National Miner’s Day

December 6 is the anniversary of the Monongah, West Virginia Mining Disaster, the worst in U.S. history, on December 6, 1907.

“James Robert Howard has gotten his safety lamp at lamp house. Of the 232 employees at this mine, 60% are Negroes., 08/13/1946”

Russell Lee, photographer.

From the series: Photographs of the Medical Survey of the Bituminous Coal Industry, 1946 - 1947

(Ed. note: corrected photographer credit)

During my time at the Chinko Project reserve in the lawless eastern region of the Central African Republic, I tried hard to avoid simple Heart of Darkness clichés, but then one day, while I was patrolling with a group of eco-monitors, we stumbled upon Christian Giovanni, 36, who was taking a lunch break at an illegal gold mine in the middle of the jungle, eating the last bits of gristle off of a baboon skull. Giovanni—probably not his real name—was foreman of a crew of miners that had managed to turn a small riverbed into a scene of total destruction. The miners walk several days from surrounding villages to get to the spring-fed rivers that criss-cross the Chinko reserve. Once they’ve found a suitable location, they dig a series of deep pits in the riverbed, sifting the gravel for gold. They live on bushmeat, killing antelope, monkeys, and birds, and smoking the meat over coals. When they return to the village, they sell whatever they find to a middleman connected to markets in the capital city, Bangui, or across the border in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Artisanal mining in eastern C.A.R. is grueling work, and the payoff for miners is just enough to get by. Giovanni told us, “We make enough to buy food for our families and send our kids to school. No one is getting rich.”

Image and caption by Elliott Woods.

For more of Elliott’s reporting, visit his project, “Central African Republic: Africa’s Hidden Conflict.”

Beer To Drink Music To by Dogfish Head Craft Brewery

Dogfish Head founder Sam Calagione has been very open about how much of a music geek he is alongside his beer geekitude. Beer To Drink Music To is actually the official beer of Record Store Day, a day of exclusive releases in celebration of vinyl and the stores that sell it that happens one day a year in April. I always participate at my local record store Waterloo Records in Austin, Texas. BTDMT is a Belgian-style tripel, which happens to be my favorite style of Belgian beer (followed closely by the saison). I’m not always impressed with American-made ones though. This beer is yeasty and citrusy like I would expect though there’s an odd mineraly aftertaste. There’s also pronounced spice with a hint of sweetness. I think this beer would be better with more body and less spice. A lot of American brewers think that all Belgian-style beer must have spices but most of the beer in Belgium actually doesn’t.    

a coalition of coal miners and queer activists

Just learned about this “based on true events” film about how a bunch of London queers came out in solidarity for Welsh coal miners during the 1984-1985 strikes. Pride. Not a Baptist and bootlegger kind of coalition, but something more amazing - a coalition formed from imagination and empathy.

"You have worn our badge, Coal Not Dole, and you know what harassment means, as we do. Now we will pin your badge on us, we will support you. It won’t change overnight, but now 140,000 miners know that there are other causes and other problems. We know about blacks and gays and nuclear disarmament and we will never be the same.” - Miner and trade unionist Dai Donovan at the “Pits and Perverts” benefit concert

In September 2010, the writer Stephen Beresford was about to leave a meeting with film producer David Livingstone when he was asked: “Is there any story you are burning to write?” “Well, there is one,” he replied, hesitating at the door, “but no one is ever going to make it.” He acknowledges now that this is a line you can only use once in a pitch and explains that he went on to tell the story of miners in the Dulais valley in South Wales during the 1984-5 strike – the longest in British history – and a gay and lesbian group from London that donated more money (£11,000 by December 1984) to their cause than any other fundraiser in the UK, along with a minibus emblazoned with the logo LGSM: Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners.In a decade when a degree of homophobia was the norm, LGSM drove a couple of minibuses from Hackney Community Transport and a clapped-out VW camper van to a bleak mining town in South Wales to present their donations, uncertain what sort of welcome to expect. The events that unfolded said a lot about what it means to be empathetic, to overcome dissent and face common enemies: Thatcher, the tabloids, the police. They told a story about solidarity. (source)