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Community activist to share story of rebuilding town

A community activist who led efforts to rebuild the 300-year-old impoverished town of Bayview, Va., will speak this week at Austin Peay State University as part of APSUs Library Athenaeum series.

Alice Coles, who has lived most of her life in Bayview, will present The Spiritual and Physical Rebirth of a Community at 1 p.m., Wednesday, March 26 on the third floor of Woodward Library. The public is invited to attend. Seating is limited.
A community activist who led efforts to rebuild the 300-year-old impoverished town of Bayview, Va., will speak this week at Austin Peay State University as part of APSU's Library Athenaeum series.

Alice Coles, who has lived most of her life in Bayview, will present “The Spiritual and Physical Rebirth of a Community” at 1 p.m., Wednesday, March 26 on the third floor of Woodward Library. The public is invited to attend. Seating is limited.

Bayview is a small community located in the farmland of Virginia's eastern shore. For decades, the collection of dilapidated shacks — all without indoor running water or a toilet — was home to approximately 100 blacks. Many residents' ancestors settled in Bayview as freed slaves after the Civil War.

Those who lived in Bayview had worked primarily in farming or in the seafood industry. But by the mid-1990s, those jobs disappeared, and Bayview became even poorer and more isolated. Then, in 1995, officials in Virginia announced plans to build a maximum-security prison on 270 acres in the middle of Bayview.

The possible location of a prison in Bayview prompted Coles — then a 45-year-old mother of two children making $5,000 a year handpicking meat out of crabs — to protest. She educated herself about how the state Department of Corrections worked and traveled to Richmond to testify against building a prison less than a mile from where her children attended school.

But that was only the beginning. Coles founded a new organization, the Bayview Citizens for Social Justice. She organized her neighbors and began applying for federal and state housing grants to turn Bayview from an eyesore into a jewel.

Coles and her work captured national attention in 2004 when her efforts were focused on the CBS news magazine show, “60 Minutes.”

Coles' presentation is the fifth one for the Library Athenaeum series, launched in 2007 to engage the public and campus community in intellectual and creative endeavors. Two other presentations scheduled for Spring 2008 are the following:
• 2 p.m., Tuesday, April 8: Dr. David P. Keeton, small business owner and former adjunct professor in New Jersey, “Why Not Clone? The Ethics of Cloning.”
• 2 p.m., Tuesday, April 15: Dr. Albert “Bert” Randall, professor of philosophy at APSU, “Holy Scriptures as Justification for War.”

For more information about the Library Athenaeum series, contact Joe Weber, director of library services at APSU, by telephone at 221-7613 or by e-mail at weberj@apsu.edu. -- Melony A. Jones