The University of Alabama Division of Community Affairs will partner with the Hale County Chamber of Commerce to present Toward a More Perfect Economy: The Challenge and Opportunity of Rural Communities, a conversation with Dr. Raphael W. Bostic, president and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.
The event will be presented via Zoom webinar on Wednesday, Sept. 23, from noon–1:00 p.m. CT. Interested individuals are encouraged to register in advance at http://tinyurl.com/HaleCoBostic to receive Zoom login information, as well as to share questions for the panelists. The event will also be available via Facebook Live on the Hale County Chamber of Commerce Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/halecountychamber).
Bostic is the 15th president and chief executive officer of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta. In this role he is responsible for all of the bank’s activities, including bank supervision and regulation and payment services. He also serves on the Federal Open Market Committee, the monetary policymaking body of the Federal Reserve System. Prior to joining the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, Bostic served as the Judith and John Bedrosian Chair in Governance and the Public Enterprise at the Sol Price School of Public Policy at the University of Southern California. He graduated from Harvard University in 1987 with a combined major in economics and psychology, and earned his doctorate in economics from Stanford University in 1995.
Additional presenters include Alex Flachsbart, founder and CEO of Opportunity Alabama and a University of Alabama (UA) alumnus; Felecia Lucky, president of the Black Belt Community Foundation, who earned the MBA from UA; and Dr. Josh Pierce, chair of banking and finance at UA’s Culverhouse College of Business. Each will speak briefly about their organizations and how they serve Alabamians.
The Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta serves the Sixth Federal Reserve District, which covers Alabama, Florida and Georgia, and parts of Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee. The bank has branches in Birmingham, Jacksonville, Miami, Nashville and New Orleans.
As a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, offices at The University of Alabama have been operating under a limited business model, including offices and centers throughout the Division of Community Affairs. This includes the Center for Community-Based Partnerships, the Student Community Engagement Center, and the Crossroads Civic Engagement Center.
While the initial outbreak required the cancellation of the remaining special events we normally host during the spring semester, it could not slow us from our mission. Knowing that the work we do with and within the community would become increasingly important, we pivoted to deliver the Division’s programs via technology platforms that allowed us to remain connected while maintaining physical distance. And we continued to plan for the future.
Now, as the University prepares for a return to campus in the fall, we continue to press forward — safely — with plans to continue many of our programs online into the fall semester. It’s a new space for a Division that bases its programs and activities on community engagement, but it has presented opportunities for us to explore new ways of doing things that can continue to have a positive impact when we get to the other side of this worldwide pandemic.
We encourage you to follow the University’s updates at healthinfo.ua.edu, and to stay abreast of Community Affairs happenings on our website and on our social media pages.
We wish you good health, and we continue to look forward to the day when we can get back to the work of community engagement on a face-to-face basis.
A nationally renowned civil rights expert was the keynote speaker for the 2019 Realizing the Dream Distinguished Lecture at the Embassy Suites hotel in Tuscaloosa on March 19. The title of his speech was “Honoring the Voting Rights Legacy of the United States Colored Troops.”
This series, now in its 19th year, featured Asa Gordon, retired NASA astrodynamicist and receiver of the 2016 Civil Rights and Social Justice Award in recognition of his promotion of the voting rights legacy post-Civil War, a legacy kept alive by the Sons and Daughters of the United States Colored Troops, of which Gordon is secretary-general.
Gordon gave the audience an inspiring demonstration of specific historical events of African- American Civil War activism. “The reason we have the Fourteenth and Fifteenth amendments is by virtue of their [black Civil War soldiers’] activism,” said Gordon.
Gordon’s presentation was based on his extensive and detailed knowledge of the history of African-American service during the Civil War, leading to the development of the Thirteenth, Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments. Gordon, who said he began developing his presentation 10 years ago, has inspired countless audiences ever since and this night was no exception.
Gordon said the idea for the lecture came from his research on Civil Rights activism by African-Americans. “I am not just telling the story of how veterans and warriors helped saved the nation … but how they saved the constitution,” he said.
Gordon is founder and executive director of the Douglass Institute of Government, a Washington, D.C.-based educational think tank.
Gordon also touched on other areas of his social activism, which spans civil actions in regard to democratizing the Electoral College, constitutional penalty for voter disenfranchisement, 14th Amendment right to vote provisions, and neo-Confederate culture in American politics.
After the lecture, Stillman College Vice President for Institutional Effectiveness Dr. Mary Jane Krotzer hosted a question and answer session.
In welcoming attendees, Dr. Isaac McCoy, dean of Stillman’s School of Business, promised the audience exactly what Gordon delivered: “an informed and inspired” evening. Rose Bryant, president of Stillman’s Student Government Association, underscored the importance of institutional cooperation in bringing the event to Tuscaloosa.
“This event shows,” she said, “the power and impact of having three institutions of higher learning — the University of Alabama, the Stillman College, and Shelton State Community College — working together on behalf of the community.” The other community organization comprising the Realizing the Dream Committee is the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
The Realizing the Dream program is under the overall direction and supervision of the Division of Community Affairs.
“Once again, the Realizing the Dream Committee has brought us a memorable event in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.,” said Vice President of Community Affairs Dr. Samory T. Pruitt. “Our division is privileged to be a part of this important program.”
The Tuscaloosa community gathered at the Embassy Suites Hotel Ballroom on March 27 to engage in dialogue with Julissa Arce, advocate for immigrant rights and education and author of “My (Underground) American Dream.”
The event was part of the Realizing the Dream Distinguished Lecture Series, which celebrates the Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Hosts for the event are Stillman College, Shelton State Community College, the Tuscaloosa Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and The University of Alabama.
For Arce, her American Dream began at the age of 11 when she accompanied her parents to the United States by plane from Mexico. They had work visas, but when her visa expired she became undocumented and remained so for the next 15 years.
“If you turn on the news you will hear about immigration every day. You will hear about border security and that in order to have border security we have to build a wall,” Arce told the audience of about 100. “Well I came here on a plane, and so I often think about how high this wall would have to be.”
Arce explained that 40 percent of undocumenteds in the United States never crossed the Mexico-United States border or any border illegally, but came here on a visa that later expired. She realized she was undocumented when she was 14 and anticipating returning to Mexico to celebrate her 15thbirthday with a Quinceañera, which in Latin culture marks the transition from childhood to womanhood with a lavish celebration similar to a wedding.
“My mother told me I couldn’t go to Mexico anymore, because my visa had expired and if I went to Mexico I couldn’t come back,” said Arce, who at the time did not understand the full implications of what it meant to be undocumented. “I went to sleep crying because I wasn’t going to have a party.”
For the next several years she learned to hide and live in the shadows of her parents, who had valid visas, and her little brother, who is a U.S. citizen. Still, she completely bought into the American Dream by working and studying hard and staying out of trouble.
In Texas in high school she excelled academically and athletically, but had few college options because with no social security number, she could not qualify. However, Texas passed a law allowing undocumented residents to attend college and qualify for state financial aid.
At 18 Arce thought, “If I could get my hands on enough financial resources I could become an American.” However, she soon realized that money was not the answer. Citizenship is only open to highly skilled workers, children of parents who are citizens, and spouses of Americans. There was no fee she could pay and no line she could stand in to become a citizen.
Yet, the finance major was undeterred and determined to work on Wall Street, and the summer after her junior year, she was accepted as an intern at Goldman Sachs and 10 weeks later offered a full-time job.
“However, after the initial excitement, the reality set in that it didn’t matter how hard I worked, I was still undocumented. The only choice that I could make was to buy a fake green card and a fake social security card,” she said. “I don’t say this as a source of pride, because I wish every day that I didn’t have to do that. It would have been so much easier to fill out an application, pay a fine and get my papers the right way.”
Every day for the next several years, she was constantly looking over her shoulder. When her father, who had moved back to Mexico, became ill and died, she could not go to Mexico to see him or attend his funeral, which led her to finally confide in her boyfriend that she was undocumented.
“A few weeks after I told him this, we were sitting in my apartment and he said, ‘Why don’t we get married?’ Don’t propose to your significant other that way,” she said. “It changed my life, but it still took five years and $20,000. We had resources and we were able to hire lawyers who could walk us through the case. However, many people who hire lawyers are defrauded.”
She said after beginning her journey to become a citizen, she realized she needed to do more to help others who were undocumented, which led her to found the Ascend Educational Fund to help other young people in similar circumstances.
“My story has a really great ending. I’m standing before you today. My book has become a Washington Post bestseller and is currently being developed into a television series with America Ferrera” (an American actress and director born in Los Angeles to Honduran parents), Arce said. “That is an amazing ending to this journey that I have been on, but there are still millions of people who are walking in the shoes I walked in for so long and their stories are not any different than mine. They work hard and they stay out of trouble.”
She said anti-immigrant rhetoric has caused people to think of undocumented immigrants as criminals, but that is not the case for the majority of people who come here searching for a better life and their own American Dream.
People tell her all that time she should have been in jail for lack of documentation, she said. “Things could have turned out a different way. Life is not straightforward and people are faced with very difficult choices and decisions.”
After the speech there was a question and answer session and a book signing.
“I am a moderator for a Sustained Dialogue class and I had never had a conversation about immigration,” said Beau Devaul, a senior at UA majoring in finance and economics, who said he was inspired by Arce’s story. “When I think about Dr. King he was about equality for all and I was happy to see that the series is inclusive of everybody.”
Dr. Samory Pruitt, UA’s vice president of community affairs, has been a part of the series since its inception. “I give the committee a lot of credit. They look at the theme we have and try to make sure the speakers enlighten our community on a wide array of social justice themes, not just black and white issues,” Pruitt said.
Marcelle Peters, a UA senior who is president of the University’s National Association of Hispanic Journalists and vice president of the Hispanic-Latino Association, said she first saw Arce on CNN discussing her book. “I though her American dream was particularly inspiring and suggested to the committee we bring her here,” said Peters, a second-generation Mexican-American citizen who will be the first in her family to graduate from college. “When I saw she had written a book and was an executive at Goldman Sachs, I thought we definitely need her to come and speak.”
“I worked with immigration with U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby’s office for years,” said Melissia Davis, a Stillman alumna and current member of its Board of Trustees. People looking for that American Dream still have to overcome difficult obstacles, she said.
It is a real honor tonight to be here with you. I really appreciate all of you being here because before we were coming down, we were watching television news and they announced that the national championship trophy was going to be on display in Tuscaloosa, and you can have your picture made with it at Target.
My lovely wife Louise, who is here with me tonight, looked at me and said, “Oh Lord, nobody’s going to show up.” Which was really her polite way of saying “I’d rather have something else to do in Tuscaloosa tonight.”
I would like to mention one regret that I have tonight is that some dear friends are not able to be here. Many of you may have known Becky and Melford Espy, long time and dear friends of mine. Both passed away a few years ago. Becky taught me social studies in the seventh grade and Mel was a counselor in high school when I was a student, and I owe them a lot, and I miss them and I know if they had been able to be here tonight, they would be here on the front row beaming proudly for someone they helped raised back in Fairfield, Alabama.
I’m also especially glad to be here tonight because you are honoring one of my dear friends and heroes, Bill Baxley. You will hear more about Baxley, but truly in 1970, when I was just 16 and he was only 28 years old, he was elected as Alabama’s Attorney General. I’m absolutely convinced that in 1978 if this state had elected him governor, we would be a far different state today.
I do quickly want to make one correction in your program though, because the program says that Bill was best known for his work in prosecuting the Chambliss case, which was the other 16th Street bombing case. He’s actually known very well for that, but what he’s best known for is something that is connected to the case. You see, when Bill, a great politician when he was in office, used to get all this mail he would answer all this mail. But during the investigation and trial of that case, he got a lot hate mail.
You can imagine in the early 70’s the kind of hate mail that came into his office. One in particular came in from Ku Klux Klan Grand Dragon Edward R. Fields, who was the National States Rights Party president from Atlanta. Bill showed me a copy of it, and it was awful. I mean, it was a three-page diatribe about how bad an individual Bill Baxley is, called him everything under the sun, including a disgrace to his race for prosecuting these “good white Anglo-Saxon Christian men.” But like all the great politicians, Bill responds to his letters, and this is what he wrote: “My response to your letter of February 19, 1976, is — kiss my ass.” True story folks, true story.
Bill and I travel together a lot, talking about the prosecutions of the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing cases. I have been fortunate enough not only to travel with Bill, but also to travel throughout the state and country lecturing on those cases and the history behind them. Dr. Mullins and I were talking about this a moment ago. I have always been fascinated to see how important it is for people to learn about what happened in Birmingham in 1963, and how we came to prosecute two former Klansmen almost forty years later.
Folks seem to want to touch a piece of history, which I truly believe is history that is not adequately taught in our schools today. You see, people know the big picture, they know the events, they know about Brown vs. Board of Education in 1954. they know and have heard about the Freedom Riders in 1961, they know about the children’s march and in 1963 the fire hoses and the dogs and the stand in the school house door in Tuscaloosa and the march on Washington, and yes, the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church.
But for my legal team, as prosecutors, we had to connect all those events, connect the dots, if you will, to explain why it came to past that the 16th Street Baptist Church was targeted for a Klan bomb, and maybe even children targeted for death. So, let me explain just briefly about that.
In 1954, the Brown vs. Board of Education decision declared that separate schools are unequal schools, and the schools should desegregate with all deliberate speed. I don’t have to tell you the history of the “separate but equal” doctrine in schools in this country. But desegregation didn’t happen with all deliberate speed; it took decades. And in 1957, Fred Shuttlesworth decided to enroll his children in all-black Phillips High School in Birmingham, but he was met with a mob of white people and beaten. He and his wife were both beaten and chased up and down the sidewalks. One of the people in that crowd was an individual named Bobby Cherry. He felt so compelled to violence to stop school desegregation, that he would beat up a man of the cloth, a man of faith, Fred Shuttlesworth.
Then you have the 1961 freedom riders, and Bull Connor allows the Klan to have their way with the freedom riders. Police officers didn’t show up at the Greyhound bus station for some 20 minutes. But because of what happened to the freedom riders, Birmingham business leaders decided to change the form of government. It took them a while to get a change, but all of a sudden in the fall of 1962 the Birmingham city government changed from a three-member commission that included Bull Connor, to a mayor and city council. So they had an election. But at the same time, Reverend Shuttlesworth was in Atlanta talking to Dr. King to come to Birmingham to desegregate the most segregated city in America.
And the children’s marches took place just after the election. Bull Connor lost the mayor’s race but he stayed in the office. When all the marches were settled, and you’ve seen the pictures of the fire hoses and the dogs and the kids streaming out of schools to participate. When that was resolved with modest change to Birmingham, the Klan was not happy. And they responded the the only way the Klan knew how to respond and that was with violence.
A.D. King’s house was bombed shortly thereafter. The Klan was seeing their segregated way of life sliding away and they didn’t like it. In the children’s marches, it wasn’t just the children who were the symbols of the movement, but also the 16th Street Baptist Church, because that’s where they would meet. So now the Klan was unhappy and guess what: The 16th Street Baptist Church and the children were the symbols of the movement. The stand in the school house door made them angrier. They never dreamed that George Wallace would actually step aside. They didn’t know that it was just a charade all staged for his political career. Later that summer, bombs continued to blow up in Birmingham. Arthur Shores’ home was bombed twice.
In August was the “I Have a Dream” speech, and everyone thought that things were looking up.
It was a positive atmosphere, but in Birmingham the desegregation of Birmingham city schools was about to take place. Court ordered the desegregation of Birmingham city schools. Five days before the bombing of the church, young men and women walked into elementary and junior high schools to desegregate the Birmingham schools for the first time. And Birmingham was on edge.
Because so much violence over the years had occurred as a result of school desegregation, I don’t think it was coincidence that five days later the marquee outside the church was advertising a youth worship service that targeted the youth, and the children were coming to that church together again. That’s the weekend that it was targeted for a bombing. So the jury understood it, and the jury got it.
And it’s only by connecting the dots of history that people come to fully understand what was happening in this state and in this country. It’s only by connecting the dots today that we can measure how far we have come as a society, how far we have come to realize Dr. King’s dream that he so eloquently talked about on the mall in Washington.
Now certainly as has been discussed earlier, we had made enormous strides in race relations and equality, in civil rights and in human rights. Legally mandated social, racial segregation in Alabama and the South had been dismantled. The field of education had seen huge improvements. While just under 26 percent of black adults age 25 and older had completed four years of high school in 1964, the percentage had increased to 85 percent by 2012. The number of African-American college undergraduates has increased 10-fold since 1964. Infant mortality in the black community has dropped dramatically, although I think we still have a ways to go in Alabama.
African-Americans have come to occupy positions of power and influence from boardrooms to the State House and the White House. But it’s very easy, and especially at events like this, to talk about how far we have come, to mix and mingle and to pose for pictures and celebrate. We should celebrate, congratulate ourselves on our success. But it’s real easy to never have the conversations that we must have about race in this country, never even trying to connect the dots about what is happening in this state and in this country that is eroding the true fulfillment of Dr. King’s dream.
A few years ago, I was struck by the final passages of an editorial in the Anniston Star following the death of Bobby Frank Cherry, one of the individuals I prosecuted. He’d died in an Alabama prison where he had been in since the conviction. The Star wrote: “Cherry represented the banality of evil in a time when it was more common than we like to admit. It is easy to look back on those times and see the militant racial hatred that consumed him had no place in a civil society then and certainly does not now. It’s much more difficult to confront the shadows of racism and prejudice that surround us in the present. It comes in subtle forms. There is rarely a fuse that gets lit. It’s more of a slow burn. But make no mistake, its flames are just as consuming as those that raged inside Bobby Frank Cherry.”
Like so many Americans, I believed with the election of Barack Obama we had finally moved past so much of our racial divides, not necessarily a completely post-racial world or whatever that term is. But we have really moved beyond having race so prominent in our everyday lives. Not that we have eliminated racism, but that race would not be as dominant a factor as it had been, at least in my lifetime. I remember on a really remarkable occasion on the night of election in 2008 I had gone to the Boutwell Auditorium in Birmingham, which was the site of the beating of Nat King Cole in the fifties. It was the site of the Dixiecrat Convention in 1948, but on that night in November, it was the site of a victory party with the election of Barack Obama. And it was a raucous occasion, to say the least.
And I stayed and I enjoyed it, and it was awesome and as I am leaving, the party is still going on. I walk across a street, and I meet a friend that I had known for a while who’s been around in Alabama politics a long time, Billy Joe Camp. And I talk to Billy Joe, and we talked about that night, how exciting it was, and I say, “Well, I got to go to another party.” As I walked away I turned because it struck me as he also walked toward that party that I was just watching the former press secretary to the late Governor George Wallace going to a victory party for the first black president of the United States.
So, yeah, folks, we have come a long way.
But if there is one thing I have learned from Bill Baxley (and it’s a lot more than that): You kind of just tell things like it is, And unfortunately the election of President Obama appears what I hoped to have been a watershed was simply a high-water mark rather than lasting change, because with his election and since his election we have seen a consistent and disturbing erosion of civil rights in this country. It is everywhere and racial bigotry and prejudice are continuing to rise; you all know it.
As we sit here tonight, you all know it. It’s not necessarily talked about as much as it should be, but it needs to be, and frankly, it is being talked about more. We have economic disparity and the wealth gap is growing. Our schools tend to be more segregated today than they’ve ever been in the last fifty years. Law enforcement and the criminal justice system continue to struggle with racial issues. We have seen it all too often in the last couple of years where unarmed young black men are killed by police. And I’m not trying to dis the police because they do an incredible job, but there’s got to be some change. There’s got to be some change in the way we do things.
The access to the ballot box by minorities is getting harder and harder. Through various state laws, whether it’s voter ID laws or others, access to the most fundamental freedom that we have, the freedom to vote, is being challenged every day, and especially in a state like Alabama where we have a budget crisis and all of a sudden it seems to be used to close the ID-getting places, the Department of Motor Vehicle offices in the Black Belt, where Democratic voters happen to be.
I promised Louise I wouldn’t get too political. If I do she’ll throw a cheesecake at me. And in the case of Shelby County vs. Holder, the Supreme Court of the United States stripped the Voting Rights Act of a critical provision used by the Justice Department to ferret out voting rights abuses before they take effect. And then across college campuses, from one end of the country to the other, minority students are once again finding their voices, rising up to express their concern and frustration with racism that they are experiencing on their campuses.
Right here in Tuscaloosa, one of your honorees tonight, the second African-American to be elected SGA president at the University, has felt compelled to participate in a video to shine a light on the problems that he sees. Now those problems are not being sufficiently taught at the University of Alabama and other places. They’re not happening just in this state, but other places where parents and teachers and ministers are not doing the job of teaching people about justice and truth and reconciliation.
Now, the last thing I need to do tonight is to give you some kind of laundry list of things that have happened in this country over the last few years. You instinctively know what I’m talking about: the erosion of civil rights and the rise of bigotry. What I hope you will do, not just tonight, but every day, is to connect the dots of what you see and hear going on around you, from Tuscaloosa to Montgomery to Washington, D.C. to see what is happening in Alabama and throughout the country, and connect the dots to what you know in your hearts is happening.
I believe that the rhetoric of our political figures fans the flames of bigotry and prejudice. We have seen that history in this state, and sometimes in today’s world, I think they fan those flames even when they don’t intend to. You know, George Wallace never used the “N” word in public but he fanned the flames of hate and bigotry with code words and fear. In those days, the hate was directed toward the black community and the involvement of the federal government. But in part as a result of our ever-growing diversity in this state and country, today’s rhetoric seems to be directed at much broader and much more diverse segments of our population: African-Americans, Latinos, the LGBT community, Muslims. If you don’t look like them, talk like them, or worship like them, lot of people just hate them, and we’ve got to work on that, we’ve got to do something, and make no mistake: Today’s politicians, in my view, are taking a page from the playbooks of the past, in which leaders continue to resist the growing movement of civil and human rights in the state and in this country.
You remember from your old civic lessons the terms “nullification” and “interposition” used by Southern politicians to attempt to override acts of Congress and the decisions of the United States Supreme Court. Well today, we have a State Chief Justice who believes that his views of morality override decisions of the United States Supreme Court, and he tells probate judges throughout Alabama “just ignore the law, they are wrong, so just ignore them.” That, ladies and gentlemen, is a problem, and if you don’t think that’s a throw-back to the civil rights era, look and compare the two.
In this state, we are in a fiscal crisis; we’ve been that way for couple of years through lot of reasons, and I’m not going to just blame the folks in Montgomery now. This has been building up a long time. But even today we spend thousands, tens of thousands of dollars, on legal fees defending an indefensible immigration bill that was simply attempted to override the constitutional authority of the United States government. Everyone agrees that our immigration system is badly flawed, but when a sponsor of that bill seems to conflate the term “illegals” with the term “Mexicans” we got a problem.
And at this point, there is just not much need for me to go into that hateful rhetoric we are hearing from Donald Trump. Republicans from one end of the country to the other are doing that for me. You’ve heard it and you’ve seen it. But I will say this, I am concerned about one aspect after I hear this from some of the political commentators who were talking about Trump’s rhetoric, and even though they will note the criticism, they then come back and say “Well, Mr. Trump seems to be just tapping in to what so many people believe.” That is true; people believe that way. You see it in the turnout that he has. That’s the sad part, that there are people that actually still believe that and applaud him. You know our political leaders need to lead, our political leaders need to be more like Bill Baxley who took a chance on the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing case in the 1970s, who took a chance cleaning up the environment in Birmingham, going against big business in the seventies when it wasn’t popular. Our leaders need to lead. When there are fundamental wrongs in the minds of folks, they need to be the ones to lead the change and translate it into public policy.
Chris Christy, the governor of New Jersey, said at the Republican convention a few years ago, “Leaders should not just follow polls, leaders need to move polls.” I wish Governor Christy, and the others on that stage, would follow his advice. And we need to demand more of our candidates and our elected officials. They need to know that Dr. King’s dream is not just for rich white guys in this country. Dr. King’s dream encompassed everybody of all races, all religions, all ages, all sexual orientations. You name it, it encompassed everybody.
There are a couple of areas specifically that I would like to talk about just briefly that I’m working on that concern me, that I believe are a function of some problems that we’ve got both in race and civil rights and civil justice, areas that I think are desperate for change in which I also believe that there is some opportunity for bipartisan support. The first is with the payday lending practices in the state, outrageous interest rates of over 450 percent in most instances. Think about that, you’ve probably got credit cards, you have loans, you have credit cards that you complain about 20 percent — but 450 percent! That law was changed in 2003 to change the usury laws that allow these people to charge these outrageous rates, make millions of dollars on the backs of the poor and the working class families in the state.
Last year they started keeping some tabs on these loans. In a 10-week period, 450,000 of those loans were taken out by your neighbors in the State of Alabama. Think about that, we are a state of about four million people and 450,000 of those loans were taken out in a ten-week period, and these are not loans for people that are trying to feed a gambling habit, or drug habit, or even for emergencies like their car was broken down or their child was sick. These are loans the studies show that are taken out by people who are just trying to meet everyday expenses. Now, a bill is going to be introduced in the Legislature again — one was introduced last year that never got the light of day — for Alabama to end this practice, to cap the interest rates at around 36 percent, which is still high, but what an improvement if we could do it.
So please contact your state legislators, contact your representatives, ask them to do something positive for the poor and the working-class folks in this state. And when you do, remember this, and we had a program about this at our church in Birmingham at Canterbury the other day. Remember when you are complaining about the payday lenders, remember that there are victims of payday lenders, these people taking out those loans, because think about it: If 450,000 people have to take out those loans to meet everyday expenses, what does that really say about our state and what does it say about the leadership in our state who don’t seem to care as much for the tired, the poor, the huddled masses.
I told them the other night, I want to work hard to knock payday lending vultures off, but it’s kind of like picking off that vulture that’s beginning to pick on a wounded rabbit. You can shoot that vulture, but if you walk away from the wounded victim, you’ve really not accomplished an awful lot. So we need to work to make sure we do that.
The second area is in criminal justice reform. Recently, I have been working with the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University Law School with about 150 law enforcement leaders and prosecutors from all 50 states, calling for changes in our criminal justice system through an initiative called the Law Enforcement Leaders to Reduce Crime and Incarceration.
Today, the most civilized country in the world has the highest rate of imprisonment in the world. The United States has 5 percent of the world’s population, but 25 percent of the world prisoners, we spend $80 billion annually to lock people up, and in so many cases it’s simply just not necessary. Unnecessary incarceration hurts our communities in so, so many ways.
Now, let’s make no mistake, I’m all for law and order. I have been a prosecutor at two different times in my life. I defend people, but I’m all about the rule of law and order, but I also know there is just simply a lot of unnecessary incarceration that puts people away and treats them like animals. And when you do that, it hurts the communities by furthering racial disparities. It exacerbates the economic impact in inequality of communities. It fuels recidivism and hinders the economic development in communities that need it the most.
Today, and I know you’ve heard these statistics, today, one in three black men will end up in incarcerated at some point in their life; 60% of prisoners reentering society face long term unemployment. With restricted economic opportunities, criminal activities increase. The Law Enforcement Leaders to Reduce Crime and Incarceration have put forth a series of proposals that I hope will be given a good look by law enforcement and state legislators and members of Congress.
I won’t go into all of them, but they are talking about engaging communities, we are talking about alternatives to our arrests, alternatives to incarceration for nonviolent offenders, not the violent offenders. And I want to make sure, as I said a minute ago about my history, these 150 folks are not some bleeding hearts here. They are tough on crime law-enforcement officers who have spent their careers in law enforcement and protecting the communities and when you are a foot soldier for law enforcement, you learn a lot about what’s going on the streets, so these are well reasoned. Being tough on crime and being smart on crime are not incompatible.
This morning, as I was getting ready to go to work, I saw the news about the rise in the homicides in Tuscaloosa, something that bothers everyone. And when you are trying to talk about reducing crime through changes in the system, it’s hard when you know there are certain statistics out there that seem fly in the face of what you are saying. But I will tell you that studies will show that there is not necessarily the same correlation between locking people up and throwing away the key and reducing the crime. But what I saw this morning, I thought was important. I saw your police chief on the TV, discussing the rise of homicides in Tuscaloosa. But rather than simply giving the tough guy law and order speech, he talked about community involvement, he talked about engagement of the community, and education of both the community and the leaders of this community. That is exactly the type of approach that can have long-term effects and you should be proud of your chief for articulating those in the media.
So, ladies and gentlemen, you know I know our theme is “Realizing the Dream,” and so many dreams have been realized, but we have so, so far to go. For me, I go back to the case that will forever define me. And I think forever defines Bill, because it is more than for us than just simply about history. You know, when a child is killed, scores of other lives are shattered. The loss of those four young girls at the church in Birmingham, Alabama, and the two boys who died later that day from gun fire in Birmingham created a deep crater of remorse in 1963. It woke up the conscience of America, the conscience of the president, the conscience of Congress.
But around that well of grief, something incredible has grown. Lives have been saved and countless more, mine among them, have been enriched. The blast of 16th Street Baptist Church shook us out of a stupor. It was easy to see that things had to change. It was an alarm to warn about the creep of a smothering darkness that only could be repelled by fundamental change in America.
I have learned much from the bombing investigation and trials, from people like Bill, people like Mary Jolley, Cleo, my colleague at Alabama. I’ve learned a lot about my city in Birmingham, my state and my country, the law, our people, good and bad, the dangerous absurdity of racial prejudice and the terrorism facilitated by divisiveness.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, was exactly what the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing was, an act of terrorism, before that word was really a part of our vocabulary as it is today. In the years since the trials, I have started to realize that we are repeating many of the same mistakes from a half century ago. Sometimes that connection is only evident if you are prepared to look past the mask of dog whistle politics, the posturing of about economics or expose those hiding behind religion and political bluster. At other times, it hits like a sledge hammer, as with the Charleston church shootings in June of 2015.
The Charleston church shootings raised an interesting piece, something I want to share, because as we’ve talked about politicians and their words, we know words have meanings, whether you say it or not, the words have meaning. Well, the symbols have meanings too, and it took the deaths of nine people in a church in Charleston, South Carolina for people to wake up and realize that the Confederate battle flag has no place in this society.
And I want to show you something real quick. For any of you out there, whoever are talking to someone who said that I don’t necessarily agree with taking down the flag because it’s really a symbol of history, it’s a symbol of Southern heritage. Despite the fact the heritage is Confederate heritage, which seceded from the United States of America, tell them to call me and let me show them this picture, this advertisement from this magazine called the “Thunderbolt.” It was the newspaper of the National States’ Rights party run by Bill’s pen pal friend Ed Fields. On the back, this is in June of 1965, you can see this, an ad where you can order Confederate battle flags. This is 1965 and the ad says, “Fly the Confederate Battle Flag.” The Confederate flag is no longer a sectional emblem. It is now the symbol of the white race and white supremacy. Fly it on on your car and on your house. So folks, this is not new that this has become a symbol of hate, and thank goodness Governor Bentley and others have begun to bring that down.
Despite my instincts as a lawyer, somewhat as of a political junky, to declare that I have the answers for anything, I cannot profess at all to have the absolute remedies for the enormous ills that we see. However, the richest part of those girls who died, the richest part of their gift to me has been an awakening that has connected me to my own personal prejudice, strengths and weaknesses, a very humbling reality check, and now an invigorating journey toward a greater self awareness that might not solve the world’s problems, but hopefully won’t contribute to them.
Indeed, and I told Bill this in our talks, I feel like I have grown more in the last 15 years, than I did in my first 45. Searching for winning solutions to these recurring problems like most everyone else — politicians, street protesters, blog writers, anonymous internet experts, academics — everyone wants to hit a home run or win a national championship. But perhaps it’s more productive to take the long view, exactly the way Coach Sabin and the Tide Football team did recently.
It’s the kind of approach that we took in tackling the four decades-old cold case in the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing. I longed for the big hit, the one big thing to put everything in order, to put it to rest, but truth and resolution weren’t going to be established that way. The details had to be linked, the dots had to be connected, and the game contested one play at a time with everyone doing their part until the very end.
Power teams like the Crimson Tide realize that excelling at small ball — solid blocking and tackling, accurate pass routes, sticking with your plan — wins the game, not the fluke or the last second heroics. It’s not as sexy, it’s not necessarily going to produce a fair result every time. But just as we have witnessed, it’s an especially useful strategy when the whole team buys into the concept. You are playing for a winning season, not just for the glory of an occasional spectacular victory.
So in considering this unique moment today, considering our unique moment in history, a time when we cannot ignore our past and perhaps tumble backwards toward the abyss, or truly embrace its lessons and take a step away from the lingering dangers, the choice for me is clear, in my personal life, my hopes for this country, my hopes for my family, my children, my grandchildren … my hopes for this country is to play the small ball, get the little things right. And hopefully others, just like everyone in this room, will also join the team. As a team we can win, as a team we can defeat the prejudice that we know is going to exist regardless of what we do. That’s the goal. And at the end of the day, we are all in this together. We are all in this together, and our state is becoming more diverse, and if we don’t remember the lessons of history, we will be doomed to repeat them.
So thank you for allowing me to be here tonight, thank you for this event, for your celebration, and for your courage and for your look forward to recognizing where we are and where we’re headed. Thank you very much.
The University of Alabama showcased its extensive commitment and achievements in engagement scholarship through an extensive array of paper presentations, facilitated workshops, awards and recognitions programs, and poster displays by faculty, students, staff and community partners at the 2017 Engagement Scholarship Consortium (ESC) held in Birmingham, Ala., September 24-28 at the Birmingham-Jefferson Civic Center Annex.
ESC is an international organization devoted to solving community problems through research-driven scholarship and partnerships with community organizations. Presiding over this year’s conference was UA’s Vice President of Community Affairs Dr. Samory T. Pruitt, now in his second year as president of the ESC Board of Directors.
“Part of the mission of the Division of Community Affairs is to foster and sponsor engagement research at the University in partnership with community organizations,” Pruitt said. “We help faculty members acquire the resources and other support they need to develop community projects that gain traction through long-term, successful partnerships.”
In a presentation with Dr. James E. McLean, CCBP executive director, Pruitt summarized the kind of support his office provides. This support includes research project seed funds, grant-writing training to help acquire external funding, graduate assistant support, conference travel support, an international research journal, field trips to engagement research sites across Alabama for new faculty, and an annual awards and recognition program.
Former Mobile District Attorney John M. Tyson Jr., a graduate of UA’s law school now working with Volunteers of America Southeast discussed his “Helping Families Initiative,” a comprehensive crime prevention program to address the root causes of bad behavior in K-12 students.
“The conference was a special opportunity to share and take advantage of the research being produced by universities,” said Tyson, who served 14 years on the Alabama State Board of Education. “We have to get more research out of the libraries and into the hands of practitioners. The more we are engaged in our community, the more we can guide research based on the needs of the community. If we aren’t doing that today, I don’t know why universities exist.”
Christopher Spencer, CCBP’s director of research development, joined Felecia Lucky, executive director of the Black Belt Community Foundation (BBCF), to present “Finding Funding Solutions for Community Needs.”
Lucky reported on how the Selma, Ala.-based organization became a Head Start champion for its community. She said Head Start programs had disappeared from four of 12 counties BBCF serves. “These communities came to us for help, which guaranteed support for the project,” she said. “Community members worked just as hard as we did because they did not want to lose the program for their children.”
BBCF’s vision has been rewarded by a $3.5 million federal grant for five years, with an opportunity for renewal.
“For those of us who work in community scholarship and engagement, the conference gives us the opportunity to network and to see the innovation in solving community problems both near and far,” said Spencer, who is also a UA doctoral student. “I’ve attended six conferences and sharing our CCBP and BBCF story shows true partnership at work.” Through these projects, he said, the University and community have truly joined hands.
UA’s Crossroads Community Engagement Center Director Lane McLelland, along with Paige Bolden, Crossroads coordinator of intercultural engagement, and Sarah E. Wever, academic advisor, conducted a workshop called “It’s Time for PIE — Practicing Inclusive Engagement on Your Campus.”
“We were able to share effective strategies for engaging and collaborative work with communities,” said McLelland, who was attending her third ESC conference. “Also, it gives you inspiration and energy to keep at it. It’s inspiring to be reminded that we can do things together. I get a lot of inspiration from being at the ESC conference.”
Delegates attending the presentation responded enthusiastically to the workshop and many said they planned to get more information from McLelland in order to apply the principles learned during the workshop on their campus.
Other UA and community involvement at the conference included:
Adriane Sheffield, UA doctoral student and faculty member, Coastal Carolina University; Dr. Holly Morgan, CCBP director of community education; and doctoral student Cameryn Blackmore, presented “STEM Entrepreneurship Academy: A Community Outreach Program for High Schoolers.”
Dr. K. Andrew R. Richards, kinesiology; Victoria N. Shiver, kinesiology graduate student; Dr. Michael A. Lawson, educational research; Tania Alameda-Lawson, social work, co-presented “Learning to Teach Life Skills to Youth through Physical Activity Forum.”
Dr. Tania Alameda-Lawson, social work; Dr. Michael A. Lawson, educational research; Dr. K. Andrew R. Richards, kinesiology; Debra Crawford, Holt Elementary School; Amanda Waller, Tuscaloosa’s One Place; and Victoria N. Shiver, kinesiology graduate student, co-presented “Implementing a New Paradigm for Student, Family and Community Engagement.
Dr. Laurie J. Bonnici, School of Library and Information Studies, and Dr. Jackie Brodsky, Wayne State University, co-presented “Program Enrichment: A Tide Pool of Shared Experiences.”
Courtney Hanson, research data analyst in C&BA, co-presented “Diabetes Classes Augmented with Multidisciplinary Speed Dating to Improve Outcomes.”
Dr. Tania Alameda-Lawson, social work; Waverly Jones, research assistant, Institute of Social Science Research; Lindsay Natzel, Tuscaloosa’s One Place; Krystal Dozier, social work doctoral student; and Amory Harris, Turning Point victim advocate, co-presented “The Brain Architecture Game: Teaching Low Income Parents About Toxic Stress.”
Dr. Holly Morgan, CCBP director of community education; Dr. Liza Wilson, education senior associate dean; and Dr. Blake Berryhill, human development and family studies, co-presented “Parent-Teacher Leadership Academy: Building Community by Supporting Children and Families.”
Dr. James E. McLean, CCBP executive director; Dr. Samory T. Pruitt, vice president, Division of Community Affairs; John M. Tyson Jr., board member, Volunteers of America Southeast; Christopher Spencer, CCBP resource development director; Felecia Lucky, BBCF president, co-presented “Finding Funding Solutions for Community Needs.”
Dr. John Miller, New College; Dr. Nan Fairly, associate professor, Auburn University, co-presented ” Democracy at Work: Immersive Civic Learning in Alabama.”
Dr. George Daniels, College of Communication and Information Sciences assistant dean; and Latrina Spencer, Cynthia Smith, Ayanna Smith, Jamila Baker, and Zharia Simmons, all on the staff of Oakdale Elementary School, co-presented “Lift Every Voice.”
Lane McLelland, director, Crossroads Community Development Center; Paige Bolden, Crossroads staff; and Sarah E. Wever, academic advisor, “It’s Time for PIE — Practicing Inclusive Engagement on Your Campus.”
Dr. Safiya George, Capstone College of Nursing; Billy Kirkpatrick, West Alabama AIDS Outreach; Dr. George Mugoya, counselor education; and Dr. Pamela Payne-Foster, College of Community Health Sciences, co-presented “Multilevel Strategies to Improve HIV Care in West Alabama.”
Dr. Sandra C. Nichols, special education, presented “Change Agents One Student at a Time.”
Dr. Tania Alameda-Lawson, social work; Dr. Michael A. Lawson, educational research; Dr. K. Andrew R. Richards, kinesiology; Debra Crawford, Holt Elementary School; Amanda Waller, Tuscaloosa’s One Place; Victoria N. Shiver, kinesiology graduate student, co-presented “Implementing a New Paradigm for Student, Family, and Community Engagement.”
Dr. Holly Morgan, CCBP director of community education; Dr. Matthew Curtner-Smith, sport pedagogy; Daniela Susnara, graduate teaching assistant, “Swim to the Top: Swim, Fitness, and Enrichment for Youth.”
Dr. Paige Johnson, College of Nursing; and Dr. Michele Montgomery, College of Nursing, co-presented “The UA/Pickens County Partnership: An Innovative Teaching Model.”
Dr. George L. Daniels, College of Communication and Information Sciences; Adriane Sheffield, UA doctoral student and faculty member, Coastal Carolina University; and Marquis Forge, treasurer, 100 Black Men of West Alabama, co-presented “100 Black Men of West Alabama — Engagement through Empowerment: The Story of the African American History Challenge.”
Dr. Nick Sanyal, editor of the Journal of Community Engagement and Scholarship (JCES), presided over a special ceremony recognizing the original staff and editorial board of the journal. Members of the founding editorial team and the original editorial board received a plaque, on which was printed “New Research Journal Ready for Launch,” followed by the JCES logo and the photo of a butterfly that appeared on the inaugural cover and including the folio (Volume 1, Number 1, Fall 2008). Underneath, were the following words:
In recognition of devotion to the scholarship of engagement as an inaugural member of the JCES Editorial Board on the occasion of the celebration of the first 10 years of publication
Presented this 26th day of September 2017 to
at the annual conference of the Engagement Scholarship Consortium in Birmingham, Alabama
By Taylor Armer, Yiben Liu, and Kirsten Barnes
CCBP Graduate Assistants
The University of Alabama’s Division of Community Affairs conducted its first New Faculty Community Engagement Tour of West Alabama counties Wednesday through Friday, May 10–12, 2017. The tour, “Exploring New Places, Meeting New People and Engaging New Communities,” was aptly titled, as before the trip most participants had only limited exposure to an area so important to the state’s history.
The tour was created to help researchers connect with community partners and bring together the interests of new faculty, along with key administrators and undergraduate and graduate students, to community needs through research partnerships. These partnerships help fulfill the University’s mission, which reads in part, “to advance the intellectual and social condition of the people of the state, the nation and the world through … an emphasis on quality programs in the areas of teaching, research and service.”
A diverse group of UA faculty and staff, graduate and undergraduate students boarded a charter bus at 7:30 a.m. Wednesday, May 10. Across each county — Greene, Hale and Tuscaloosa — panelists expressed their pride in and demonstrated their knowledge of the different communities and institutions they represented. Again and again tour members expressed their appreciation for the chance to go on the tour, how much they learned and how enthusiastically they were welcomed at the different sites.
Dr. James Gilbreath, a UA reference and instructional librarian, spoke for many when he said that although he had lived in Alabama his entire life, the tour of landmark civil rights sites and the opportunity to observe so many effective examples of community-engaged scholarship in action constituted an “unforgettable experience.” The Birmingham native said, “I will carry the memories of the trip with me for the rest of my life.”
The first stop was Eutaw, where the group learned about initiatives from members of the county’s Children’s Policy Council (CPC). CPC supports children’s services in the areas of economic security, health, safety, education, parental involvement/skills and early care. Panelists were Phyllis Belcher, executive director of the Greene County Industrial Development Board; Dr. Carol Zippert, Greene County School System board member and co-publisher of the Greene County Democrat; Mildred Morgan, facilitator of the CPC Strengthening Family Program; Dr. James Carter, superintendent of the Greene County School System; and Julie Spree, Greene County probate judge.
Before the panel began, District Court Judge Lillie Jones-Osborne pointed the group’s attention to the large portraits of local civil rights activists that served as the panel’s background. The portraits were placed there as part of the county’s Annual Trailblazer Program, just one of many CPC successful 2016–2017 school year projects.
The Strengthening Families Program, a six-week series of parenting classes, was one of those projects, as described by facilitator Mildred Morgan. During these classes, entire families came together to engage in healthy communication, Morgan said, reinforcing the importance of family gatherings, especially for meals.
At St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Greensboro, the visitors listened to a panel led by Buzzy Barnette, owner of one of the town’s best-known stores, Barnette Furniture. Afterward, they shared a catered lunch and dessert from Greensboro’s famous Pie Lab, which has become an international destination. It was established in 2009 in an abandoned pool hall to promote social change over a delicious meal. As the groups soon learned, Pie Lab represented only one slice of the many active community-engaged projects in Greensboro — a town of about 2,500 people.
Other members of the panel were Laramie Long, director of the Greensboro Boys and Girls Club; Osie Pickens, member of the Hale County Board of Education; John Dorsey, director, Project Horseshoe Farm; Evelyn Chambers, member of the Greensboro City Council; Shay Fondren, CEO of Hale County Hospital; and Winifred Cobbs, board president of the Greensboro Opera House.
According to Dorsey, Horseshoe Farm has been a part of the Greensboro community since 2007. Among the many programs of this service and leadership development organization are its youth-based initiatives, such as the after-school program designed to improve local K–8 students’ academic performance on standardized math and reading tests. Its base of operations on Main Street is expanding into adjacent space to accommodate future medical residents coming to Greensboro and for classrooms and other uses.
Another group is working on the Opera House as a multipurpose cultural center. Built in 1903, the building sat empty for more than a half-century until Cobbs and her cohorts raised funds to purchase it. With additional grant funding from the Alabama State Council on the Arts, the non-profit organization has restored the downstairs portion of the two-story building. Cobbs hopes to secure additional grants and funding to restore the upstairs theater so that Greensboro citizens can fully enjoy the cultural experience.
Before leaving Greensboro, the UA group gathered at the Safe House Black History Museum. The Museum, a modest, shotgun-style house, was the exact location where the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. sought refuge from the Ku Klux Klan in 1968. Enlarged quotes alongside photos and historical artifacts from that era are found throughout one of the property’s buildings. Theresa Burroughs, Safe House director, said the building encapsulates the struggle for civil rights in Alabama. An active participant of the Civil Rights Movement and friend of the King family, Burroughs walked the UA group down the “freedom” trail (a glass hallway) to the connecting “future” building, where several photos celebrate the movement’s achievements in Alabama and America.
After a 50-minute drive from Greensboro, the UA group reached its last stop of Day 1 at Holt High School, a county school northeast of Tuscaloosa. Members of the panel, reflecting community partners, UA faculty and local educators, shared their work on many projects in the Tuscaloosa and Holt communities.
Panelists were Amanda Waller, executive director of Tuscaloosa’s One Place; Debbie Crawford, principal of Holt Elementary School; Helen Sides, chair of Holt in Action; Aundrea Thomas, president of Holt Community Partnership; UA Professor of geropsychology Dr. Rebecca Allen, representing Project SOAR; Dr. Jen Nickelson, associate professor of Health Science, representing Holt Community Partnerships Health Lab; UA Associate Professor of developmental psychology Dr. Jeff Parker, working with local schools to stem pet overpopulation and other projects; UA Assistant Professor of social work Dr. Tania Alameda-Lawson, Alabama TOPS, a program for at-risk youth; and Jay Logan, director of community outreach for the Tuscaloosa County Parks and Recreation Authority.
It quickly became evident that many of the panelists had partnered together in some capacity within the Tuscaloosa, Holt and surrounding communities. For example, Alabama TOPS is a University/community-school partnership among Holt Elementary School, Tuscaloosa’s One Place, and UA’s College of Education and School of Social Work. The two-pronged program teaches personal and social responsibility through a sports-based after-school program that has reached 70 participating students this school year, according to Alameda-Lawson.
The family and community engagement component helps families within the community, many of whom live well below the poverty line. A Center for Community-Based Partnerships (CCBP) seed grant will expand this program to parents with children in Davis-Emerson Middle School during the 2017–2018 academic year.
Waller called attention to the parenting program Changing Habits and Making Parents Stronger (CHAMPS) as a Holt community program that has helped non-custodial fathers interact positively with their children. “We believe that stronger families make stronger communities,” Waller said, and that these programs provide needed resources to families.
On May 11, the tour visited Pickens County Medical Center and Pickens County Courthouse; Hill Hospital and Coleman Center for the Arts and Culture in Sumter County; and Judson College and Marion Military Institute in Perry County.
At the Pickens County Medical Center, the UA group attended a panel discussion made up of representatives of Pickens County. Dr. Pruitt, vice president for Community Affairs at UA, opened the discussion by introducing the main purpose and mission of the tours. Panelists then described some of the key engagement projects being implemented in the area and the possible partnerships they hoped to attract from UA. Partners with unique talents, such as experts in nutrition and health care, were mentioned as those needed the most.
Dr. Michele Montgomery and Dr. Paige Johnson from the Capstone College of Nursing said that starting with seed fund grants from the Council on Community-Based Partnerships, initiatives have been implemented that focus on health promotion and disease prevention, as well as engaging the students with rural areas surrounding the University.
Montgomery discussed an earlier initiative of health screening of cardiovascular risk factors for the pre-school children in Carrollton (Pickens County) and Tuscaloosa. Johnson said the College of Nursing is planning to extend the screening process to all of Pickens County. Johnson assured those in attendance that UA “is not going to go away. We’re going to be here!”
Jim Marshall, CEO of Pickens County Medical Center, described cooperative efforts to increase the volume of business of the hospital. According to Marshall, communication and education are very important to a rural hospital like Pickens County Health Center because people’s lack of information of what the hospital can do not only affects their health, but also results in loss of patients for the hospital. He said he hoped future partnerships with UA would focus on information dissemination and follow-ups beneficial to the hospital.
Other panelists were Tony Junkin, District 3 county commissioner; Gordo Mayor Craig Patterson; Superintendent of Pickens County Schools Jamie Chapman; and Courtney Rentas, a 2016 UA graduate and Goldwater Scholar and now a University of Alabama/Pickens County Partnership Fellow.
After touring the Pickens County Medical Center, the group visited the Pickens County Courthouse. Patti Presley-Fuller, County Extension coordinator, told the visitors the famous ghost story of former slave Henry Wells’ image etched in one of the windows of the building. The story of “The Face in the Courthouse Window” became one of author Kathryn Tucker Windham’s famous ghost stories. Some in the group claimed they could see the famous image etched in a windowpane on the upper level of the building.
At Sumter County, the group first visited Coleman Center for the Arts and Culture, a local museum and art education center for grassroots artists. Jackie Clay, director of the Center, said that the center is holding a multi-disciplinary summer camp and is always looking for new partners. The group attended a second panel discussion at Hill Hospital.
Tommie Campbell, chairperson of Sumter School Board, said, “Good things are happening in Livingston Sumter County school system.” She and Tramene Maye, Livingston Junior High School principal, cited a growing reputation for high achievements by students, new facilities and initiatives in process and the ongoing programs aiming to increase student standardized test scores.
Loretta Wilson, administrator of Hill Hospital, stressed the need to maintain partnerships with different organizations to deliver medical services to the community. According to Wilson, with the new federal value-based payment system, the role of prevention has become more important in medical service delivery. Networking with organizations like UA, she said, helps in these goals.
Other panel members were Marcus Campbell, District 2 county commissioner; Tommie Armistead, District 4 county commissioner; and Jackie Clay, Coleman Center for the Arts and Culture director.
The third stop of the tour was Perry County. The group made a brief visit to Jewett Hall on the Judson College campus. Then they reached the last stop, Marion Military Institute. Originated in 1842, the Institute is a two-year military junior college offering an associate’s degree and military training to equip students with leadership skills and character development, as well as the basis for continuing their education at a four-year college or university.
Col. David J. Mollahan, Marion Military Institute president, outlined the history of the college. Chris Joiner, executive director of Renaissance Marion, a local community non-profit organization, and Davis Jackson, coordinator of 57 Miles, a student and faculty engagement program named for the distance between UA and Marion, expressed their desire to continue the establishment of sustainable partnerships with UA to fulfill the promise of Marion’s tomorrow.
Other panelists were Col. Ed Passmore, acting commandant and director of MMI’s Center for Service Leadership, and Amy Butler, coordinator of Faith-Based Service Learning at Judson College.
After each panel discussion, UA faculty members also described their research interests and discussed the possibility of future collaboration. Staff members of the Division of Community Affairs and CCBP also explained some of UA’s ongoing initiatives and programs to them. For example:
After the second day of the engagement tours, participants expressed their appreciation for the tour. “What I like most is how varied the different visits were … we can really see the scope of potential involvement for UA,” said Dr. Susan Carvalho, UA Graduate School dean. “The graduate program can find a great deal of inspiration in the partnerships that could be built or have already been built with these communities.”
Dr. Gilbreath, who had been especially impressed during the first day’s stops at civil rights landmarks, called Day 2 tremendous and the overall program brilliant. Even though an Alabama native, he said he still found the trip really eye-opening.
Katherine S. Eastman, a clinical and technical services librarian originally from California, said, “I have written down probably 500 different ideas. I’m definitely going to pursue more projects,” including helping Hill Hospital in Sumter County with materials related to their emphasis on disease prevention.
On the third day of the tour administrators, faculty, staff and student researchers continued to explore new places, meet new people and engage new communities. Several members of the group had attended all three days, while others were just joining the tour. Yet each person on the tour found it informative and thought-provoking.
“I haven’t seen enough of Alabama since I’ve been here and I wanted to understand how student projects are sustainable and what kind of projects can create continuity between the University and the community,” said Carvalho, who spent two days touring with the group and came to UA in July 2016. “I’ve been impressed with the innovation within each of the communities as they work with the assets they have, and I’ve learned more about the resources UA can bring to bear.”
The day began at the Thomasville Civic Center before traveling to the Golden Dragon Plant in Pine Hill, both in Wilcox County. The panel discussion in Thomasville was led by Mayor Sheldon Day, with panel members from the county, city, school and business communities. The group discussed how they’ve created synergy by sharing resources to create more opportunities for citizens.
“What the library was doing in Thomasville was so amazing, making community crossroads for training and workforce development, and access to the Internet,” Carvalho said.
Several tour members were from the Chinese Sisterhood of Tuscaloosa organization and most had no idea there was a Chinese copper factory, Golden Dragon, roughly 100 miles from campus.
“I’m new to the University. This is my second year,” said Professor Di Luo, who teaches history. “I wanted to find opportunities to engage and I enjoyed the tour. It’s impressive to see how people can organize all kinds of things.”
Dr. Yuping Bao has taught chemical engineering at UA for nine years and said she approached Pruitt about assisting faculty and student groups in making these valuable connections with communities to help facilitate engaged research.
“He made it happen. I had no idea there was a Chinese factory in Wilcox County,” Bao said. “We may be able to help Golden Dragon.”
After lunch the group arrived in the Gee’s Bend community located in Boykin, Ala., where they met quilter Mary Ann Pettway, who told them how the quilters began their craft out of necessity, then sang a religious hymn for the group.
“I’m the seventh of twelve children,” she said. “We didn’t have beds, so we made quilts to sleep on the floor. Our homes were not warm enough.” Pettway now travels throughout the country telling the story of the Gee’s Bend Quilters. “They say it’s a dying art, but as long as I have breath, I’m going to keep it alive.” Pettway has served as manager of the quilting cooperative, where the women operate a gift shop and serve baked goods, since 2005. Several members of the group purchased quilted souvenirs.
At a second panel discussion, at the Marengo County History and Archives Museum, Thomas Moore Sr. led a panel composed of two school superintendents and two businessmen. They discussed how their community provides opportunities for its youth.
“Everything we do is moving toward technology and we have done extremely well in that area. Even being a rural school, academics still come first,” said Luther Hallmark, superintendent of Marengo County Schools.
The final panel discussion was led by CCBP Community Development Director Chris Spencer, joined by representatives from the non-profit, religious and business communities. The group discussed ideas for a reimagined and inclusive Selma with a thriving arts district.
“It had never dawned on that collective body that there are lots of communities within our community,” said Martha Lockett, a board member of the Black Belt Community Foundation and a supporter of Arts Revive, as she discussed Selma’s initial strategic planning meeting. “If we get Broad Street looking like gangbusters, and we get shops but people within a 10-block radius of Broad Street aren’t part of it, then we’ve failed in our mission. Some things are top-down, but energy is bottom-up.”
The tour would not have been complete without walking across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in the footsteps of 600 marchers led by now U.S. Rep. John Lewis on Bloody Sunday, March 7, 1965. Reflecting on her daily drive to Selma from Livingston, Felecia Lucky, president of the Black Belt Community Foundation, said, “To this day, when I see the Edmund Pettus Bridge I am often moved and in awe of what took place here and the impact that it had not only on this city, but on the world.”
The tour members said they felt more connected to the extended UA community after the tour.
“We often have opportunities for our students to get out and see things they wouldn’t see on their own, but I wanted that opportunity as well,” said Dr. Demetria Li, who has taught English to international students at UA for more than five years.
In addition to finding out about each community, tour members learned of assistance and training they could receive from CCBP staff and student assistants. Jim McLean, CCBP executive director, invited community members to register for free grant-writing training and told them about K–12 student workshops on campus.
Again and again tour members expressed their appreciation for the chance to go on the tour, how much they learned and how enthusiastically they were welcomed at the different sites. Tour members said they felt more connected to the extended UA community after the tour.
“This tour showed us some amazing things that are happening right in our own backyard,” said Pruitt. “It’s the first time the University has done something like this. We saw firsthand how our core mission of teaching, research and service is having a positive impact on communities in Alabama and beyond. It was especially helpful for some of our new faculty to get out and meet some of the people we are working with and have conversations that will strengthen current partnerships and lead to the development of others.”
Tuscaloosa, Alabama — Dr. Jonathan L. Walton, a social ethicist and scholar of religions, is the 2017 Realizing the Dream distinguished lecturer. His address will take place Thursday, March 23, at 7 p.m. in the Embassy Suites Ballroom.
Walton, who is the Plummer Professor of Christian Morals and Professor of Religion and Society at Harvard Divinity School, has published widely in scholarly journals including Religion and American Culture: A Journal of Interpretation; and Pneuma: The Journal of the Society for Pentecostal Studies. His work and insights have been featured in national and international news outlets including The New York Times, CNN and the BBC.
Walton’s research addresses the intersections of religion, politics and media culture. He joined the faculty at Harvard in July 2010 and has been the Plummer Professor since being appointed to that position by Harvard University President Drew Faust in 2012. He also serves as the Pusey Minister in Harvard’s Memorial Church.
Walton recently received the Bennie Service Award in Religion from one of his alma maters, Morehouse College in Atlanta, at its 29th annual “A Candle in the Dark Gala,” which honors the achievements of men in business, entertainment and religion.
In addition to earning the BA in political science from Morehouse, Walton earned his PhD in religion and society and the MDiv from Princeton Theological Seminary. He is an ordained Baptist minister.
Walton serves on several professional boards and committees, including the board of trustees at Princeton Theological Seminary and the national advisory board of the John C. Danforth Center on Religion and Politics at Washington University in St. Louis.
His Realizing the Dream lecture in Tuscaloosa is free and open to the public.
Each year, the community celebrates the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. with Realizing the Dream activities including a concert, Legacy Awards banquet, performing arts event, Unity Day programs and a lecture. The celebration, much of which takes place during the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend, is sponsored in part by an endowment from the Fiesta Bowl and is the work of an alliance comprised of Stillman College, Shelton State Community College, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and The University of Alabama.
Following Walton’s lecture, one additional event remains in the 2017 series. The Realizing the Dream performing arts event will be a sponsorship of Ragtime, the musical, presented by Theatre Tuscaloosa in cooperation with Shelton State Community College. Set in turn-of-the-century New York City, three inspiring stories of an upper-class wife who unexpectedly becomes a single mother, a determined Jewish immigrant and a daring, young Harlem musician are woven together in this 1998 Tony Award-winning musical. The show will run from Friday, July 14–Sunday, July 23 at the Bean-Brown Theatre. Tickets go on sale Thursday, March 30. For tickets, visit http://www.theatretusc.com.
The UA Division of Community Affairs was created in 2004 and is recognized nationally and internationally for its leadership in community engagement. The division provided the leadership for the recent reaffirmation of the University’s Carnegie curricular and community engagement classification. The division also publishes the Journal of Community Engaged Scholarship, one of the leading refereed journals in the field.
A Chinese New Year party to celebrate the Year of the Rooster at the UA Ferguson Center on January 29 drew more than 400 attendees from Chinese and local families and University faculty and staff.
The event was co-sponsored by the Chinese Sisterhood of Tuscaloosa, the UA Division of Community Affairs and two of its affiliated units, the Center for Community-Based Partnerships (CCBP) and Crossroads Community Center. The Sisterhood is composed of both UA students and members of the Tuscaloosa area Chinese community.
“Chinese Sisterhood Tuscaloosa is a 501c-3 nonprofit organization with the mission of promoting heritage, education and community in ways that enable groups from different backgrounds to learn and understand the culture of others,” said Yun Fu, CCBP program coordinator and one of the event organizers.
Sisterhood president Qiaoli Lang, a UA staff member in the chemistry department, said, “We decided to make it bigger and more inclusive this year.”
Guests, who were greeted by signs reading “Happy Spring Festival” in Chinese characters, were served with many traditional homemade Chinese foods of the kind not usually found in commercial Chinese restaurants.
The celebration included a Chinese Dragon Dance, directed by Yan Wang; Kids Fashion Show, directed by Xiao Tong; Thai Chi, directed by Yun Fu; Qipao Fashion Walk, directed by Fu and Qiaoli Liang; Chinese Qipao Dance, directed by Fu; a skit entitled “Beautiful Roster,” directed by Shan Jiang; Kids Musical, directed by Yibing Liu; Chinese Radio Aerobics and a session called Zumba Workout.
Performers and many attendees were dressed in Qipao (traditional women’s attire), Tangzhuang (traditional jacket), and many other traditional Chinese costumes.
Chinese New Year, also known in China as the Spring Festival, is an important Chinese festival celebrated at the turn of the traditional Chinese lunisolar calendar, a type of calendar whose dates indicate both the moon phase and the time of the solar year.
Every 12 years there is a Rooster year, always after a Monkey year and before a Dog year. The official Chinese New Year began January 28 and will last until February 15, 2018.
The purpose of the celebration is expressed in the traditional phrase “good health, good luck, and much happiness throughout the year.”
Liang said the events provide a way to help Chinese children in the community connect with their culture. The Sisterhood’s Chinese school helps with language courses, because learning a new language is especially difficult as you age.
A special service of CCBP is its Language Partners Program in which University students work with foreign students to teach them English one on one. The program pairs volunteers — most of whom are students working in CCBP — with visiting faculty members and international students who want to improve their English speaking and writing skills, learn more about American culture and become better oriented to the University and Tuscaloosa.
Fu is the program’s coordinator and is currently seeking volunteers. She may be reached at 205-348-7392 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tuscaloosa, Ala. — The annual Realizing the Dream weekend began with a buzz of excitement at the Bryant Conference Center on The University of Alabama campus as students, faculty, staff, community members and award recipients past and present gathered in Sellers Auditorium Jan. 13 for the Legacy Awards Banquet.
This year’s theme, Realizing the Dream Through Acts of Courage and Compassion, highlighted the 28th annual event series, which celebrates the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and which is hosted by The University of Alabama, Stillman College, Shelton State Community College and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC).
Now in its ninth year, the banquet recognizes three individuals for their efforts in promoting the ideals of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and serves as an inspiring element of this annual weekend that celebrates King’s wide-ranging contributions to America.
This year’s awardees include Fan Yang, recipient of the Horizon Award, Isabel Rubio, recipient of the Call to Conscience Award, and the Rev. Wendell H. Paris Sr., recipient of the Mountaintop Award. Some 400 in attendance were able to hear from these individuals in their own words via a video presentation created by the Center for Public Television and Radio at UA.
Yang, a PhD student in the School of Social Work at The University of Alabama, created an international pen-pal exchange that ultimately evolved into Heart Touch, a vibrant UA community outreach initiative that operates through UA’s Crossroads Community Center. Born of Yang’s heart for unity and social justice and following Dr. King’s dream of instilling a more culturally sensitive and inclusive mindset in our children, this initiative also serves as a powerful learning experience for its college volunteers and is spreading the dream beyond traditional borders to bridge the international cultural gaps at the root of global conflicts.
Rubio is the executive director of the Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama (¡HICA!), a nonprofit organization that facilitates the social, civic and economic integration of Hispanic individuals and families through its educational, leadership-development programs. A native of Mississippi and a third-generation Mexican American, Rubio was greatly influenced by the changes brought to the state of Mississippi as a result of the struggle for civil rights. Founder of the coalition she now serves, Rubio earned degrees in history and social work and worked in social services for eight years in the greater Birmingham area prior to founding ¡HICA!.
Paris became involved in the civil rights movement as a young man enrolled in Tuskegee Institute (now Tuskegee University) in 1961. A founding member of the Tuskegee Institute Advancement League, a campus organization affiliated with the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, he helped register voters and participated in direct action campaigns in Alabama and Mississippi. Throughout his adult life he has been involved in a leadership capacity in activities that promote not only civil rights, but also economic development designed to sustain communities that are typically comprised of lower-income minorities. He received an honorary doctorate of humanities from the Ministerial Institute and College in West Point, Mississippi in 1978 and the Martin Luther King Jr. Man of the Year Award in 1988. In 1990, he was named a Charles Bannerman Fellow for Civil Rights and Civic Affairs. He presently serves as director of membership care and visitation with the New Hope Baptist Church in Jackson, Mississippi.
Keynote speaker John Quiñones, veteran ABC news figure and host and creator of the ethical dilemma news magazine “What Would You Do?” was the keynote speaker. Quiñones, a San Antonio, Texas native and seventh-generation Mexican American, shared the inspirational story of his life and career, from migrant farm work during his childhood to becoming the first person in his family to earn a college degree thanks to the encouragement of his parents, his refusal to take no for an answer and the hand up he received from the Upward Bound program. He ended his talk by sharing a video clip that spoke to the importance and relevance of Dr. King’s message — past, present and future. (See related story and transcript of Quiñones’ message here.)
Prior to the banquet, Quiñones and Rubio met with a select group of UA journalism and American studies students in an informal question-and-answer session that was informative, enlightening and inspiring to these young people who will soon venture out to make their own marks on the world.
The weekend’s activities continued Sunday evening, January 15, with the Realizing the Dream concert featuring legendary gospel artist Kirk Franklin. The air in UA’s Moody Music Concert Hall felt electrified as the audience waited with anticipation for the start of the performance.
At 7:30, a hush grew over the audience as Lillian Roth, SGA president at The University of Alabama, welcomed guests to the sold-out performance and acknowledged the four entities that present the Realizing the Dream activities. Shelton State Ambassador Shontray Wilson introduced the Legacy Awards recipients to thunderous applause, followed by Troy Gibson, Stillman College SGA president, who introduced Franklin.
Franklin and his band did not disappoint, captivating the audience from the first note of their performance to the last. Their concert highlighted the distinctive gospel/R&B/hip-hop style for which Franklin has become known, in what could best be described as a mash-up of concert plus worship and praise service, all at a volume that, as one concertgoer was overheard saying, “blew the walls out of Moody.” The concert concluded with the traditional singing of “We Shall Overcome,” led by Franklin and his backup singers, as well as members of area choirs that he invited to join them on stage. (See related story here.)
Prior to the concert, attendees had the opportunity to view artwork on display in the lobby. Created by students in Tuscaloosa City Schools, this annual exhibition of new work is a tradition of the Realizing the Dream Concert.
The weekend’s activities concluded Jan. 16 on the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday with a Unity Day breakfast and march, as well as the annual mass rally that evening at First African Baptist Church in Tuscaloosa.
Two additional 2017 Realizing the Dream events remain. Dr. Jonathan L. Walton, a social ethicist and scholar of religions at Harvard Divinity School, is the distinguished lecturer for this year’s series. His lecture is scheduled for Thursday, March 23, at 7 p.m. at the Embassy Suites Ballroom in downtown Tuscaloosa. The performing arts event, scheduled to run July 14–23 at the Bean-Brown Theatre in Tuscaloosa, will be Ragtime, the musical.
Tickets are not required for the lecture. Tickets for Ragtime, the musical, will be available for purchase through the Bean-Brown Theatre box office at http://www.theatretusc.com beginning Thursday, March 30.
For additional information, visit the Realizing the Dream website, located at the UA Division of Community Affairs webpage at http://realizingthedream.ua.edu.
The Division of Community Affairs was created in 2004 and is recognized nationally and internationally for its leadership in community engagement. The division provided the leadership for the recent reaffirmation of the University’s Carnegie curricular and community engagement classification. The division also publishes the Journal of Community Engaged Scholarship, one of the leading refereed journals in the field.