Stevens is the Chaplain at St. Augustine at Vanderbilt University and founder of Magdalene/Thistle Farms. She shared her fears and hopes for a sanctuary to help women recovering from trafficking, prostitution, addiction and life on the streets. Thistle Farms employs over 40 residents who manufacture, market and sell all natural bath and beauty products.
“If you’re on a journey led by your heart, the fears will come again to sit vigil with you at night. But, remember, you are not alone,” she said. “You have to keep going and lay the fears aside.”
Stevens asked students about their vision and encouraged them to walk with their hearts and continue the journey.
She said, “you have a really clear sense of what has happened, assess the present and be wide open when love is coming around the bend.”
She ended her inspirational talk by introducing her son Levi Hummon, Belmont student, who performed a song he wrote, “Leaving the Best Things.
On Thursday, Nov. 8, critically acclaimed poet Adam Clay spoke at Belmont University about his most recent publication, A Hotel Lobby at the End of the World, as part of a new annual reader series put on by the Department of English. The series is the brainchild of Dr. Gary McDowell, a poetry and creative writing professor who attended the same graduate program as Clay.
Titled “The Deep Song Reading Series,” the goal of the series is to bring working writers onto Belmont’s campus. “We forget that poetry is still be written today, and people don’t get to hear [it],” said McDowell. McDowell himself has published several poems, and he hopes to encourage students who have an interest in all forms of writing.
Jason Baldwin, one of the West Memphis Three, was on campus this week to share his story and newfound passions with Belmont faculty, staff and students.
Sentenced in 1994 for the murder of three boys in West Memphis, Arkansas, Baldwin and his two friends served over 18 years in prison. With the discovery of newly processed DNA, the trio was released in August of 2011 when they entered Alford Pleas stating their innocence while also noting that prosecution have enough initial evidence to sentence them as they did.
Baldwin’s message to his listeners was clear. While in jail he took the opportunity to work in the law library, learn as much as he could and appreciate all the time he had. He urges students to do the same.
Baldwin has also committed himself to a life working against the death penalty while also opposing forced confessions of individuals on trial and convictions of the innocent. In addition, he hopes to help juveniles facing a life sentence without parole.
Beginning his associate degree in April, Baldwin hopes to finish that program and work towards a law degree so he can continue his hopes of changing the legal system. He ended his convocation lecture by saying, “Every day is amazing. Every day is a blessing. I thank God for it.”
On Monday night, Baldwin was present for an on campus viewing of the 2012 Academy Award-nominated HBO documentary Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory. The film, along with its predecessors Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills (1996) and Paradise Lost 2: Revelations (2000), detail the story of the West Memphis Three and the trio’s ultimate release from prison. Together the films played a significant role in garnering publicity, awareness and support for the men.
Kent State University sociology assistant professor Nicole Rousseau chronicled the role of black women’s wombs in America’s capitalist society over 400 years during a lecture to Belmont students on March 19.
During slavery, black women were raped and forced to reproduce to provide labor for the agricultural South. During the U.S. industrial era, blacks were seen as parasites and sterilizations were mandated through the eugenics movements and The Negro Project. Today, sterilization is coerced through programs such as Project Prevention, which offers people with drug and alcohol addictions cash for sterilization. In Illinois, unwed mothers under21 are asked to have their tube tied immediately after giving birth to a second child, and wards of the state also are given cash incentives for sterilization. Each of these instances disproportionately affects women and minorities, Rousseau said.
“The reality is that this is an unnerving trend,” she said. “The idea is appalling that there are currently public debates about birth control and someone else’s body. This is a slippery slope because it legitimizes someone else making decisions for a woman.”
The Black Woman’s Burden explores bureaucracy, institutionalized racism, political economy and black women as a unique labor class while drawing from black feminism, the womanist theory and the critical race theory.
Rousseau earned her doctorate in Sociology from Howard University. Her work on the structural and institutional roots of race, class and gender inequalities, social rhetoric and identity formation, and Historical Womanist theory have been included in several publications in the United States and South America.
Throughout their day, volunteers spent time painting, washing windows, doing yard work and detailing wheelchairs as well as cleaning beds, residents’ bedrooms and the organization’s basement. The students also read Bible studies with the residents, sang hymns and played bingo.
Working alongside faculty advisor Sara Olson, who works in the Office of Admissions, and her husband’s nonprofit Both Hands Foundation (BHF), Belmont’s Bruin Recruiters wanted to volunteer together to impact their community, both locally and globally. BHF is an organization that serves widows in the community in a practical way while also raising money for orphan care and adoptions. After a visit to a partner orphanage in 2011, BHF founder JT Olson realized the need and came up with a concept to help. By assisting in mobilizing college groups to hold what BHF calls “big build projects” sponsored through letter writing campaigns, all money raised goes back to the orphanage to assist those needs.
The Belmont students wrote letters to family and friends two weeks before the build in an effort to raise money, and the student who raises the most funds will take the resources and letters to the orphanage in person. To date, the group has raised more than $8,000 with more money coming in daily.
Although this model has been done across the country at other campuses, Belmont is the first accredited institution to participate in Both Hands Foundation’s “Big Build.”
Sara Olson said because the Bruin Recruiters team has grown so large in recent years, it can be difficult to “remain connected to one another in meaningful ways. Projects like this one give us a chance to spend time with one another in the margins of life.”
Organization president Jared Delong is passionate about the importance of serving, especially in a leadership position, and felt it was important to show fellow Recruiters the importance of integrating service into the organization. “In the end, I feel that if we’ve raised enough money to save one orphan from dying alone on the side of a street at night, then that’s a good enough reason for us… It’s not about us, it’s just not.”