College to honor first Black University of Alabama graduate
Published 6:49 am Sunday, November 7, 2021
The late Vivian Malone Jones stands tall in the University of Alabama’s history as the first Black person to graduate from the Tuscaloosa campus. The 1965 graduate also had deep ties to another Tuscaloosa campus, Stillman College, where she lived while she was a student at UA.
In a ceremony Thursday, Stillman College President Cynthia Warrick and the chief executive officer of YWCA USA signed a memorandum of understanding to build a YWCA facility on the Stillman Campus. Warrick announced that the name of the facility will be the Vivian Malone Jones YWCA at Stillman College.
“She credits staying on this campus and in the West End community for her being able to graduate from the university in those times,” Warrick said. “Additionally, the university hired a driver who was a student at Stillman to take her to and from Stillman. She had a room in Winsborough Hall. She ended up marrying her driver, Mack Jones. He graduated, went to Emory (University) and became a physician.”
Stillman plans to remove two existing residence halls, both of which are contaminated with asbestos and lead paint in order to make room for the YWCA facility. Williams Hall and King Hall have been unoccupied for several years and will have a hazardous materials mitigation and demolition via an Environmental Protection Agency Brownfields Assessment cleanup grant.
During her career, Malone Jones worked as director for the EPA’s Environmental Justice program. The Mobile native died in 2005.
Warrick, noting the lack of recreation facilities available in the West End community, said the new facility will fill a major gap in the community as well as at the college. Stillman has nearly 800 students but has only a single gym and no recreation facility for students or staff. Warrick said part of the motivation in forming the agreement with the YWCA is to provide recreation opportunities for students and to help the college recruit.
“I spent every summer in YWCA camp so I know how important it is to the community in bringing the YWCA to Tuscaloosa and to Stillman College. It’s going to make a difference and a significant impact on West Tuscaloosa,” Warrick said. “It will mean a lot to our community. Stillman and the West End need a comprehensive recreational facility.”
Elisha Rhodes, the YWCA’s CEO, said the facility will help fulfill the community’s needs.
“I remember how I entered the YWCA and the resources they provided for me as a Black kid from inner-city Brooklyn. YWCA was founded for young women,” Rhodes said. “They created a space for young women to thrive, to create their own future. Partnering with Dr. Warrick and Stillman College creates an opportunity for us to move forward the legacy of the organization and also bring the resources this community desperately needs.”
Another major issue Warrick said the YWCA will fill is the desperate need for on-campus child care for students.
“Child care is a huge void in this community. I have young students, old students that have children, faculty and staff with children. We saw with COVID this was a real challenge to ensure that those children had somewhere to go. We had faculty and staff bringing their children to school. We had students with their babies in classrooms,” Warrick said.
Rhodes said the YWCA brings a great many services to a community beyond recreation. In addition to providing child care, YWCA also helps with housing, food support as well as other services designed to lift underserved communities.
“We know there are many systemic barriers that continue to plague the community we currently sit in,” said Rhodes. “It is our unique responsibility to create solutions, to dismantle the systemic barriers not only the students, but the external community faces.”
Part of Warrick’s vision when taking the job to lead Stillman College in 2017 was to integrate the college and the West End community.
“Stillman’s going to be in the community and the community at Stillman. That’s part of why this partnership is so important because we will bring these services to Stillman and the whole community,” Warrick said.
The YWCA provides community services with the special mission of elevating women and addressing racism issues. Rhodes said it is the largest provider of gender-based services for victims of domestic violence. The organization also helps with workforce development programs and housing needs.
“Essentially, what we do is when we see a community need, which typically is in underserved communities and let’s call it what it is, Black and brown communities, we partner with the communities. We don’t tell communities what they need. We partner with them so they get the resources they need to move from a space of surviving to thriving,” Rhodes said.
The facility will be a multimillion dollar project and Warrick expects to begin fundraising at the first of the year, though she said donations are welcomed now. The school is now working with architects to form the plans for the new facility as well as for the renovation of Winsborough Hall, the residence hall Malone Jones lived in.
The college plans to convert Winsborough into housing for senior citizens. The YWCA is already managing housing in five Alabama counties from their location in Birmingham. Stillman will be partnering with them to manage the housing for those who will live in Winsborough Hall. It will also open opportunities for students in a variety of academic disciplines to work with the the senior citizens.
The project will be funded through federal grants, corporate donations and private donations. Warrick said anyone wishing to donate to the project can contact her at Stillman College or Rhodes at YWCA. Online donations can be made through give1876.stillman.edu or www.YWCA.org.