Professor Thomas lecture at Lunch and Learn for black history month

by Lauren Cieler// Staff Writer

Volunteer State Community College is hosting a Lunch and Learn Thursday, Feb. 19.

The event will take place in the Mary Cole Nichols Carpeted Dining Room at 12:30-1:30 p. m.

Edmon Thomas, associate professor of communication and theater, spoke about the arts and history tied it into Black and Women’s History Month.

“Lunch and Learn was to celebrate Black History Month so I decided to talk about black theater.

“It started with the minstrel shows and how the minstrel shows started after the Civil War and continued to be popular entertaiment throughout all of America,” said Thomas.

Students, staff and faculty were invited.

People were encouraged to bring their own lunch. Dessert was provided.

The office of Student Life and Diversity Initiatives (SLDI) staff said this is the second year doing this event and that last year it was called Reflections of Black/Women’s History Month.

It was changed to Lunch & Learn because it was shorter and the name clicked more.

“It is interesting because everyone comes together to take the time to learn about the diversity within Black and Women’s History Month,” said Lori Miller, secretary II of SLDI.

“It is nice that the speaker relates something about black and women’s history,” said Tabitha Sherrell, coordinator of student activities in SLDI.

Humanities Matters lectures focus on racism and transcendentalists

by Mackenzie Border// Staff Writer

Volunteer State Community College’s Humanities Matters Lecture series for the spring 2015 semester will focus on the current racial tension in the United States and will take place throughout February.

The next lecture, “James Baldwin’s Another Country, Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Politics of Love,” will be Today, from 11:10 a.m. – 12:45 p.m., and will be hosted by Laura Black, chair of the English department.

Black was asked how she decided on the topic of her talk, saying, ìI’ve been planning this presentation since last semester, but it is really a smaller piece of a larger work that I’ve been working on for a lot longer.

“I’ve been studying the literature of James Baldwin for a few years now, specifically his civil rights literature.

“This will be my focus for my Ph.D. dissertation that I hope to complete in the next couple of years,” said Black.

“I believe Baldwin is one the most underappreciated American writer and intellectual of the 20th century. James Baldwin was a unique person in civil rights history.

“He was a talented writer, who happened to be black and gay, and whose books and published articles from the early 1960s focus on race and radical integration.

“He was interested in advancing social justice, racial equality, and civil rights for everyone, and these issues are still important today,î said Black.

Grady Eades, associate professor of History, will be holding a discussion with Nancy Blomgren, associate professor of English, called “Not an Aberration:  Race, Slavery, and American Values.”

The event was cancelled due to weather issues, and has not been rescheduled.

“Professor Nancy Blomgren and I have been tinkering with this idea for several months. “

“We began planning it in the fall term and have begun to work out details a few times since the spring term. This was definitely Professor Blomgren’s idea,î said Eades.

“For me, the idea is interesting to explore because it is potentially a little volatile and runs against conventional wisdom. We’re going to be looking at literature that supported slavery and was against equality; not exactly a walk through the tulips.”

“The point though is not to show support for these ideas, but to demonstrate how far back such ideas go and how critical they have been to American history and culture,î said Eades.

“We’ll be discussing the arguments made in favor of slavery in the decades before the American Civil War.”

“Many people who supported slavery felt that Uncle Tom’s Cabin did not give an accurate picture, so there were several novels written to answer Harriet Beecher Stowe’s arguments.”

“These became known as anti-Tom novels, and they provide some surprising insights into explaining how slavery advocates justified the ownership of other human beings.”

“Our title, “Not an Aberration,” reflects the ways slavery and racism were engrained in American ideology, not a departure from it,” said Blomgren.

“[The topic] is clearly relevant. The title of the presentation is “Not an Aberration” because we both felt that we wanted to get across the idea that racial issues in the United States are not new.

“There is a long history of African Americans being seen and treated as inferior by white Americans and we wanted to look at an often forgotten piece of that history.”

“Given the events in Ferguson, New York, and Cleveland – and that’s just the last six months – it is important to show these ideas have roots that go back a long, long time,î said Eades.

“Transcendentalist Communes in Fiction by Nathaniel Hawthorne and Louisa May Alcott” was the second lecture planned for the series. This event was also cancelled due to weather, and will be rescheduled.

Shellie Michael, professor of English, will be providing the lecture.

“Venerable American writers Nathaniel Hawthorne and Louisa May Alcott both lived at communes in the 1840s, a time of radical reform movements much like the 1960s.”

“Since America’s inception, people have formed utopian communities for a variety of purposes. The communes at which Hawthorne and Alcott lived were attempts to apply Transcendentalist philosophies to everyday living.”

“Both writers wrote fiction about their experiences, giving us rare glimpses into life at 19th century American communes,” said Michael.

Michael discussed how she decided what to talk about and what the main point of the talk will be.

“My talk will be about the dissertation I’ve been researching and writing for the past two years. I’m a PhD student in English at MTSU, and I’m at the level called ABD: All But Dissertation.”

“This means I’ve finished all the program requirements, such as coursework and several major exams in my areas of specialization except the book-length research project, called a dissertation.

“People, especially Americans, have always experimented with communal living.”

“in my talk, I’ll discuss the history of utopianism in America as well as communes in Tennessee, some of which still exist today.

“I would also be glad for people to get a new perspective on Nathaniel Hawthorne and Louisa May Alcott, seeing them not as stodgy, old-fashioned writers but people who lived in exciting times and had interesting experiences,” said Michael.

Soul Food Luncheon honors African American writers and brings people together

by Brian Ferrell// Staff Writer

Volunteer State Community College’s African American Student Union (AASU) hosted a Soul Food Luncheon in the Mary Cole Nichols Carpeted Dining Room on Feb. 11, to celebrate Black History Month.

This event was planned as a way for students of every race to come together to not only celebrate Black History Month but to also celebrate people of all race, gender and sexuality and to spread the message that no matter what color of race you are and who you are that you are special and unique in your own way.

This event was also to recognize great African American writers who helped pave the way for young African Americans today.
The Soul Food Luncheon had the Vol State faculty and students read poetry from African American Authors.

Gabrielle Staton, Student Government Association (SGA) representative for the Association of Campus Events (ACE), started the luncheon by giving an introduction.

“[Black History month is] a reminder of how far we’ve come as a race and to take a moment to be thankful for who we are,” said Staton.

Next, was the poetry reading by faculty and students of Vol State Community College.

The reading started with Cindy Chanin, associate professor of English, who read “Mother to son” by Langston Hughes and “The Mother” by Gwendolyn Brooks.
Deb Moore was next and she chose to recite, “How it feels to be Colored Me” by Zora Neale Hurston.
Next was Shavonya Washington with “Life is Fine” by Langston Hughes.
Jacobi Calloway with “I rise” by Maya Angelou.
Melva Black read “I have come into the city” by Sonia Sanchez, and lastly, Jasmine Reed with “poem variety.”

“Black History is a celebration of people who have overcome and still striving to become,” said Black.

After the poetry reading, Ashlyn Challenger, AASU president, got up to the podium and spoke.

“You are not black, white, yellow, pink, purple, red, gay, lesbian, straight or what society has put you into. But you are black, white, yellow, pink, purple, red, gay, lesbian, straight, forever, so take pride in being who you are,” said Challenger.

The Soul Food Luncheon ended with conversation and some “soul food” including chicken, mash potatoes, collar greens, macaroni and cheese, and more.

Soul Food luncheon celebrates black literary figures

African American Student Union (AASU), a club at Volunteer State Community College, is preparing for its annual Soul Food Luncheon this Wednesday, at noon, in the Carpeted Dining Room.

The event is open to all students and will concentrate on Black literary figures.

This luncheon is the clubís most highly attended event, with ninety-six attendees the previous year.

Although it will be slightly different this year, since there is no active AASU, the club said they still expect it to be just as popular.

ìLast year there was a huge turnout, we even had a piano brought in,î said Lori Miller, secretary II of the office of Student Life and Diversity Initiatives (SLDI).

Traditional soul food, of different varieties, has been served over the years.

From fried, baked, and barbeque chicken all the way to corn bread and sweet potatoes.

The Vol State community supplies, prepares, and even serves some of the food.

While students are encouraged by the college to bring their own lunches, they may want to save room for dessert that will be provided by SLDI.

The Soul Food Luncheon is the second event that AASU has planned Black History month.

ìItís a great club thatís really important, especially with everything thatís been going on lately,î said Miller.

Any student interested in joining AASU should contact its President, Ashlyn Challenger at for information.

VISA and Service Learning encourage participation in upcoming food drive

Volunteer State Community Collegeís student clubs, VISA International Club and Service Learning Club, are asking Vol State students and anyone in the community to help with a food drive for Sumner County United Way to restore pantries in homes around the community.

The food drive is from Feb. 2-13.

VISA and Service Learning are teaming with ìThe United Way of Sumner County Winter Food Driveî to hand out food to families living in the Sumner County area.

ìWe are happy to co-sponsor the food drive. I wish for no person to be hungry,î said Kay Grossberg, associate professor of humanities.

Grossberg said the goal is to try and get people aware that there are very unfortunate families living in the Sumner County area.

The clubs said they want to collect as many food items and volunteers as possible.

ìI would love to see Vol State support the community, for more than just education, but also to support the health and welfare in the community,î said Lauren K. Collier, executive assistant to the president of Vol State.

The clubs said this food drive is for families around the Sumner County that are going through difficult times, and are in need of help.

ìVISA is always looking to get involved with others in the surrounding area and at Vol State Community College,î said Dr. Tonya Daniels, associate professor of spanish.

The Vol State International Club and Service Learning Club said they are challenging all Vol State classes and clubs to donate as many items as possible and that there is also a contest for any classes and clubs that would like to have a pizza party.

All clubs and classes have to donate at least 50 cans to be entered into the contest.

VISA and Service Learning have requested food items like peanut butter, jelly, spaghetti, spaghetti sauce, canned fruit, ramen noodles, Mac & cheese etc.Ö but said they will accept whatever donators can give.

Students and staff can drop off items at Caudill 222, Gibson Hall 102, Mattox 101, Ramer Great Hall, Wallace 102, Warf 100, Warf 126, and Wood 217.

Slam Poet Odd Rod visits Vol State and talks about inspiring and giving to people

Slam poet, Odd Rod visited the Vol State Gallatin campus Wednesday, Feb. 4 in the Mary Cole Nichols Tiled Dining Room.

He presented his life story through poems entitled; ìSeen Me Then,î ìPlus Size,î ìPumpkin Pie,î ìVillage Helper,î ìTranscripts,î ìUse Me,î ìPretend,î ìI Donít Need No Mic,î and ìThe Listener.î

Odd Rod interacted with students and opened the floor to questions between poems.

The students even participated in the poem, ìI Donít Need No Mic.î

He wrote the poem ìPlus Sizeî for his mother to encourage her to have a positive self-image regardless of her size.

ìYou ainít got to cut and paste; no need to suck in your gut. You were gorgeous as you came and thereís no need to discuss, making changes. You are stainless and your size… is a plus.

Odd Rod, Roderick Borisade, found his inspiration early in life when he was 13 years old.

His brother died of brain cancer, his mother was on drugs and his father was not around.

He credits Tupac, an American rapper, for inspiring him to get out of the hood and to be a spoken word artist.

He got his self-proclaimed nickname at an early age when he realized he was different from his peers and he would be going up against the odds.

ìSomeone told me that my education would get me anywhere I wanted to go and I put that to the

test,î said Odd Rod.

Odd Rodís hard work and studies paid off when he received a full scholarship to the University of Northern Florida.

He learned graphic design and eventually designed his own cds.

The ìHeroís Sermonî was a poem written to honor his grandfather.

ìI treat my grandpa like my father cause he raised me like his son.

ìHad a dad who wouldnít bother seeing who I would become. Watched my mama fight with drugs.

“They say you cannot choose your folks. Wouldnít change them if I could, because they forced me to hope,î said Odd Rod.

Odd Rod said his most memorable show was at a rehabilitation center where his mother was being treated.

He also said he really enjoys performing at correctional institutions, giving them hope and providing inspiration.

Vol State freshman Terra Cliburn said the performance ìwas heart-touching and relatable.î

ìI really liked it! Hopefully yíall can get him to come again,îsaid Jazmine Reed, a student.

ìIt was very inspirational,î said Dee Durnley, a student.

Odd Rod has created a nonprofit organization in honor of his brother and said that ìgiving is the gift.î He continues to tour the country spreading his message.

Honors Program panel discusses digital technology and millennials

Volunteer State Community College had an Honors discussion panel on Wednesday, Feb. 4 at 12:20 p.m. – 1:15 p.m. in the Rochelle Center of Thigpen Library.

It consisted of a panel of students who, when given questions from other Vol State students, would voice and discuss their answers and opinions.

The moderators of the panel were Shannon Lynch, assistant professor of philosophy; and Melissa Tyndall, instructor of communication.

The questions and the discussion were based on Digital Technology and Millennials.

Those panelists were: Honey-Rae Swan, vice president of the Student Government Association (SGA); Elena Cruth; Ariel Cornett; Cliff Taylor; Timothy McCall; Michael Clark, president of the Artisanís Alliance; and Adam Parks, online editor for The Settler.

The first question for the panel was, ìIs there an overblown stereotype of Millennials and their obsession of Digital Technology?î

ìIt is unavoidable to not use technology,î said Cruth.

The consensus of question one was, while some may over use technology, it is an important part of our society that continues to grow.

The second question was, ìDo you think that Digital Technology/Social Media encourage Millennials to be inauthentic online?î

ìI believe it gives people the opportunity to show their true selves,î said Parks.

ìIt literally gives you an opportunity to edit your life,î said Clark.

As the discussion continued, the next question asked was, ìIs Digital Media altering language? For Example: Is LOL or texting acronyms leaking into our everyday language use?î

Dr. Merritt McKinney, director of the Honors Program, expressed his opinion about the subject matter and discussed how the line of formality in student emails has begun to dwindle.

The panelists agreed that words are evolving due to technological advancements and its impact on the younger generations as well as older generations.

Out of 10 total questions, five were thoroughly discussed.

The ones not asked were according to the panel print out, ìHow is Digital Technology changing the way we document history? Is Digital Technology (search engines and social media) making Millennials lazy and also contributing to the spreading of misinformation on the internet? Where do you think ethics, in Digital Technology, should be practiced?, etc.î

McKinney and Clark provided additional comments after the lecture concluded.

ìI will say that a sure sign of a good discussion is that the participants and the audience wanted to keep talking after the presentation officially ended,î said McKinney.

ìThe questions were amazing! They really made me think about the way I use digital technology and its importance in todayís society.

ìThe questions had a lot of audience response, in fact some of the questions were discussed before they were asked,î said Clark.

“I think it was crucial for Vol State to give students the opportunity to voice their opinions on this issue, especially because people in academia are often bombarded with just the negative stereotypes about the Millennial generation,” said Tyndall.

Unity Day event coming soon to Volunteer State

Unity Day will take place Jan. 28, between 12:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. at the Wemyss Auditorium in the Noble Caudill Hall at Volunteer State Community.

Dr. Kenny Yarbrough, director of Student Life and Diversity (SLDI), said Unity Day is scheduled to follow Martin Luther King Jr. Day and precede Black History Month. The event will highlight the social movements and people that inspired these commemoratives.

“Though the festivity of diversity on campus will be concentrated, it will still focus on the celebration of minority groups’ culture and history in America,” said Lori Miller, secretary II of SLDI.

In celebration of Unity Day, Dr. Thomas L. Bynum will provide a lecture in his area of expertise surrounding African American History and the American South. Bynum is an instructor, historian, author, award-winner and community leader. Bynum will have a book signing at the 7 p.m. event for his book.

According to his biography on the Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU) faculty webpage, Bynum is the director of the African American studies program, an associate professor of history and a doctoral graduate faculty member at MTSU. He has been faculty advisor for the African American Student Union and is currently the advisor for Sankofa, a campus based student organization.

Bynum received his B. S. at Barton College, his M. A. at Clark Atlanta University and his Ph.D. at Georgia State University.

Bynum teaches undergraduate and graduate courses concerning African American History and the American South at MTSU. Courses concentrate on civil rights and black power movements, youth activism, antiwar protest and second wave feminism throughout American History.

Bynum’s publications include: NAACP Youth and the Fight for Black Freedom; “We Must March Forward: Juanita Jackson and the Origins of the NAACP Youth Movement”; “Documenting the NAACP’s First Century” in Journal of African American History and “The Civil Rights Movement in Tennessee” in Tennessee Electronic History Reader.

Bynum is working on another publication for the Journal of African American History titled “Old Guard verses New Guard: Young Turks, Black Power and the NAACP.”

In addition to publications, Bynum has received awards that include the Southern Regional Education Board Scholars Program Dissertation Award, the Southern Regional Education Board Doctoral Scholar, and the W. E. B. Du Bois Fellow (Harvard University) National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Institute.

Squatter’s Rites looks for writer’s and artists

Every spring semester Volunteer State Community College offers the chance for student writers and artists to be published in the literary publication Squatter’s Rites.

Squatter’s Rites is an art-based publication that any Vol State student is welcome to participate.

“Squatter’s Rites is an excellent outlet for those with a passion for the arts.  People are paying attention, and your creative works can and will be recognized.  You have nothing to lose and everything to gain by publishing your talents in Squatter’s Rites,” said Michael Clark, art director of Squatter’s Rites.

Squatter’s Rites recognizes paintings, creative writing, photography and poetry. After members submit their art, Squatter’s Rites print booklets to show off the student creations and what the students are passionate about.

Melissa Fox, instructor of communications, said she feels expressing a person’s artistic side is important.  She also said she takes pride in the second place award from the American Scholastic Press, which the publication was awarded last year.

She said she hopes to keep the Squatter’s Rites growing and win another award this year.

Squatter’s Rites has been around since the school was established in 1971. Over the years it has gone through changes and has had different presidents, but the focus has always been the same: to keep students creative and to keep art alive.

Squatter’s Rites works closely with the art department here at Vol State.  They help Squatter’s Rites by taking photos of the student’s original art with a high-resolution camera.

Anyone who is interested in joining Squatter’s Rites can contact Fox at  Although they don’t have an exact date for their first meeting this year, they are accepting members and encourage anyone who is interested in art, writing, or photography to think about participating. The deadline for submitting projects is March 27.

Student Government Association Spotlight

Volunteer State Community College’s Student Government Association (SGA) is an organization that is in place to put the needs of Vol State students first.

“The SGA provides leadership opportunities and helps students discover and learn how to advocate for their passions and what they want. It’s the idea that we as student government can make a change in a student’s life no matter how small or how much it might impact them. We make our decisions based on the student’s wants and needs. Maybe not necessarily what we want, but if that’s what the students want, that’s what we’re for,” said Amanda Steele, president of SGA.

“Clubs all can come to us for a little bit of direction or maybe they need help starting up whatever projects they want to do. We’re required to have a very working knowledge of our constitution and know what clubs are or are not allowed to do,” said Steele.

Within the SGA there are six specific officer positions, two of which, attorney general and secretary of state, are currently vacant.

The attorney general of the SGA can assist the student body with campus related issues which students want legislated action on. In the hypothetical scenario of a Vol State Student receiving a ticket on campus, the student may want to challenge the ticket and ask for it to be appealed. The jury that chooses to appeal the student’s ticket or not would be made up of Vol State students and orchestrated by the attorney general.

Concerning the position of secretary of state, “one thing I think that would help Vol State a lot is maybe more implementation of technology. Currently no SGA records of previous years are available on digital format. So I’m really going to need a great secretary to help me out with that so we can set up future SGAs so that they can be a little more organized,” said Steele.

The only requirement to be a member in the SGA cabinet is that one must have a cumulative GPA of 2.75.

“At SGA meetings we usually talk about future goals, future plans. We rely heavily on the SGA rep and club leaders, student leaders in general, to really help us survey maybe students who aren’t as actively involved in campus activities. So we’re really trying to figure out how to reach out to those students and maybe what we can do that would really benefit them to help get more involved,” said Steele.

“We talk about the goals that we would like to accomplish and how can we really leave a legacy here. And I expect student leaders to come with ideas and participate in discussions. SGA meetings aren’t something that we really take lightly and I think it is important that people know how much of an impact we can make. I hope that people come to the SGA with their ideas and just know that nothing is too small, we can figure out how to tackle it appropriately,” said Steele.

Something Steele mentioned she wanted to accomplish this semester is to replace classroom chalkboards with white boards. “We’re really trying to get some smart white boards that’ll help students be able to connect to their classes on a more electronic level and in a way that really suits our millennial students here.”

Steele also said she wants to “make sure we’re doing everything we can to make our school much more LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered) friendly.”

For more information about the SGA one can contact Steele at or go to Wood 213.