Page 1

The Newspaper of the 32nd Multicultural Journalism Workshop at The University of Alabama

Carving A HOME

PALMORE PARK IS THE NEW HOT SPOT FOR SKATEBOARDERS

6

BREAKING

BARRIERS

Protecting THE

Warrior

14

RIVERKEEPERS FIGHT TO KEEP LOCAL RIVER CLEAN

UA STUDENTS ELECT FIRST BLACK SGA PRESIDENT SINCE 1976

13


Director’s Note Director Meredith Cummings

Co-Director Anna Waters

ON THE WEB

See more from the Multicultural Journalism Workshop class of 2015! https://uamjw2015. wordpress.com

ON THE COVER Photo by Ariana Evans-Young 2

T

he Multicultural Journalism Workshop is one of the oldest programs like it in the country, and tradition is strong, as a decades-old network of alumni reaches across the globe. Each summer, the Journalism Department at the University of Alabama has the pleasure of welcoming high school journalism students to our beautiful campus. Students apply to be part of the Multicultural Journalism Workshop and live at the college for 10 days. High-schoolers enter our program with varying degrees of skill. Some have worked for years with their high school media, while others have never written a news story or picked up a camera. Students from four states came to the University of Alabama campus then fanned out across Tuscaloosa to report on current issues. This year, our creative students chose to attack each story from the angle of sustainability. How can we tackle issues in our community, while ensuring future generations’ success? We appreciate the thoughtfulness that went into each story, looking toward the future of our wonderful city. We are so proud of what these students have accomplished in the short time they were with us. We hope you enjoy the great stories in these pages and the accompanying website. Meredith Cummings Anna Waters June 2015


STUDENT CONTRIBUTORS

Aiesha Desarme

Ariana Evans-Young

TaBria Ladd

Aiesha Desarme, 17, is an upcoming senior at Sparkman High School in Harvest, Alabama. Desarme carries a huge passion for music, dance, reading and journalism. She currently carries the position of news editor for her school newspaper, The Crimson Crier. Desarme dreams one day of becoming a doctor. In her free time, Desarme can be found writing music, reading or enjoying bonfires with friends. Ariana Evans-Young, 15, is a junior at The Capitol School in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. She is on her school’s newspaper staff, which just started this year. She is interested in creative writing and photography and hopes to have her work published. This is her second time attending ASPA’s The Long Weekend, and she was excited to learn more about interviewing and broadcasting.

Natalie Chuck

Amber Parker

Aliyah Thompson

Oshae Unique Moore

Natalie Chuck, 17, is a senior at Nation Ford High School in Fort Mill, South Carolina. She is involved in many of her school’s extracurricular activities and spends the majority of her time working in journalism. Chuck has been a crew member on her school’s weekly news cast, The NaFo News, since her sophomore year, and she has recently become the show’s co-producer. She was also elected the 2016 president of the Southern Interscholastic Press Association and hopes to attend The University of Alabama for broadcast journalism. Aliyah Thompson, 16, is a rising junior at Sparkman High School in Harvest, Alabama. She loves to read, take pictures and write poetry. She wasn’t originally planning to pursue journalism as a career until she de-

Katie Jackson

Gerica McFolley

Kayla Hamlett

Llyas Ross

cided to join her school’s newspaper staff last year, thinking that it would be a fun class to take since she liked to write. She never anticipated that she would fall in love with journalism by the end of the school year and change her entire career plan accordingly. Katie Jackson, 17, is a rising senior at Auburn High School in Auburn, Alabama. She serves as the president of her school’s student council, the vice president of her school’s National Honor Society, the captain of her school’s varsity track team and a beat reporter for Tiger TV. After high school, Jackson plans on continuing her education at the college level and possibly majoring in broadcast journalism to become a sports reporter. She is also considering studying to become an athletic trainer for a college sports team.

Rodnesha McNeal

Tayla Sims

Future University of Alabama freshman Kayla Hamlett, 17, is a Tuscaloosa native and a recent graduate of Paul W. Bryant High School. She carries an impressive resume of programs she’s pursued, such as her school’s National Honor Society and Mu Alpha Theta. She also runs a Christian blog with her best friend called, “Something Worth Writing About.” Hamlett said she is eager to embark on a new journey at UA in the fall where she plans to major in telecommunication and film. She is most proud of her recent acceptance as an intern at local news station WVUA-23, which has inspired her to become a news anchor. Rodnesha McNeal, 14, was born and raised in Memphis, Tennessee, where

See STUDENTS Page 4

3


STUDENTS From Page 3

she attended Central High School and participated in various after-school activities. McNeal is fascinated with film and photo editing. Her interest in film first began when she worked as a model. Although she had more experience in front of the camera, she was curious as to what is was like behind the camera. TaBria Ladd, 15, is a 10th-grader at Woodlawn High School in Birmingham, Alabama. She is a cheerleader and plans to continue cheering until after college. She hopes to attend a college in Georgia and eventually become a judge or a social worker. Amber Parker, 15, lives in Memphis, Tennessee, and attends Central High School where she is entering the 10th grade. She runs her own online clothing store, Adorable Bubbles Boutique. Parker loves to make clothes, read and have fun with her friends. She hopes to become a lawyer. Oshae Unique Moore, 16, is a rising junior at Robert E. Lee High School in Springfield, Virginia. She was fascinated both by the film and production aspect of her experience at ABC 7 News WJLA and also with the news anchors she met that day, which led her to broadcast journalism. To improve upon her journalism skills, Moore became a guest writer for her school’s newspaper, The Lance, and continues to join additional journalism workshops. Her goals are to one day work for E! News as the head news anchor and to graduate from the University of Maryland College Park with a degree in broadcast journalism and minor in business. Gerica McFolley, 16, is an upcoming junior at Smiths Station High School, located in Smiths Station Alabama. She is currently an aspiring sports journalist or broadcaster. She enjoys playing sports and watching NBA basketball. Llyas Ross, 17, lives in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, where he attends Paul W. Bryant High School and will be a senior in the fall. He likes to read, write, run track and hang out with friends. Ross said journalism has always interested him in the way it can tell stories and get news to everyone in creative ways. In the future, he said he would love to be a news reporter or even a news anchor for a local or national television station.

4

Tayla Sims, 14, is a student at Ramsay High School in Birmingham, Alabama. Sims’ favorite activities include singing, dancing, playing basketball, playing volleyball and running track. Sims was inspired to pursue a career in journalism by her seventh-grade language arts teacher. Sims said she has aspirations to be an entertainment broadcaster or sports journalist.

PHOTO | NATALIE CHUCK

A Paul W. Bryant High School linebacker, DK Woods (left) practices hard in the heat of the summer at the school’s practice field on June 16, 2015.

High School athletes push to receive less homework BY NATALIE CHUCK

T

he demands of the average high school teenager have increased tremendously throughout the past decade, according to Reed Snyder, one of many students who can vouch for the high expectations of rising seniors attending Paul W. Bryant High School in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. The average day for Snyder, the school’s star quarterback, consists of practice until 7:30 p.m. and relatively two hours of homework each night, on top of 6 a.m. wake-up calls and seven-hour school days. He arrives home around 8 p.m. each school night, hot and sweaty from practice, and still has to eat a healthy dinner to stay in shape for the season. The amount of active hours required for the average high school athlete has suddenly sparked a social movement across America.

Students and officials everywhere have questioned the amount of homework that students, specifically athletes, should receive each night. On Twitter, teenagers have created a phenomenon known as the “Official Anti-Homework Petition,” asking that teachers assign less homework to athletes in exchange for the long hours they spend benefitting the school’s athletic departments. When asked about the benefits of such a program, Snyder’s head football coach, Eldrick Hill, expressed his dissatisfaction with the idea. “Athletes are special,” Hill said. “If you want to participate in athletics, then you need to understand that you have to carry an extra workload. That’s part of being a student athlete.”

See ATHLETES Page 10


PHOTO ILLUSTRATION | MISTY MATHEWS

Social media’s widespread use has led to debate about the limits of the relationships between students and teachers.

Social media costs teachers jobs

I

BY TABRIA LADD n the age of social media, which often makes teaching easier, some teachers have also turned to social media for another purpose: inappropriate relationships with students. And as social media’s use has spread, the technology has led to debate about the limits of the relationships between students and teachers. “Teachers should not date younger students because it’s wrong, and teachers should get fired,” Paulina Martinez, a high school student, said. “Teachers should know what’s right

and wrong.” Others in Alabama worried that limits on the social media posting habits of teachers were against the principles of freedom of speech. Rules, they said, were unfair because they kept teachers from posting what they wanted or how they felt simply because of their jobs. But they still said they supported some restrictions. “Teachers should not befriend their students until after they graduate,” said Scott McCormick, a student at The University of Alabama who said there were clear differences between a college professor having a relation-

ship with a student and a high school teacher communicating with one of his or her students. “Each person can mess up and use things the wrong way,” McCormick said. Education experts have suggested that schools should be empowered to set guidelines. “While social media can be an important tool for learning, reasonable restrictions must be put in place to protect children,” Terry Abbott, a former chief of staff for the U.S. Department of Education who calculated that at least 281 teachers had come under scrutiny for their social media

activities, told The Washington Post last year. And in Tuscaloosa, spokeswoman for the Tuscaloosa City School system, Lesley Bruinton, said, “If you value your paycheck, you will make wise decisions.” But there can be academic benefits to social media, students noted. University of Alabama student Jordan Barrilleaux explained that his teacher used social media to keep his class updated on things they needed to know. And when he disliked his music teachers, he would go on Facebook — to see what he missed out on from not paying attention.

5


PHOTOS | LLYAS ROSS

Skateboarders perform tricks at Tuscaloosa’s new skate park at Palmore Park.

CARVING A PASSION

Palmore Park a new spot for skateboarders BY LLYAS ROSS

F 6

or 27 years, Brandon Baker has had a passion for skateboarding. From school to his home and everywhere in between, he believes he was meant to be a boarder. For many years, though, Tuscaloosa has not been an ideal home for skateboarders because the city has never had a defined place for them to skate. But with the opening this month of the Wally Hollyday Skate park, Tuscaloosa officials have now set aside a spot for skaters, part of a

plan to expand recreation opportunities throughout the city. In Tuscaloosa, the idea of a skate park has been circulating since at least May 2013, when members of the Tuscaloosa Skate park Committee attended a meeting of the city’s Parks and Recreation Authority. With the opening of the park, supporters said, skaters would be more willing to follow guidelines about where they can participate in the sport. “Unless you provide a place here where they can practice their sport, they are going to do it wherever they can,” Tuscaloosa Skate park Committee President Joe Townsend said.

The skate park, Townsend said, will keep skaters out of Tuscaloosa’s downtown, as well as away from places where they are banned because of the potential for property damage. Tuscaloosa officials are also planning other activities in the city, including a 38-foot space net in Snow Hinton Park with a swaying bridge and a tall tube slide; paddle boards, canoes and kayaks on Lake Tuscaloosa; and the reopening of EvansRoshell Park later this month. City officials said the additions will promote Tuscaloosa as a good place to live. “These opportunities provide help in the development in the

community,” Becky Booker, a spokeswoman for the parks authority, said. “When you have parks and activities for young people, it helps housing prices, [it] helps our community grow and it provides jobs, especially when you have young people involved. It brings more in the community and make people want to stay here.” But for skaters like Baker, the benefits of the new park are more about fun and enjoyment. During a visit to the skate park one day, he summed up his assessment of the place in two joyous words: “Love it!”


11 7


SURVIVING BEYOND

THE ‘CANVAS’ IF YOU GO... Here’s how to find some of Tuscaloosa’s hot art spots: Tuscaloosa Museum of Art 1400 Jack Warner Parkway, Tuscaloosa, Alabama www.tuscaloosamoa.org (205)-562-5286 Monday-Friday (10 a.m.- 6 p.m.) Sunday (1-6 p.m.) Possible Entrance Fee Paul R. Jones Gallery of American Art 2308 6th St., Tuscaloosa, Alabama www.art.ua.edu/gallery/prj (205) 345-3038 Monday-Wednesday and Friday (9- a.m.-5 p.m.) Closed Saturday and Sunday Harrison Galleries 2315 University Blvd, Tuscaloosa, Alabama www.art.ua.edu/galleries (205) 464-0054 PHOTO | AIESHA DESARME

The Tuscaloosa Museum of Art showcases American artwork and is located just off Jack Warner Parkway.

W

BY AIESHA DESARME

8

orks of art crack, peel, age and fade, but the message never dies. Leaders at three of Tuscaloosa’s many art galleries create a synergy within their collections that

provides insight to visitors that goes far beyond canvases and sculptures. Among the city’s most famous attractions is the Tuscaloosa Museum of Art, renowned for carrying only art either created by Americans or specifically about America. In the 1960s, longtime Tuscaloosa resident Jack Warner began building his col-

lection as investments for his paper and real estate companies. While many of Warner’s art pieces have since been sold, museum coordinator William Hawkins said he takes great pride in the private collection in the museum and its impression on visitors who come from far and wide to see it.

“It’s a walk through an American timeline told through the eyes of some of America’s best artists,” Hawkins said. The American art scene at the Paul R. Jones Gallery downtown

See ART Page 9


ART

From Page 8 is more modern, with a focus on connections within younger generations. However, Jones’ glory came with much sorrow. Jones, an Alabama native born in 1910, was accepted to study at The University of Alabama School of Law but was never allowed to attend once University officials found out he was black. After pursuing education elsewhere, Jones returned to Alabama years later and sought out black artists to draw recognition to their work. In 2008, two years before his death, Jones donated 1,700 pieces to the University. Gallery director Katie McAllister said Jones’ gallery is an invaluable source of knowledge. “To me, it’s this big treasure trove of information,” McAllister said. “A burgeoning artist who thinks that their work isn’t good enough can come in here and become inspired. None of these people at the time he was collecting were very famous. They were relatively unknown.” Jones’ ability to bring recognition to many aspiring artists remains the gallery’s mission. “His mission was, ‘Art is for the people, art is created by everyone, everyone should get the recognition,’” McAllister said. A third Tuscaloosa art spot, Harrison Galleries, carries the message that the pursuit of art often requires a broad spectrum of skills. “If you’re a painter, you should still take on dance, theater and poetry,” said gallery owner Jim Harrison, who created and then sold a chain of drugstores and auto parts stores. “Try to see as much as you can in order to create a cultural foundation on which you can build.” Harrison has been on boards for both the Tuscaloosa Museum of Art and the Jones gallery, which gives him insight into multiple types of art. “There is something to be gained from all forms of artistic expression,” he said.

PHOTO | COURTESY OF GALLERY DIRECTOR, KATIE MCALLISTER

Above: The Paul R. Jones Gallery of American Art is located on 6th Street in downtown Tuscaloosa. PHOTO | AIESHA DESARME

Left: The Tuscaloosa Museum of Art features a beautiful collection of American paintngs, sculpture and furniture.

9


ATHLETES From Page 4

Average wages for elementary school teachers in the United States $80,000

U.S National Average States Under National Average States Above National Average

$70,000

10

Paul W. Bryant quarterback Reed Snyder says his average day consists of practice until 7:30 p.m. and relatively two hours of homework each night, on top of 6 a.m. wake-up calls and seven-hour school days.

$60,000 $50,000 $40,000 $30,000 $20,000 $10,000 $0

Alabama Alaska Arizona Arkansas California Colorado Connecticut Delaware District of Columbia Florida Georgia Hawaii Idaho Illinois Indiana Iowa Kansas Kentucky Louisiana Maine Maryland Massachusetts Michigan Minnesota Mississippi Missouri Montana Nebraska Nevada New Hampshire New Jersey New Mexico New York North Carolina North Dakota Ohio Oklahoma Oregon Pennsylvania Rhode Island South Carolina South Dakota Tennessee Texas Utah Vermont Virginia Washington West Virginia Wisconsin Wyoming

Paul W. Bryant High School athletic trainer Anthony Truelove pointed out the potential injustices of the petition. Truelove has firsthand experience with students who, although they may not get any real play time, attend each and every practice and devote their time after every game as the athletic trainer’s student interns. These interns, who devote the same number of hours as the athletes, if not more, would receive no benefit of a program pertaining specifically to the school’s players. Pahlo Gasteratos, the team’s kicker, said he believed receiving less homework than the other students would be completely fair because of how hard the athletes work. “I would think that’s fair because we work hard and stuff, and they just play an instrument,” he said. “I mean, we’re the ones working hard out here.” The Official Anti-Homework Petition has also stirred high school graduates in Tuscaloosa who are transitioning into adulthood. A four-year football player from Paul W. Bryant, Moses Mason III, who graduated in the spring of 2015, expressed how receiving less homework would have hurt him in preparation for the next chapter of his life. “I still need to know the same amount because I’m a student first,” Mason said. Had he received a decreased amount of work, Mason said, his senior year would not have prepared him for the future. Mason is also concerned that younger students entering high school might abuse the system. “The younger ones, they’ll have a bad outlook,” he said. “They wouldn’t know what it’s all about … You’re not going to be treated differently because you’re an athlete.” This issue raises questions about the long-term effects of homework disparity and the sustainability of this kind of program. Hill imagined that if he had been given less homework in high school, his grades would have been lower than they already were. “I wasn’t the most studious student, and I actually found myself doing extra homework just to keep up,” Hill said. If such a petition were passed, Hill’s theory could become a reality in the future.

GRAPHIC | ALEX HAUSER

Salaries fall short for many teachers across Alabama BY GERICA MCFOLLEY

A

fter Shante Morton, a third-grade teacher at Paramount Junior High School in Boligee, Alabama, finishes the school day, she often spends her time somewhere else: working a part-time job at K-Mart. “We sometimes struggle financially,” said Morton, who is married to a teacher and lives in west Alabama. “Me and my husband have extra jobs.” Krystal Pritchett, an eighth-grade physical science teacher at Smiths Station Junior High School in Smiths Station, Alabama, is considering a part-time job. “I barely have enough money to take care of my children,” Pritchett said. In schools across Alabama, teachers are struggling with paychecks that are often less than what educators in other states take home. In Alabama, according to a Bureau of Labor Statistics’ 2015 report, elementary school teachers in their first year with a bachelor’s degree earn an average of $49,410

per year, but in Atlanta, an elementary school teacher with similar skills makes an average of $54,030 a year. In the U.S., the average pay for elementary school teachers is $56,830. This issue has led to a lot of debate. In the past, some Democrats proposed a state lottery they said would lead to a 6percent pay raise for teachers. The Republican governor, Robert Bentley, has not supported a lottery and previously recommended a 2-percent increase in teacher pay. Pritchett said she supported a lottery. “I feel a lottery would be better than raising taxes, which would affect everyone,” she said. So far, the debate has not reached its conclusion. Pritchett and Morton both said they love what they do, despite the low pay and long hours. “I’ve been teaching for 13 years, and I’ve invested in the system,” Morton said. “I enjoy what I do.”


ALPHA KAPPA ALPHA FIGHTS FOR EQUALITY BY OSHAE UNIQUE MOORE

A

long Magnolia Drive, where the members of traditionally white Panhellenic sororities live in enormous, elegant houses, there is one house that stands apart from the rest. The house of Alpha Kappa Alpha is smaller. Even though it is a two-story brick house with three rocking chairs on the porch and pink and green letters in a window above the front door, it is miniscule next to the soaring houses on the same block. The home is a visible manifestation that life has long been different for the women in that sorority compared to those who live around them at The University of Alabama. “I did not feel like we had the same experiences as other ladies on campus,” said Lesley Bruinton, a graduate of Alabama who joined the sorority in 1999. For many years, the Panhellenic sororities did little to support Alpha Kappa Alpha, which has a predominantly black membership. In 1986, The University of Alabama campus newspaper reported, burning crosses were left on the lawn of the sorority’s house as part of an intimidation campaign by white sororities that wanted to show they did not welcome black neighbors. The newspaper, The Crimson White, reported at the time that an anonymous caller warned a Student Government Association official that the house would be burned before black

PHOTO | OSHAE UNIQUE MOORE

Historically at The University of Alabama, sororities have been segregated, and many efforts to encourage racial integration in the geek system failed to find sustainable solutions.

women would live there. Although the police investigated the episode, the authorities made no

arrests. And nearly a decade later, tensions, although lowered, remain between Panhellenic groups and

Alpha Kappa Alpha’s women. “I think the other sororities were fearing because they didn’t know what to expect,” Bruinton said. “We handled our business. We weren’t necessarily paying any attention to what they were doing; we co-existed.” And at times, members of the sorority felt that it lacked official backing from the University. For years, the sorority did not own its own home, and if the building had empty space, other students who were not members of Alpha Kappa Alpha would be allowed to live there. But people connected to the sorority said circumstances eventually improved. “I feel like we have better relations with the other sororities,” said Taylor Johnson, an alumna of the sorority and The University of Alabama, where, from time to time, Panhellenic sororities host events with Alpha Kappa Alpha. There are, though, signs of unease that remain on the campus. Although Johnson said ties between her sorority and traditionally white chapters were improving, she declined to say whether the groups have equal representation at Alabama. But the women of the sorority have focused on community service and scholarship, even with the resistance to their presence on Sorority Row. “I just believed in the same things that they believed in: community service,” Johnson said. “I believed in high academics. I believed in the sisterhood.”

11


FIGHTING DIRTY

A split view of how the Machine takes on students, politics in order to sustain power at The University of Alabama BY KAYLA HAMLETT

PHOTO | NATALIE CHUK

Kelly Horwitz, ran against and was defeated by the Machine’s supposed candidate, Cason Kirby, in a Tuscaloosa City School Board Election. Horwitz said Spillers’ win this year had been an impressive one that showed the public it was possible for the Machine to be defeated, especially on a campus where some think its sway has peaked.

A

12

machine is a device that simply transforms the direction or magnitude of a force, and at The University of Alabama, there has, for more than a century, been a power known as the Machine acting as something of a “super fraternity.” A coalition of 28 traditionally white fraternities and sororities, the underground group has had a hand in politics at the University and beyond the campus. But in recent years, a series of unprecedented challenges to the Machine has left its base weakened and its authority in doubt. This year, independent candidate Elliot Spillers won the SGA presidency without the Machine’s direct support. Spillers, the first black SGA president in nearly 40 years, said he hopes to make this kind of inclusivity sustainable. “Who’s to say the next person after me in SGA won’t stand firm and allow the Machine to take everything away I’ve worked so hard to keep?” Spillers asked. “At the moment, my campaign is engaging with minorities in all cases and reaching out, forming a rhetoric around the diversity, making it more inclusive.” Spillers is making progress in that mission, despite the Machine’s recent efforts to block his chief of staff appointments. In the spring of 2015, Spillers repeatedly sent nominations to the SGA Senate for his chief of staff, but they were rejected a total of three times. The Senate, he said, never provided specific reasons, but Spill-

ers said he felt he had endured less retaliation than other candidates in the past who defied the Machine. “The reason I did not experience so much retaliation is because I have friends in the greek system and because the entire campus played a huge role in my success,” Spillers said. “Also, the Machine as a whole is not negative.” Spillers explained that, although the Machine did not officially back his campaign, many members of Machine fraternities and sororities secretly supported him, while others supported him openly. Despite Spillers’ recent triumph over the Machine in student government, the Machine was criticized in 2013 after its suspected involvement

in city government. The Machine, its opponents said, helped students commit voter fraud to ensure the victory of one of its former officials in a Tuscaloosa City School Board election. Kelly Horwitz, who ran against and was defeated by the Machine’s supposed candidate, Cason Kirby, alleged that nearly a dozen voters had been registered at a single address and that a sorority member had misled someone about the voter registration deadline. Horwitz has challenged her defeat in court and lost at the local level, although she has appealed. “People may look at the situation and characterize it as sour grapes and that it’s just a loss,” she said. “But there

are certainly issues beyond that.” Horwitz said Spillers’ win this year had been an impressive one that showed the public it was possible for the Machine to be defeated, especially on a campus where some think its sway has peaked. “His election was a testament to great organizational skills,” she said. She went on to say it is going to take the valor of students, sororities and fraternities to decide enough is enough. Since Horwitz’s loss, time has progressed, allowing change to manifest. Spillers’ victory appears to be shifting the status quo at The University of Alabama, but whether that change will be sustainable has yet to be seen.


Elliot Spillers breaks barriers UA elects first black SGA president since 1976 BY KATIE JACKSON

F

orty. That’s a significant number. Forty weeks is the average time for a woman’s pregnancy. Forty hours a week makes a full-time job, and 40 years is, at least sometimes, considered over the hill. A lot can happen in 40 years. At The University of Alabama, 40 years is the stretch of time between the University electing its first black Student Government Association president and its second. “The student body was ready,” said Elliot Spillers, who won the SGA’s top post this year. “It had been too long for things to be stagnant. We were ready for something different.” Spillers had lost campus elections in the past, but he and his campaign team detected a growing demand for change, especially after Alabama’s traditionally white sororities openly admitted black women in 2013. The University’s demographics were changing — more students were coming in from other states, and they had mindsets that could let an independent candidate win in a system that greek students had dominated for years. Spillers was one such student from out of state. He was born in Maryland to a military family, and with his mom and dad both active in the Air Force, the family traveled a lot. “The Air Force lifestyle really shaped who I was,” he said. “Through the Air Force, I was able to see the world and experience different cultures and people.” His family settled in Pelham, Alabama, near Birmingham, Alabama, in 2007, and Spillers immediately got involved in his new city. He later

PHOTO PROPERTY OF UA PHOTOGRAPHY

Elliot Spillers is the first black independent SGA president in almost four decades.

became the president of his junior class, got leadership recognition in the Birmingham Youth Leadership Development Program and participated in Jack and Jill of America. After he graduated from high school, he moved to Tuscaloosa and The University of Alabama where he made his plans clear from the start. “I asked him what he was interested in, and he told me SGA,” Sydney Page, Spillers’ resident advisor during his freshman year, said. Spillers said he found an organization with a lot of problems that represented only a small part of the student body. “I didn’t really like that,” he said. “I wanted to figure out a way to change that and channel the energy

toward creating an SGA that represents the entire student body.” When Spillers ran for senator his freshman year, he lost by a wide margin, but he was appointed deputy director for engagement that same year. And he watched Page, his mentor, closely as she rose in the SGA. “Her being an African-American woman, she described the challenges she had faced and that if I wanted to continue and try for it, I could, but it would be harder, yet doable,” Spillers said. The integration of Alabama’s sororities in 2013 gave Spillers’ goals new energy. “There was a lot of momentum that came from that,” he said. “In my eyes, I saw the only way to do

something that was sustainable and lasting was through SGA, and no one had yet to tackle that. So I ran for vice president of student affairs my sophomore year.” He lost again, and then he decided on a bigger campaign with higher stakes. “Our strategy was to get more students to vote,” Mark Hammontree, Spillers’ campaign manager, said. “If we could get more students to come out and vote, we had a good chance at winning because Elliot had a special quality of making people believe in him.” The plan worked, and, in an election in which more than 8,600 people voted for him, Spillers won by 2,200 votes. A lot has changed in the roughly four decades between the elections of Cleophus “Cleo” Thomas, Jr., the first black SGA president, and Spillers, the second. Thomas explained how important it is for a candidate to prove that he or she is qualified to lead the student body. “You don’t just show up at the UA and play for Saban,” Thomas said, referring to Alabama’s renowned football coach, Nick Saban. “And in the same way, you don’t just show up at UA and become SGA president. It takes experience.” It will be up to UA’s student body next year to decide whether another independent candidate, like Spillers, succeeds him or whether a coalition of greek groups called the Machine retakes power. “The challenge for independent students is overcoming apathy,” Thomas said. “The Machine requires and encourages their supporters to vote, so the other students are apathetic and year after year the Machine candidates win.”

13


Protecting the Warrior Local riverkeepers fight to keep river clean BY ARIANA EVANS-YOUNG

S

ince 2007, the Black Warrior River has been threatened by a proposed coal mine that would not only be right across from a Birmingham Water Works Board intake, which feeds water to more than 200,000 Birmingham residents, but would also damage the same river that sustains the life of many Alabama communities including Tuscaloosa, Birmingham and Cordova. “We’ve had top scientists, top biologists and chemists from around the country looking at this issue, several

who are professors at The University of Alabama, and all of them have said repeatedly that they’ve never seen a coal mining proposal this close to a major municipal drinking water supply anywhere in the country,” Charles Scribner, the executive director of the Black Warrior Riverkeepers, said. Scribner described exactly how this would affect the river. “The proposed mine site would have 29 pollution discharge points,” Scribner said. These pollutants, including iron and manganese, would put a large strain on the filtering process. Iron and manganese are chemicals that are necessary to

survive but, in large quantities, can cause health problems such as lethargy and mental abnormalities. These chemicals would also have an impact on wildlife in the area. The Black Warrior Riverkeepers is a group that focuses on the protection of the river, including ensuring clean water and a healthy surrounding environment. For years, they have been fighting to protect the Black Warrior River from the Drummond Company’s proposal to construct a coal mine on the Mulberry Fork area of the river. The mine would be called Shepherd Bend and would be positioned 800 feet from a main source of

drinking water for the Birmingham area. The effects of this mine would not only impact Birmingham but also the cities of Cordova and Tuscaloosa. The only thing standing between the Drummond Company and its goal is The University of Alabama. As it turns out, the University owns some of the land rights and mineral rights in the 1,773-acre area. So far, University officials said that they have not been contacted about selling the land. However, they have taken this position for almost eight years.

See RIVER Page 15

PHOTO | ARIANA EVANS-YOUNG The Black Warrior River is now on the list of the most endangered rivers in the nation because of the proposal made by the Drummond Company to build a coal mine 800 feet from a Birmingham Water Works Board intake.

14


Shelton State has sustainable 2-year model BY RODNESHA MCNEAL

W

hen Drew Baggett realizes his dream of becoming a concert promoter in Nashville,Tennessee, he will know that it all started in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, at a quaint, two-year college. More than half of Shelton State Community College students transfer to four-year institutions, and Baggett was one of them. It’s a model that has worked for Shelton State for years and, officials say, should continue on that path. “Since I received a scholarship for the community college, I took it a try,” Drew Baggett said. Baggett studied at Shelton State for two years and will be an upcoming freshman in the fall at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee. “Shelton really helped me decide I have a passion for music,” Baggett said. Shelton currently has a graduation rate of 8 percent, which is misleading on the surface, given the reason. “About 86 percent of our students actually leave Shelton and go off to universities. The majority leave and go to The University of Alabama,” Director of Student Support at Shelton

RIVER

From Page 14 Many organizations have prompted the University to take a stance on the issue, but none have prevailed. “It would be much more proactive for them and, frankly, would get them better [public relations] if they just ended this controversy by saying, ‘We will never lease or sell our land and minerals for mining at Shepherd Bend,’” Scribner said. There are many groups and organizations that are taking action to make sure that the river stays protected and that that protection is sustainable. Students at The University of Alabama have been protesting for years on end. Not only have they rallied on campus, but they have also protested in the courtroom. These

State Holly Elliott said. Shelton State appropriately prepares students for life at a university, Elliott said, because, even with an 8 percent graduation rate, 86 percent actually matured to go on to a university, like Baggett did. “I’m actually going for a totally different degree,” Baggett said. “I will be there just as long as I was at Shelton, which is two years. I think I would feel like a true graduate of Belmont.” Baggett is going to Belmont to achieve his dream of becoming a concert promoter in Nashville, Tennessee, but will know that it all started at Shelton State, which has achieved a sustainable model of two- to four-year college transitions. But do students trade quality education for inexpensive education? “In some cases, yes, cost is always going to figure into it,” Elliott said. “Not necessarily trading quality for cost, it’s trading convenience for quality. A lot of students don’t realize that they have the credits to graduate, and they transfer and don’t even realize that they could get an associate degree,” Elliott said. PHOTO } RODNESHA MCNEAL “Community college is way easier than fourDrew Baggett says goodbye to Shelton State Community College. year university. I learned a lot and think I’m well Drew is moving to Nashville, Tennessee, to pursue a music business degree at Belmont University. prepared,” Baggett said.

students have also joined forces with other organizations from other cities such as The University of Alabama at Birmingham Green Initiative and the Alabama Department of Environmental Management. Former Cordova resident Randy Palmer explained how important the river is to his community. “The river was always a big part of our lives,” he said. “We used it for recreation – fishing, swimming, hiking, just enjoying its proximity to the town.” Palmer is now part of a citizens’ advocacy group called the Citizens Opposed to Strip Mining on the Black Warrior River. This group started meeting to bring public awareness to the threat to the river, the communities affected by the river and the future economic development of the area. “It’s a multifaceted opposition that we have because, on the one hand, in

order to build a coal mine, a company needs to get certain government permits to move forward,” Scribner said. “Drummond Company has, in fact, gotten, amazingly enough, an environmental permit from the state of Alabama’s Department of Environmental Management.” With these permits and permission from the University, the mine could be built whenever deemed necessary. However, the Black Warrior Riverkeepers are determined to keep this from happening. “We challenge the permits on a government level and in the courtroom,” Scribner said. Scribner also said that the Riverkeepers are building a coalition called the Shepherd Bend Mine Opposition Coalition, which already includes more than 150 businesses, churches, non-profit organizations and government agencies.

“These are all groups that have publicly voiced their opposition to the mine and are helping us pressure The University of Alabama to do the right thing,” Scribner said. However, these groups are not the only ones helping. The Riverkeepers have a petition on their website that has been signed by tens of thousands of people, including residents of the affected areas such as Randy Palmer. In the future, the Black Warrior Riverkeepers will continue to challenge the permits that would allow the Drummond Company to build the mine on the river. The Shepherd Bend Mine Opposition Coalition is growing, and so is the amount of people who have signed the petition and shared the issue with their friends and family. “We’re just going to keep fighting,” Scribner said.

15


OPINION: Breaking down the armor of racism BY ALIYAH THOMPSON

R

16

ace is something that the South and this nation as a whole have struggled with for centuries, and Alabama, in particular, has been known for its racism-filled past. This past week, I have been in Tuscaloosa at The University of Alabama. Based on what I have gathered from other people’s experiences, as well as my own, Tuscaloosa is very different from my hometown of Huntsville, Alabama. Some people in Tuscaloosa are more open about their racist opinions and have no qualms with sharing them directly with a person of color. On the other hand, the people in my hometown who have racially based opinions keep those thoughts closeted except when they are around others who share those same opinions. As a young black woman, I have never directly experienced racism, but I have had a couple of indirect experiences. One occurred several years ago when I was living in an upper-middle-class neighborhood. My family was renting a house with my grandmother in Madison, Alabama. There were few children in the neighborhood who were my age at the time, except for one girl who visited a few times a month to see her dad who lived with her grandparents. This girl befriended me, and we got along fairly well. Our dads were friends, and she would even come over to my house to visit. However, I only went to her house a few times because her grandparents were still somewhat stuck in their old ways. The girl’s grandmother was nice enough. She was never rude or mean to me, but her husband was not as accepting. After a while, the girl told me that her grandfather did not want us to be friends anymore and that if she did not end our friendship, her dad would be kicked out of the house. To protect her dad and his living situation, we decided to stop being friends. It was disappointing, and

although I thought that it was absurd, I understood that it was not personal. Who is going to risk their dad losing his home in order to keep a middle-school friend? That was my first experience with racism. I am still shocked to this day that the girl’s grandfather thought that having a black friend was such a big deal and that he was willing to kick his own son out of his house over it. I have been fortunate enough to avoid any other similar experiences. However, Kaya Stanford, a SEED camp participant at The University of Alabama, has not. On one night during her stay in Tuscaloosa, Stanford said her group was sent on a scavenger hunt. One of the items on the list was a cup, so she went inside a Jimmy John’s restaurant to ask for an empty cup. When she asked one of the employees for one, she was told to go around the back of the building and get one where the dumpsters were. Shocked and offended, Stanford left the restaurant. The reason why Stanford was offended by the employee’s comment is because the employee mirrored a scenario that was common in the days of Jim Crow. If a restaurant or public building was not deemed as “white only,” black people were only allowed entrance through the back or side doors. So which is worse: direct or indirect racism? To me, they are equally bad, but one is worse on a different level. I do not in any way support racism of any kind, but direct racism is out in the open. It is nearly impossible to ignore unless one simply chooses to do so. However, if racism is indirect, then it is easier to brush it off as a misinterpretation or pretend that it did not happen at all. Racism is a ridiculous social institution. To me, a person’s race, skin tone, culture or heritage should not determine a person’s value. If I like a person’s personality and character — the person they are inside — I will be friends with them no matter what they look like. It is not always an easy policy to keep, but I do my best to

follow it. One of the things I found hard to understand about racism is why it is so hard for some people to let it go. Why should anyone care that another person was born with more or less melanin? I may be wrong, but my theory is quite simple. People who judge and treat others differently based on race are like school bullies. Their victims are usually different from everyone else; they are often misunderstood and do not fit into strictly defined social categories. The bullies single them out because it makes them feel more secure and sure of their own place in the world. They may feel as if it is a competition, and in order to win and retain their power, they have to continually intimidate their “opponent” so that they will have no “competition” at all. What the bullies do not realize, is that their “opponent” does not want to compete. We have never wanted to compete. All we have ever wanted is to have the same opportunities as everyone else and the insurance that those opportunities are concrete and sustainable. I will admit that black people are often seen as dangerous, or a threat, which is not a completely unfounded assumption. Yes, we can be dangerous, but so can any other human being on this planet. We are no more dangerous than anyone else. The main reason why we come off as violent, is because, for over a century, we have had to fight for everything that we hold dear. We have never felt the security of knowing that what is ours will remain ours. The only way that this can begin to be resolved is if both parties make more of an effort to understand each other, have a mutual respect for one another as human beings and realize that anyone can have a good or bad character. A person’s character does not depend on the color of their skin, so why would we let that decide whether a person is worth talking to or having a friendship with?

Thank you! The Alabama Scholastic Press Association and the Multicultural Journalism Workshop would like to say thank you to our financial supporters:

Financial supporters Alabama Press Association Boone Newspapers, Inc. UA Center for Community Based Partnerships UACollege of Communication and Information Sciences Dow Jones News Fund UA Department of Journalism Selma Times-Journal

Contributors of the Multicultural Journalism Program endowment The Estate of John Brooken Gaines and Marci and Louis Henna Jr.

To those who made The Long Weekend possible Jennifer Greer, Associate Provost for Administration Dr. Mark Nelson, Dean, CIS Dr. Wilson Lowrey, Chair, Department of Journalism Paul Wright, Mark Mayfield and The Crimson White staff The Office of Student Media The CIS Graduate Program Department of Communication Studies Department of Telecommunication and Film Department of

Advertising and Public Relations Pat Duggins and Alabama Public Radio Steve Diorio and WVUA-TV al.com The Birmingham News Birmingham Magazine The Tuscaloosa News Crechale Stevens Holley Mabury Greg Goldstein Shweta Gamble Anna Waters Scott Bowman Alex Hale, counselor Marquis Munson, counselor Kate Risk, counselor

To our ASPA officers Connie Nolen, President, Pelham High School, Pelham Renee Quaife, Vice President, Sparkman High School, Harvest Capri Day, Secretary, Hillcrest High School, Tuscaloosa Michelle Sisson, Huntsville member at large Melissa Dixon, Birmingham member at large Susanne Harrison, Montgomery member at large Barbara Bateman, Mobile member at large

MJP Journal 2015  

The official publication of the 32nd class of the University of Alabama's Multicultural Journalism Workshop, sponsored by the Department of...

Read more
Read more
Similar to
Popular now
Just for you