Coming up on Kentucky Life.
Explore the life and works of renowned Kentucky author and activist Bell Hooks.
The Lexington Writers Room survives the pandemic and a terrible accident through the efforts of their founders and the Lexington Creative Community.
A radio station in Cadiz, Kentucky celebrates the history of radio all while serving as a shining example of why local radio is still so important.
And the butterfly greenhouse at Wilson Nurseries and Plant Company educates Kentuckians about the importance of native pollinators by providing an up close experience.
All that's next on Kentucky Life.
Hey, everybody, and welcome to the season 28 finale of Kentucky Life.
I'm your host, Chip Polston.
We've got a great show in store for you today and check this out.
We're visiting the Hot Rod MotorTel in Morgantown.
Such a cool space.
It's modeled after a vintage garage and features some really amazing vehicles that we know car enthusiasts will really be excited to see.
Can't wait to show you more but for right now, let's dive into our first story.
Kentucky has a legacy of producing artists, writers and thinkers who become known on the national stage.
And what better example of this than legendary author, thinker and activist Bell Hooks.
Born in Hopkinsville, Hooks was groundbreaking in the feminist movement, a legacy that lives on even after her passing.
Bell, I want to say is even though she's passed because her work and her life is so present.
So, she is probably the preeminent contemporary scholar, one of the most prestigious scholars and thinkers in the country and in many parts of the world.
Bell Hooks is a feminist icon.
She was born Gloria Jean Watkins and later she adopted the pen name Bell Hooks and that is the name of her great maternal grandmother.
She chose to not capitalize Bell Hooks because she said herself that she wanted the attention to be on the work and not on her as a personality or her ego.
Gloria was born September 25th, 1952 in Hopkinsville, Kentucky.
I think that there's a lot about her that people don't know, but one thing that I think people surely should know about her is that she was an intellectual genius.
I think what's amazing about Bell is that she names the problems that other academics I think talk about in abstractions.
So long have feminists wanted to think about the intersections of difference but what Bell does is she names those intersections.
She says it's imperialist, white supremacist, capitalist, patriarchy and so she names the nexus.
And her concerns were about bringing in classism and racism into the conversation of feminism.
She holds feminism's feet to the fire and says, if you're not dealing with anti racism and especially anti blackness, you're not a feminist.
Crystal: I mean, I think one of her books out of her Vinny 40 really that represented her life's work is feminism is for everybody.
And when I met Bell in '93 that's what hit me the most.
The first room that I entered that Bell was in was not full of academics.
That room was full of mail carriers and hairdressers and people who cleaned up and sanitation workers and all women but from all walks of life.
And I think that that was sort of the center of her work that equal rights for women is for women but it's also for everybody that giving women rights empowers the children, empowers the women and also empowers the men.
Love, of course, was a concept that she came to later on but true love is radical.
Bell's vision was that the wrongs in society could be dismantled with love like one person at a time.
One of the things that I loved that Bell says is that love is an action that it's a verb.
And so if it is, then of course, it's radical.
She would sometimes say that it's about loving yourself enough to end domination.
And I'll quote her.
To me, I think the world has lost the love.
And if we could come back to love, things could be different.
There was a way in which she inhabited the world that was about the critique, which is why people kind of glob on to love because they see it as a break from her critique of popular culture.
But I honestly think we have to read these things together.
When Bell talks about love, she's not describing a state of affairs.
She's saying if we enact love in this way, justice is the destination.
What she will be remembered for is naming the intersections of injustice that she thinks love can ameliorate.
We knew of her work and we admired her for it and we appreciated it and we were in awe of it.
But when she passed, December 15th, 2021, we were... overwhelmed at the response from all over the world.
I see her legacy as being able to change people's lives.
Reading her books and finding yourself in them has the ability to sort of make you walk differently, make you hold your body differently, gives you a certain amount of confidence for you a woman academic, mail carrier, a lunch lady.
I think knowing that Bell Hooks was a Kentuckian was born and raised in Kentucky, makes the rest of us know that we are capable and able to achieve greatness.
That little bookish nerdy black girls from the heels and hollers and small towns and the large towns or wherever we were from in Kentucky could have something to say and to use our individual passions for the benefit of the larger community.
Lexington author Lisa Haneberg had an idea to create a safe and enjoyable space for Lexington writers where they could create new work.
A co-working and event space, the Lexington Writer's Room weathered the pandemic and start up growing pains only to see the dream nearly destroyed in 2022.
Luckily, the Lexington Creative Community responded, helping the writers room literally rise from the ashes.
Lisa: Imagine a space, it has a comfortable vibe, it has rooms where people can collaborate.
There are quite corners, everyone's needs are met.
It was something that I could feel, I could see... in my mind, but I knew did not exist.
It's a place for writers.
And from that, the idea of the Lexington Writer's Room was born.
What if we had a space that was where writers write.
The business world already thought about how do you set up space to help people do their best work and to create community.
The literary arts world had not as much.
And so, while this is a community that wants to support the writers, there hasn't been a place for them to go.
Gwenda: The Lexington Writer's Room is a community co-working and event space for writers.
It's a place for writers to write, to meet other writers, to get support and advice.
Lisa: The notion for what the Lexington Writer's Room would become, didn't really get fleshed out until I met with Gwenda Bond and Christopher Rowe.
So, she heard of us from the Carnegie Center and we heard of her from out of nowhere.
She calls us down to her office.
She lays out this completely crazy, super ambitious plan to build a new writing community and shared workspace in Lexington, which has a tremendous, extraordinary, supple, vibrant, diverse writing community.
She wanted some place to bring that all together.
She had a plan, we looked at it and we said, "You know, if this could work."
You know, writers room is one important part of this writerly or literary community that we have.
And that's what most of these organizations and individuals do is they take something that's already rolling and say, "Okay, I'm going to donate my little push to it."
Gwenda: So, we started out at Base 110, which was fabulous for us.
We had our first open house, our soft launch the week the pandemic closed everything.
So, ideal time to start a co-working space really.
And while that was tragic and awful, it gave us time to think.
And one of the things we realized is that we didn't have enough space.
We went from a notion to a community in a matter of weeks and months.
It was amazing.
Lisa: And we found a space in a 200 year old building, a block away from the Carnegie Center right in the middle of the literary hub of Lexington.
It was awesome.
We made it cozy and warm and interesting and quirky.
We were coming out of the pandemic.
We were getting our funding together.
We were building our community... And we did start to grow there and we thought it was our dream space.
And then it was gone.
TV Reporter: A piece of Lexington history was lost in a fire overnight... TV Reporter: And all that windy weather helped fuel the flames.
All this happening around 3:30 this morning at a building on West Second Street, WLEX-18's, Evelyn Schultz has the story.
Evelyn: Flames destroyed multiple businesses, including a law office and a nonprofit called The Lexington Writer's Room Lisa: It was our building with flames coming out of the ceiling.
We lost everything.
All the art we had curated much of which was Lisa's.
All the books that we had built.
We had a pretty significant library, including some rare books, a lot of our signed personal books we had put in the collection and all those were were gone.
But you know what?
This group of people is the most determined, efficient group.
We took a step back.
We took a breath in and we made a decision.
That decision was that we were going to rise from those ashes, those literal ashes and rebuild better and stronger than we were before and that's exactly what we did.
The community came to us immediately and started helping us.
Donations were coming in.
Over a dozen local artists immediately contacted us and said I want to help.
We also had emails and text messages with people who had stuff, desks, chairs, lamps.
And so, we had organizations and individuals reach out and say, I think you need this as well and we would like to provide it.
So, one of the silver linings from all of this was that we found this space, which is the former Common Grounds coffee house.
And so, many of our members and donors they came here, they wrote here, there was a lot of connection to this space and we had a huge work party to put it all together.
And on June 1st, we reopened.
Now, one of the last things that we needed to transform was the mural that was on the stage.
And so, Gwenda Bond and I immediately reached out to local muralist Wiley Cadell and asked him if he would do a mural for us.
And it's a phoenix rising from the ashes because we are.
We need to represent the community that we live in.
And there's people out there who if they're not seen and if they're not heard, nobody ever knows they're here.
And it's just a great place for writers to come to be in a community that helps people to live their dreams.
Lisa: We're a collective of writers and this space is our muse.
During what was called the golden age of radio, families would huddle around a set in their living room to find out firsthand the news of the world and to be entertained.
A facility in Cadiz, Kentucky is celebrating the medium with a remarkable display of hundreds of antique radios all while showing how local radio stations remain a viable and important source in their community, especially in light of a disaster of epic proportions.
Radio Voice: This is Wednesday, December 10th, 1941.
Last Sunday, December 7th, the United States of America was attacked by armed forces of the Japanese Empire.
Chip: By 1934, radios were in more than 60% of American households.
It was the first true electronic medium bringing the world into living rooms as World War II loomed large on the horizon.
When a small community got their own station, it was absolutely a point of pride.
That was the case in Cadiz, Kentucky back in 1966 when WKDZ first went on the air.
It was such a big event that classes were stopped at Trigg County High School, so the radio station's sign on could be played over the intercom.
Radio Voice: WKDZ sign on the air 11:00 AM Friday, April 8th 1966.
Chip: The station was eventually bought by Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame inductee DJ Everett III as what he thought would be a retirement project.
Everett was already a legend in Kentucky broadcasting, having owned several radio and TV Stations.
And at one point owning the rights for the UK Radio Sports Network.
Working in radio was something Everett dreamed about as a kid.
Another person who dreamed about radio as a youngster was Beth Mann.
She met Everett when she was a sophomore in college and he became a mentor to her.
One thing they shared in common, a love of old radios.
He had radios everywhere.
He had radios at his house, he had radios spread out through the radio station.
I found them out in his workshop, in his little shed behind the house.
It seemed like he was just kind of a tinkering kind of guy and he loved radio.
Chip: When Everett died in 2012 he specifically outlined in his will that the radios were to go to Mann.
He knew how much she loved them and the business in general.
Beth: Then I'm like, "Okay, so what am I going to do with the stuff that's left in storage?"
And we were completely out of space in our facility.
So, I thought I'll add on and we'll build something maybe that looks and feels like a museum.
We'll put those radios in there and we'll name it after DJ.
Chip: The facility became a passion project for Mann who now owns the station.
She's impressively built upon what she inherited and has created a comprehensive history of the medium.
More than 325 radios are in the collection and Mann loves seeing people's reaction when they first walk in the facility.
Beth: Their face lights up like it's Christmas morning and almost always they'll go somewhere and they'll find something where they'll say, "Oh, my grandmother had one of these radios."
And they remember, they will recall or tell me something they heard on the radio or tell me something about their family member that they shared that radio listening experience with.
The radio room here at WKDZ captures the golden age of radio.
Some may say that time has passed.
Local radio is a tough business to be in these days.
And small stations are disappearing at an alarming rate all across the country.
But on a dark day in this region's history, the staff here provided a master class in why local radio matters.
As tornadoes ripped across the area, WKDZ and their sister station in Princeton WPKY fought to stay on the air to warn listeners of the impending deadly storm.
They lost power.
Staff members rushed to the station with their personal generators and extension cords to keep broadcasting.
They then spent days on the air telling people where to get help.
Local radio works because it serves a community and you'd be hard pressed to find a better example of that than what happened here on the night of December 10th, 2021.
Beth: I came in about 4:30 on Saturday morning.
I was trying to get close to daylight, so we could see what our damage was.
We could get equipment everywhere that we needed it to be out in the field.
We had guys still here who stayed all night, they were still on the air.
So, at that point, I kind of started redirecting some people to various places because we needed to cover some -- It was widespread.
Did you call people and tell them to come in?
How did that work out?
No, I did not call anybody to tell them to come in.
They just came in.
I mean, they're that committed to the community.
They knew the situation was very serious.
106.5, WKDZ 19 away from Fort Bill on the live afternoon drive.
Chip: WKDZ and WPKY are music stations.
For 18 days they were wall to wall news and information on how people could receive and give help.
The news was heavy.
57 people in the area lost their lives that night but amidst the chaos, there were amazing stories to be found.
I remember the coroner of Cowell County coming in to talk with us.
And at the time he didn't know if his son was alive or not.
He was out looking for bodies and did not know for sure if his son was one of those.
And at some point he was there pulling some things together and he got a call from his son and he told us that story on the air and Chip, we were in tears.
Chip: The media landscape looks far, far different from that April day in 1966 when the switch was flipped and WKDZ came to life.
The future of radio to some may seem cloudy but Mann firmly believes what local radio can deliver is unmatched in the media landscape.
Beth: Local radio in my mind has never been more important than it is today.
It is the trusted source for people.
We're there for the highs and the lows.
We're not just there when national media flocks to Princeton Kentucky for a tornado and then they're gone.
I mean we're in church with you on Sunday, praying beside you for our neighbors and our friends, and that can't be replaced with another source.
Butterflies play an important role in pollinating flowers and providing stability for our ecosystem.
That's why Wilson Nurseries and plant company in Frankfort created the butterfly greenhouse.
Now there you'll find more than 100 different plants chosen to attract, feed and provide a habitat for our native pollinators.
Let's take a closer look at these magnificent flying creatures.
Jennifer: I think the main thing that we are trying to promote here is of course, we want to give them habitat but also one of our main purposes is to educate and to have opportunities for people to just get up close and personal with these butterflies to the point where they're landing on you and you're feeding them by hand.
And that's just not an opportunity?
that people have a lot.
And then also, of course, for us, we want to just continually promote the plants that the butterflies need because we're a plant place.
That's what we do and everything we do is plants.
So, this has been kind of this little segment of Wilson Plant Company that is a focus area that we can do something totally different and very pollinator focused.
I'm the owner of Wilson Nurseries and Plant Company.
We're located in Frankfort in Lexington.
And my role here is everything that an owner and a president would do as it pertains to everything that we do here, including growing and all aspects of running business and especially as it pertains to the butterfly greenhouse.
I suppose I created it, ideated it and designed and built it originally and we're in our fourth year and we just continue to grow and do different things with the butterfly greenhouse.
The greenhouse as a whole is a privately supported public benefit space.
Our mission is to bring Kentuckians closer to our native pollinators and give them a new experience.
Ruth: Inside the greenhouse are mostly nectar plants and we also have some foliage areas for the butterflies to rest on and hide if they need to, take cover from the weather.
So, all these plants come from our greenhouses at Wilson Nurseries and that's what we focus on inside the greenhouse is nectar, providing food and shelter for the butterflies.
Jennifer: We want people to come and spend some time and really in a fun way, learn about plants and really play.
So, the children's garden is focused around the concept of educational learning centers, but we want them to go from place to place within the children's garden and be able to learn different concepts as and most of which all of which I suppose relate to plants or wildlife in our case, butterflies and birds.
So, one of the most surprising things for me, I think in the last four years is that I initially really thought that the butterfly greenhouse was going to be, it was going to draw mainly families with children.
And it's been so surprising to see all ages, all types of people, but really all ages and the one that surprised me the most is teenagers and they're not with their parents.
So, they take a lot of pictures, lots of selfies with butterflies which is fine but teenagers all the time.
And it's just been really nice to see anything from babies in strollers to seniors and sometimes much older seniors who want to make it out here and they're bound and determined to be here.
So, that's nice and really refreshing.
So, we want our customers to do research on native butterflies and what plants that they like for their host plants.
So, what plants they're going to lay their caterpillars on.
And a lot of butterflies are very specific to that.
So, I think if you're going to grow a butterfly garden, it's very important that our customers know they need the host plants for the butterflies.
So, do the research on that and then provide host plants and then also provide the nectar plants throughout the season.
So, not just nectar plants for spring, but for spring, summer, and fall.
Chuck: We need to more than ever become stewards of the land and begin protecting our pollinators.
They do so much for us.
We don't actually really realize how much they do for us, but they pollinate, not just our pretty flowers, but our food crops and our forests.
So, everything that they do for us, we should be able to give back in spades to them as well.
So, that wraps up season 28 of Kentucky Life.
Wow, now, I can tell you firsthand that everybody here on our remarkable crew, the folks behind the camera whose names you'll see here in just a couple moments have absolutely loved sharing these stories with you from all across the commonwealth and we're already working on season 29 with more fascinating stories on tap about this great state that we call home but for now, I'll leave you with this moment.
I'm Chip Polston, cherishing this Kentucky Life.