waist. With input from dozens of Scouts, a 3-person team of Fashion Institute of Technology students learned...

Constance Alexander: With so much division in our society today, can poetry really unite America?

Probably not but it gives you something to think about. Just a day ago I asked Facebook friends to name their favorite poems. They swarmed in like horseflies — agile, biting, high on sweet nectar of the madness we call poetry Poetry Unites America, an unscripted documentary film series, is based on the premise that sharing the poetry we love most can bring us together in these days of political,...