A Joint Statement from the Vardy Community Historical Society (VCHS) and the Melungeon Heritage Association (MHA )
We the members of VCHS, in conjunction with the members of MHA, jointly issue the following statement of principles:
(1). That we have and will continue to work both independently and together to preserve the heritage, culture and artifacts of the Melungeon and Melungeon-related populations and their descendants.
(2). That we recognize the likely kinship of many of these populations that have spread throughout the Southeast and their likely shared origins at some point in the past.
(3) That we do not condone nor subscribe to any theory or position that separates any group of human beings from any other group. The Melungeons and indeed, all related populations should not be viewed as “little races” or “singular species,” but instead as what they are: human beings with cultural, genetic, and spiritual connections to one another. We believe establishing this broader kinship does not dilute our uniqueness as human beings, but enhances it as we seek to be a model for better racial and ethnic relations.
(4) We recognize and respect that each individual population, and indeed, each family, will possess its own unique heritage and family traditions, and that no two “Melungeon” families are exactly the same. A tolerance for these differences – and the oral traditions that accompany them – should not only be present but encouraged.
(5) We strongly discourage any efforts or activities that attempt to exclude others from the discovery and celebration of their heritage. The Melungeons as a people do not “belong” to anyone or any specific organization, group of families, e-mail lists, or websites. There is no “litmus” test, genetics test, or genealogical “test” that serves as an entrance ticket to being a “Melungeon.” All that we can say with certainty is that some of our early pioneer ancestors and relatives were labeled “Melungeons” by their neighbors and others. However, and importantly, we know with equal certainty that many of their brothers and sisters migrated elsewhere and avoided the stigma of being known as a Melungeon. Therefore, common sense tells us that we have cousins living all over this nation, some of whom know of their “Melungeon” heritage and many of whom probably do not.
(6) We strongly encourage all those with Melungeon heritage and all those who find the Melungeon story inspirational to join with us in celebrating our proud heritage and in working to bring people together. There is a great need in this strife torn world for increased understanding and
harmony, certainly between nations but also between races, ethnic groups,cultures, and most certainly between those who call themselves Melungeon.
R. C. Mullins, President, VCHS
Wayne Winkler, President, MHA
Position Statement March 2008
MHA has recently come under criticism on Internet sites. In keeping with our policy of open dialogue with our supporters, we want to inform you of the situation and our position. These recent criticisms come from a few people, most of whom have not supported MHA or Brent Kennedy. The recent criticisms are based on old articles dating back to 2002 and 2003. These articles involved the following:
Some years ago, an individual Board member was quoted as lobbying, in VA, for Turkey’s position regarding a proposed resolution having to do with the question of Armenian genocide during the World War I era. MHA was not specifically mentioned.
We also learned of a Turkish-American (TADF) group’s statement (July 2003) that their chairman had a productive two day meeting, in Knoxville, TN with ‘Melungeons’ regarding common issues. No current, active, Board member ever attended such a meeting or knew about it. Our critics’ misperception may be that, when an internationally recognized member(s) spoke, this was MHA; although it should be noted that MHA was not specifically mentioned in these articles.
The criticism also involved disparaging remarks regarding ATAA (Assembly of Turkish American Associations) and accused them and MHA of being lobbying groups. Disapproving statements have also been made concerning MHA having an association with ATAA and / or Turkey.
The criticisms have escalated to fabrications, i.e., that MHA receives (d) financial backing for our gatherings from the government of Turkey and / or ATAA. Also, despite being told differently, that the MHA Board was given free trips to Turkey by the Turkish government. We pay for our own gatherings, with your help, and most of us have never seen Turkey!
When the criticisms first appeared, claiming MHA lobbied for Turkish interests, we attempted to deal with the issue. We informed the Internet site, where the statements first appeared, that MHA has not lobbied for anyone, including ourselves. We also noted that we would consider the issues they raised at our next Board meeting. The criticisms did not abate, but rather increased.
We have not rushed to act: instead, we are taking this very seriously and opted to give considerable time to this as well as other related issues. We have chosen to act in a very deliberate manner. We currently belong, as a cultural exchange only, to some heritage based organizations. We do not vote in their board nor governance issues. As proper procedure would indicate, we have been in touch with the various groups linked to this criticism and will have clarifications from them shortly.
The following statements are approved by the Board:
MHA is a non-partisan, educational group. We celebrate the diversity of heritage and culture that is Melungeon and Appalachian.
The MHA Board does not discriminate based on race, color, creed, religion, gender, sexual orientation, national origin nor personal, partisan political affiliation. We are diverse; we do not bring these potentially divisive types of issues to the Board or our gatherings. This is our strength.
MHA supports the idea, as do most organizations, that any member retains the right to take a personal, political position on an issue and use their right as an American to voice that to their representatives.
MHA will continue to explore ways to have cultural and educational exchange with various peoples and groups; our own heritage shows us an appreciation of diversity, which until recently was often hidden.
MHA does not condone hatred. While we celebrate our own culture, we are not ethnocentric. To encourage ties to another ethnic group or nationality is to encourage connection to people. Affiliation and dialogue strengthen all people while isolation keeps alive the history of oppression.
We are: One People, All Colors
We are learning that the legacy of oppression still exists today as we seek education and dialogue across cultural, religious and a myriad of other lines and issues. A program examining the personal, familial and social consequences, both immediate and intergenerational, of oppression, will be included in this year’s union. We encourage all, who do so in good faith, to join our celebration.
COPYRIGHT © 2008 Melungeon Heritage Association, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this document may be used, reproduced or disseminated without permission of this corporation.