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Sylvia Ryerson


Sylvia Ryerson (she/her) is a filmmaker, radio producer, organizer, and PhD student in American Studies at Yale University. Prior to graduate school, she worked at the documentary arts center Appalshop, in Whitesburg, Kentucky. There she served as a reporter and director of public affairs programming for Appalshop’s community radio station WMMT-FM and led the station’s citizen journalism project. She also co-directed and hosted WMMT’s longstanding radio show Hip Hop from the Hilltop & Calls from Home broadcasting music and messages to people incarcerated in the region and taught old-time fiddle in the Letcher County public schools. She has co-produced numerous community-based participatory media projects working with the movements for a just transition from fossil fuel extraction, the abolition of the prison industrial complex, and migrant justice. In 2021, she was a recipient of the Docs in Action Film Fund through Working Films to produce and direct her film CALLS FROM HOME, which won the Jack Spadaro Documentary Award for best nonfiction film or television presentation on Appalachia or its people from the Appalachian Studies Association. Her media & written work has appeared in the New York Times, American Quarterly, the Boston Review, NPR’s Here & Now and The Takeaway, the BBC, the Marshall Project, and other outlets. She is a founding member of the Racial Capitalism and the Carceral State (RCCS) Working Group at Yale, and of the Building Community Not Prisons (BCNP) coalition currently working to stop the construction of a proposed 1,400-bed new federal prison in Letcher County, Kentucky.

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