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Class brings attention to Black Belt problems

Jasmine Cannon

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The Honors College is bringing light to issues in Alabama’s Black Belt Region. Professor Thomas Herwig’s Heroes in Faith and Justice in the 20th Century class is presenting an information session on Perry County on Dec. 1 from 6 to 8 p.m.

The event, “Soaring to new heights: Perry County a source of hope and inspiration” will be held in Lloyd Hall Room 133 with free admission and refreshments.

“In the context of my classes, I’ve organized events especially for the fall semesters,” Herwig said. “This year we want to focus on an area very close to Tuscaloosa where people are living in very different conditions in Perry County—it is kind of a left-behind area in the state of Alabama. On the other hand, it’s a place of hope, too, because they are wonderful people who try to turn the trends toward a more promising direction. We will talk about problems and hope the people in the county will fix these challenges and try to improve the conditions.”

The event will bring light to the issues that Perry County, one of the poorest counties in the state, has been facing for years, especially those relative to the economy. The class focused a lot on the city of Marion, which was an important location during the Civil Rights era. Coretta Scott King was born in Marion and graduated as valedictorian of Lincoln Normal School.

Today, Marion Military Institute, Judson Collge and Vaiden Field Airport are three of the most talked about areas in Marion. The airport is the motivation behind the class’s title for the event.

The class will be presenting information including history while raising awareness about issues in the Black Belt region. Lauren Wolfe said more people need to know about the issues in Perry County.

“Hopefully, we will be able to give people ideas of how they can use their talents and passions to make a difference in Perry County,” said Wolfe, a junior majoring in human development. “What this area really needs is new businesses to stimulate their economy. There are already a lot of wonderful people in the area who are devoted to making improvements to the conditions there. If we would join them in their efforts, so much could be done to benefit Perry County.”

Rebekkah Powell, a junior majoring in human development and German, said there is not a single hospital in Perry County and most people who make a small living have to commute out of the county to find work. There has been a 50 percent population decrease in Perry over the last 50-plus years.

“However, they just became a Teach for America school system,” Powell said, “and all four of their schools are ranked in the top six percent of all Alabama public schools.”

While the conditions in Perry County may not be ideal, the students in Herwig’s class are hopeful.

“The purpose of the event is to inform and inspire,” said Allie Hulcher, a sophomore majoring in journalism. “I think events like this are important because they not only educate, but inspire people to take action. We don’t want to discourage people with depressing statistics or facts – we want to educate people on the very real challenges in Marion and also inspire them to take action.”

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Class brings attention to Black Belt problems