Honoring Women Symposium features women of strength

Published 10:41 am Wednesday, March 22, 2017

By JOYANNA LOVE/Senior Staff Writer

CLANTON — Jefferson State Community College Chilton-Clanton Campus literature, history and art faculty hosted an Honoring Women Symposium on March 22.

The female guest speakers focused on overcoming obstacles and society’s treatment of women.

Paralympian swimmer Carrie Willoughby, who was born legally blind, shared her story and her artwork.

She began by reading a poem describing her childhood, and how she developed a love of sports and art.

“Sports demands my heart and soul, together with art it makes me whole,” she read from her poem.

During her presentation, Wiloughby highlighted that “perception will never be truth.” She said different is a label many give or one may feel like they have.

“These experiences that I have gone through in my life, ironically, as much as I think they have redefined for others what a person with a visual impairment can do, what women can achieve, I changed that perception of myself. I never realized the things I was doing were great or grand, I just lived with my heart, pursued my passions,” Willoughby said.

She said when she met with resistance she truly discovered what she was capable of achieving.

“Art is not eyesight. Art is insight,” Wiloughby said. “As an athlete and as an artist it was about taking what was handed to me day in and day out, whether it be my perception or other people’s perception and changing it.”

She said it took a lot of courage to pursue her dreams.

When she enrolled in college art classes, some professors were uncertain how they could teach someone with a visual impairment how to draw and paint. Willoughby said she was willing to learn no matter the challenges or difficulties.

“It was that resistance, that competition that made me realize in myself as a woman, as someone who is visually impaired, as someone who is young from Alabama — I could do anything,” Willoughby said. “I could literally do anything, if I was allowed to try. To never try is to always fail.”

Students were encouraged to use their knowledge and experiences to “redefine their potential.” Wiloughby emphasized that action is what moves a person forward to greater opportunities and accomplishments.

“You are the creator and the facilitator for your dreams and goals,” Willoughby said.

She said many of her friends when she was younger “saw a lot more in me than I saw on myself.”

The event began with Victoria Cruz performing “When the Smoke Clears” written by Jenifer Hixson, which tells of two women in abusive situations. Representatives from SafeHouse, which established a Chilton County office in December, presented information of their services and sexual assault. Amber Sutton of SafeHouse said society needs to stop blaming victims for assault because it keeps people from reporting what has happened. Out of 17 cases in Chilton County only one case was a stranger to the victim.

Barbara Brewi encouraged the students to be courageous and flexible drawing from her experiences as a woman in ministry.