Daily Archives: April 10, 2016

Relay for Life Luminaria Ceremony: Shining a light in the fight

By Kelsi Gately

Staff Writer

 Photo by Kelsi Gately.

Photo by Kelsi Gately.

In the darkness of night on the track, a glow-stick shines to represent those who have won, are fighting or have lost to cancer.

The Luminaria Ceremony at the annual Relay for Life event is a way friends and family members honor and remember those who lost the fight against cancer. It is a time to celebrate those who are survivors and support those who are still fighting. Students gathered in silence at the UWF track on Friday night as event leaders read “Why we Relay.”

“Cancer turns lives upside down,” read co-event lead James Hebbel. “Relationships, loyalties and friendships are tested … The diagnosis of cancer can be a very long journey — one that is very difficult to travel alone.”

After the readings, everyone walked the track in silence to show support of those who have had to fight. As participants walked, the word HOPE on the grass changed to CURE, to represent that the fight continues every day. Luminary bags lined the track with names of friends, mothers, fathers and grandparents, all lit in different colors: purple, to honor survivors; blue, to remember those who have passed; and red to support those still fighting.

“It was an exceptional ceremony,” said Jessica Pearson, junior elementary education major. “It was an emotional moment for me, remembering my Grammy who just recently passed away. I appreciate all the work and dedication given to this event.”

It is hard to explain the emotion that overtakes someone when they remember loved ones.

“It was a wonderful ceremony to commemorate students’ family members who have passed and how we all come together to support classmates,” Bailey Williams, freshman business major at Pensacola State College, said. “It’s a great cause, and I’m proud to be part of this event.”

As the night continued through until its ending at 2 a.m., the luminaria bags continued to shine, and students shared stories, love and support with those cancer has affected.

To find out more about the event, check out the Facebook Page.

Want to read more about Relay for Life? Click here to check out Kenny Detwyler’s article on what Relay has done for the University.

History demands students Take Back the Night

By Melissa Pisarski

Contributing Writer

It was a Monday night in January of 1993 when 21-year-old UWF student Susan Leigh Morris went missing. On that same foggy night, she was raped and murdered by a man who frequented the same hangouts in the University Commons that Morris enjoyed, and who was sleeping among on-campus residents in the building then known as Dorm 68.

Morris was a commuting Communication Arts student and sister of Alpha Gamma Delta sorority who flaunted the title of Sigma Alpha Mu Sweetheart and lent her time to Campus Activity Board. She was like so many of us.

The pages of The Voyager that week were heavy with outrage, fear and sympathy. Details of the crime colonized the front page while student-submitted editorials demanding campus safety reform awaited readers on page four.

University administrators and campus police responded with plans to tighten security in light of the tragedy. Plans to “consolidate night classes into one area of the school, increase lighting throughout campus, and educating students about safety” were all outlined measures reported in the Jan. 19, 1993, Voyager article written by Robert Powelson and Bob Mason regarding security concerns.

Other ads and articles in the Voyager advertised self-defense classes or encouraged students to sign checks made out to “Adopt-a-Light” that would benefit efforts to illuminate the poorly-lit campus.


This advertisement ran in the Jan. 19, 1993, edition of The Voyager following the murder of Susan Leigh Morris.

At the time, the blue lights that pepper our grounds were a new development. They had only been installed the year before, and technical kinks were still being worked out by campus authorities. The blue light in the area where Morris was attacked had not been working that night.

Though the murder of Morris shocked the university, it demonstrated the severity of a violent trend.

In 1992, just a year before Morris was raped and killed, a fraternity had named one of their parties after a notorious incident of mass sexual harassment of more than 30 victims. Even after the jarring reports of sexual misconduct that characterized Morris’ murder, similar behavior still prevailed in the years that followed.

Stories of sexual assault again stained the pages of the Voyager in 2000. A student was a walking to her car when she was approached by a masked assailant. She was forced into the vehicle at gunpoint and robbed. After telling his captive to remove her clothes, the attacker proceeded to molest the student.

In that same year, a female student reported suffering unwanted sexual advances from two men she knew, which she was unable to resist as a result of intoxication. She indicated that the men had encouraged her to drink beyond a safe limit before assaulting her. Both men denied the use of force described by the victim. One of them went on to say, “She was moving around, talking, never hesitated. If I had ever thought she did not want to do anything, I would have not done it.”

 A quote that appeared in the Voyager from a male student accused of sexual assault in 2000.

A quote that appeared in the Voyager from a male student accused of sexual assault in 2000.

The female complainant eventually stopped pursuing charges after police ruled there had been no crime due to a lack of evidence. It is documented that the “victim [had] decided not to take further action due to the lack of judicial support and general fatigue.”

Both incidents prompted increased security and heightened awareness, sentiments that still echo all these years later as we fight the trend of sexual assaults on university campuses.

Stories like these are why UWF needs to Take Back the Night.

Described in ArgoPulse as “an international event to create safe communities and respectful relationships,” Take Back the Night accepts the challenge of combatting rape culture and embracing hope for victims of sexual assault.

take back the night

A banner hanging near the John C. Pace Library advertised Take Back the Night last week.
More than 450 people attended the event on April 7.

A dessert bar provided by Housing and Residence Life welcomed the more than 450 guests who packed the Commons Auditorium for the April 7 event led by Wellness Services and UWF Peer Educators, with the help of several other organizations. The event boasted a “Hotline Bling” theme complete with a cardboard Drake cutout and free T-shirts embellished with a helpful acronym:

Believe and support survivors

Listen and respect the answer

Intervene in risky situations

Never victim blame

Get consent

Creativity for a Cause performers kept attendees aware of the heartbreaking spirit of the evening. A dance piece by Leonie Dupuis to “If You’re Out There” by John Legend reminded the audience that it was high time to defeat sexual assault.

“John Legend ends this song by saying ‘the future started yesterday,’” said Dupuis prior to her performance. “It has been time to make a change.”

While the song Dupuis selected for her presentation inspired hope, UWF Peer Educators used the event to draw attention to music that demonstrated an acceptance of forceful sexual misconduct. A video compilation of popular songs that flaunted lyrics with sinister intentions left many students glancing around the room with wide-eyed looks of overdue recognition, likely because, as one Peer Educator pointed out, “you have probably sung some of these songs in your car.”

This cultural acceptance of sexual violence made another painful appearance as poet Lauren Morrison took to the podium. In reference to the common victim-blaming strategy of calling into question a victim’s attire at the time of assault, Morrison revealed in a quaking voice that she had been wearing jeans and a hoodie when she was attacked.

Morrison was forced to pause to compose herself as she was overcome with tears. Upon completion of her recitation, she was met with an auditorium-full of standing ovations as the audience cried alongside her.

Timothy Jones’ story elicited a similarly fervent response. A Navy veteran raped by a fellow serviceman, Jones admitted that he developed substance abuse issues to cope with the discrimination and lack of support he encountered after being victimized. He reported finding a comfort here at UWF.

“I wanted to lend my voice to male victims and male survivors,” Jones said before the event. “I wanted to say thank you to a community that has really been responsible for my transformation.”

Jones credits the availability of resources at the university for the progress it has made as an institution working to eradicate sexual assault.

In a statement of unity, students were given glow sticks and asked to illuminate them if they were victims of sexual assault, knew someone who had suffered from dating violence, or supported those who faced these plights. The auditorium was quickly illuminated by an infectious glow of green.

The event concluded when the Argonettes Dance Team led a parade of students into the darkening night, chanting “We are women. We are men. Together we fight to take back the night.”

The procession fell silent as they reached their destination: the bench dedicated in Susan Leigh Morris’s honor.

some people

Students gathered around the sign and bench near Building 13 dedicated to Susan Leigh Morris. Morris was the victim of a violent sexual assault and murder in 1993.

As is tradition, Sigma Alpha Mu sang their Sweetheart Song in memory of the Sweetheart they lost in 1993. The sisters of Alpha Gamma Delta followed by lending their voices to a haunting tribute song of their own.

The University of West Florida has come a long way since the rape and killing of Susan Leigh Morris, but in the words of Vice President of Student Affairs Kevin Bailey: “Taking back the night is a marathon, not a sprint.”

Melissa Pisarski is the editor of Her Campus at UWF, where this article first appeared.

UWF’s 2016 Relay For Life crosses the finish line

By Kenny Detwyler

Contributing Writer

money relay

Photo courtesy of UWF’s Relay for Life Facebook page.

On Friday evening, hundreds of students, faculty, staff and cancer victims ran not only for their lives, but for the lives of others.

The University of West Florida’s Relay For Life is a yearly event, one of many across the nation, which raises money for cancer research and raises awareness to the struggles that cancer victims and their families go through every day.

“We participate in Relay every year, Relay is very important to us,” junior Christina Shuster, of the Zeta Psi Eta sorority, said. “It’s for a good cause and it’s a really fun time.”

This year’s theme was to “toon” out cancer, inspiring the organizations to theme their booths to cartoon characters, adding to the fun that Shuster referred to.

The organizations who participated, became a part of Relay’s rebuilding year . Relay returned to the track following 2015’s rain out, the end time was pushed up to 2 AM, and there was decrease in sponsorship, supplemented by SGA.

Even with all of the changes, students never lost sight of what Relay is all about.


Photo courtesy of UWF’s Relay for Life Facebook page.

“It’s important to show your support, because cancer affects everyone,” senior Kirby Thomas, of the Students for Social change, said. “It would be great to have that community everywhere you go, of people who are trying to help better people’s lives.”

Relay featured a host of activities used to keep students engaged with the event, a job which prompted them to end earlier in order to make sure the event ended on a high note. Relay participants were treated to music, games and themed laps which made the evening move more swiftly and enjoyably.

The luminaria ceremony, a staple of Relay for Life, was incredibly moving. A single bagpipe player led a silent procession around the track as, the word “cure” glowed in on the field. The ceremony is used to honor those who have lost their battle with cancer.

Relay continued on through the night and early morning. By the end of the event, UWF Relay had raised $13,539.43, for the American Cancer Society. Proceeds which go to cancer research and also keeping the ACS’s doors open.

“It’s all non-profit, all of our funding comes from donations, you have to pay all the employees and I don’t think people realize that,” junior Megan Hossler, of the Kugleman Honors Program, said. Hossler is also a volunteer at the ACS.

“Things like this really help fund the research for cancer and create more birthdays,” Hossler said. “It’s just really great having a bunch of people come out and fundraise in a really exciting and fun way.”

Want to read more about Relay for Life? Click here to check out Kelsi Gatley’s article about the Luminaria Ceremony.

‘Never give up, never settle’: UWF’s go-to emcee, Brandon Robinson, advises students to keep chasing their dreams

By Kaitlin Lott

Staff Writer

 Brandon Robinson hosts a YouTube talk show, “The Juice.” Robinson has hosted many UWF events from homecoming to the CAB talent show. Photo by Tre’von Ware, 318 Photo.

Brandon Robinson hosts a YouTube talk show, “The Juice.” Robinson has hosted many UWF events from homecoming to the CAB talent show.
Photo by Tre’von Ware, 318 Photo.

If you have been to a University of West Florida campus event, chances are you have had the opportunity to be entertained and by B.RoB or ThatGuyBRoB.

B.RoB, a.k.a. Brandon Robinson, is a UWF senior studying communications and psychology who aspires to be a TV personality. Robinson said he dreams of having a career where he can be himself in the limelight while having the chance to interact with colleagues, diverse groups and one day a future audience of his own.

Robinson is originally from Pensacola, where he graduated from Pine Forest High School. He is the oldest of seven children and was raised in a single-parent household.

Robinson began his UWF hosting career at a Campus Activity Board (CAB) Open Mic Night. “It was a great experience and something I took serious from the start. I even remember what I wore: black vest, black slacks, light blue shirt, and a light blue and white bow tie,” Robinson said.

Robinson said his “happy place” is on stage interacting with a crowd; it is his first love. “Whenever I get up on stage, I just become this different person whose only mission is to make sure the audience has an amazing time,” Robinson said. “There’s nothing else that I have ever participated in that I have had this much confidence in knowing it is my calling in life.”

“Brandon is someone who adapts to his environment, and that reflects in his talent to appeal to the people,” Lamar Lane, a sophomore communications major, said.

Robinson is currently applying for an internship with Black Entertainment Television (BET) during the summer in New York and California. He is also looking to bring back his YouTube talk show “The Juice” to a local venue in town. “‘The Juice’ is an interactive talk show where we discuss politics, social issues, relationships, celebrity gossip and more with a panel of four guests,” Robinson said.

“UWF has definitely helped my future career,” Robinson said. Be as that may, Robinson felt the university lacked the opportunity for aspiring TV personalities to grow. “I wish we had more campus TV stations or radio stations that students could become the voice of, but due to us not having one, I created my own exclusive content which also included a Snapchat show,” Robinson said.

However, Robinson was not always UWF’s go-to host. He changed his major multiple times from science, technology, engineering and mathematic to a communications career field; he set out to create his own opportunities in the beginning to establish a platform for his future. From talent shows, and the Homecoming Concert opening up for recording artist T-Pain, Robinson has successfully raised the bar for those looking for a career in communications. The last event he hosted was Students Arts and Talents Festival on Tuesday, April 5, which was another gold star on his resume.

“B.RoB is a well-rounded individual with a bright future ahead of him,” said Immanuel Niger Lambey, a senior telecommunication/film major. “He is outspoken and continues to impress the city of Pensacola with his talent as a host.”

“My advice for anyone looking to do what I’m doing or chasing any dream is to never give up,” Robinson said. “Nothing is impossible, and never settle, no matter how impossible a dream may seem. You can accomplish anything you want to, as long as you believe it is true and it is something that will make you happy.”

Robinson is also a University Commons and Student Involvement (UCSI) Navigator, the 48th Senate President of SGA and a proud member of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity Incorporated, who was recently inducted into the 2016 Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity Incorporated Collegiate Hall of Fame for the Southern Region.

For more information, contact Robinson at ThatGuyBRoB@gmail.com or make your way to his YouTube Channel ThatGuyBRoB to stay updated on his projects and future endeavors.

“Stay true to your values, no matter if you are the only one who believes in those values, they matter because they matter to you!” — Brandon Robinson

Annual walk supports people living with MS, raises funds for research, treatment

By Claudia Carlson

Staff Writer

end ms forever

Walk MS: Pensacola, which took place Saturday, April 9, at Bayview Park, was an event filled with hope. The purpose of the annual walk is to raise funds and awareness for multiple sclerosis.

“The National MS Society has been involved in Northern Florida for about 27 years and has been coming to Pensacola for 15 years,” Courtney Buchman, Walk MS manager, said. “We are the No. 1 funders of MS research in the world. We do this through events and our financial assistance. We have other events like MS Service Day, as well as Walk MS, that help us raise money.”

About 450 people registered for the walk. Participants chose either a one-mile walk or a 5k. Though there was no fee to participate, walkers were encouraged to raise money to donate to the National MS Society. If at least $125 was raised, the participant received a 2016 Walk T-shirt, with other prizes for additional fundraising. Before the walk began, teams raised more than $20,000 of the $26,000 goal, Buchman said. Donations for this event are being taken until May 13. You can donate online through the website.

Some of the people who participated in the walk are currently living with MS. Others were there with loved ones fighting the disease and some were there who just wanted to support the cause.

“I was diagnosed with MS in July of 2015,” participant Josh Lyons said. “I am 32 years old and a police officer. One day I was at the shooting range and I couldn’t shoot, I just couldn’t see. I was in the Marine Corps for five years, so there was no reason why I couldn’t shoot. I knew something was wrong.”

“I went to see my doctor and at first I was diagnosed with vertigo. Then things started to get worse and I was walking like a drunk man even though I hadn’t had a drink,” Lyons said. “I am on two different types of medication, one to deal with my MS and another one to help with my walking. I have good days and bad days; today has not been the best, but I was able to do the walk for a little bit at least. This is my first year living with MS, so this is my first year at the walk or anything with MS, but my wife has been pushing to get involved with the National MS Society.”

Lyons had a great support system around him — Team Lyons, which was the No. 1 fundraising team as of the beginning of the walk with more than $4,000. They had T-shirts, signs and even a tent.

Treatments and medications are being researched and improved by the National MS Society to help ensure that each person living with MS can live a quality life.

“I work for Genzyme, and we have two MS medications that are used on patients today,” Pamela Woodson said. “Lemtrada, which is our newest drug, is an IV therapy for relapsing MS. Aubagio is the other, which is an oral agent that is taken once a day.”

For information on the National MS Society, call 1-800-344-4867 or visit the website.

Peter Steenblik: The new face of the UWF Singers

By Sydney O’Gwynn

Staff Writer

 Peter Steenblik is the conductor of the UWF Singers and Chamber Choir. Photo courtesy petersteenblik.com

Peter Steenblik is the conductor of the UWF Singers and Chamber Choir.
Photo courtesy petersteenblik.com

If you’ve been to a University of West Florida Singers concert over the past year, you’ve seen him. He conducts the performance; he might even speak to the audience a little to introduce the pieces about to be performed. But Peter Steenblik is more than just a choir director.

Born and raised in Salt Lake City, Utah, Steenblik is the second of five children. He has been involved in music his whole life, beginning with playing piano since he was a boy.

He said he had no idea when he started playing the piano that it would one day turn into a career. “People ask how long I’ve played the piano and my standard response is ‘I can’t remember now,’” he said.

In addition to conducting two UWF choirs – the Singers and the Chamber Choir — Steenblik is the director of choral activities for the Department of Music and teaches two courses in basic musicianship as well as a music literature class. Steenblik came to UWF in the fall of 2015.

Steenblik graduated from Skyline High School in Salt Lake City and went onto the University of Utah, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in music education. He led backpacking trips in the Cascade Mountains in New York when he had summers off during college. After finishing his undergraduate, he left Utah to serve a church in the Philippines where he described some of his living conditions to be dirt floors, tarps for roofs and river water to drink.

“I lived with some of the poorest people in the world,” he said.

After two years he returned to Salt Lake City and taught high school for 10 years at Jordan High School while working on his master’s degree on nights and weekends.

“After 10 years of watching my students graduate and leave, I decided I wanted to go with them,” Steenblik said. “It was finally my turn to graduate the high school and leave.” He went to the University of North Texas and earned a doctoral degree in choral conducting.

“It was cool because he had all this experience, but he was also just out of school,” Rebekah Pyle, a member of the UWF Singers, said. “So he knows what it’s like to be in school and have all the stresses of school. He is very much on our side.”

As to how he ended up at UWF, he cites three conversations. The first was with his junior high school theater mentor. When his mentor asked Steenblik what he wanted to do for a living, Steenblik said he wanted to travel and perform, but his mentor had something else in mind.

“He said, ‘I think you will happier educating people in that environment, where the applause isn’t for you, but the applause is for the product of your students,’” Steenblik said. “I took that advice.”

The second conversation was with a piano teacher who encouraged him not only to educate others, but to take his skills to a university level. Steenblik said without that advice, he wouldn’t have ended up at UWF.

“It took me a while to do what she said, but I did it,” Steenblik said.

The third conversation happened while Steenblik was in the Philippines. He asked a fellow peer why he was pursuing a degree in art where there is no money. Steenblik said the peer’s response was that if he studied and worked hard, just like any other student in any other major, there would be work for him.

“I’d never heard that perspective,” Steenblik said. “So when I returned from the Philippines I applied myself in school like I never had before. I saw doors open that wouldn’t have opened otherwise.”

Steenblik was also a member of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir for four years. Composed of 380 singers and more than 150 orchestra members, all voluneteers, the choir goes on tour every other year. Steenblik toured with them twice: in the summer 2011 when he traveled from Norfolk to Toronto, and in the summer of 2013 when he traveled from Cincinnati to Minneapolis.

“It was a thrilling experience,” he said. “It was truly extraordinary.”

Steenblik was also a frequent soloist for the choir.

“I don’t understand why I got so lucky,” he said. “It was such a neat time [and] such a neat experience.”

In addition to the UWF choirs and classes, he is also the chorus master for the Pensacola Opera, where he coaches the ensemble with its music.

Jerry McCoy, one of Steenblik’s mentors when he was a student at North Texas, showed him how to be “a director who strives for excellence yet also is very human and approachable,” he said.

He also said the most rewarding part of his job is one that others might see as the most stressful: the rehearsal process.

“The rehearsal process is my sanctuary,” he said. “And I advise the students that rehearsal should be a place of refuge.”

Though he has reached the university level, Steenblik still has goals for the future.

“I am here to bring the choral program into a place of prominence, locally and nationally,” he said.

So the next time you see him, whether it be in the hallways of the Center for Fine and Performing Arts, in front of class or even conducting the UWF Singers Spring concert “A Prayer for Peace” on Monday, April 18, just know he isn’t just a teacher or conductor. He’s so much more.



Chamber Music class gives final concert of spring season

By Sydney O’Gwynn

Staff Writer

 Director Hedi Salanki-Rubardt, left, said that performing is also about teaching, and in this Chamber Music class, students have to do a lot of both. Photo by Sydney O’Gwynn.

Director Hedi Salanki-Rubardt, left, said that performing is also about teaching, and in this Chamber Music class, students have to do a lot of both.
Photo by Sydney O’Gwynn.

Spring was in the air as the UWF Chamber Music Class held its final concert of the semester on Wednesday, April 6, at Old Christ Church in downtown Pensacola.

The ensemble class, which is in its 13th season and is taught by Hedi Salanki-Rubardt, features a wide variety of instruments, including piano, voice, guitar, harpsichord and even double bass.

The concert, titled “Spring Is In the Air,” featured two graduating seniors, music performance major Daniel Kern and music performance major James Matthews, who both played the piano for the concert. Kern, who has taken the chamber music class multiple times, said he enjoys the class because it has given him the exposure to a wide variety of instruments and music styles.

“It gives us a glimpse into what the professional world is like, working with instruments and voices that you’ve never worked with before,” he said. Kern said his favorite piece was “Shenandoah,” with baritone Donovan Robinson and Kern accompanying him on the piano.

“It’s very easy to get emotionally attached to that piece,” he said. “It sits very well in Donovan’s voice. I get very distracted listening to him; I have to make sure to stay focused.”

In addition to playing accompaniment on the piano, Matthews also played an instrument he has never tried before: harpsichord.

“I’ve fought [Salanki] for years about playing harpsichord because I didn’t want to do it,” he said. “But then I thought, ‘Why not?’ I’m not always going to get a chance to play harpsichord. I like it now.” Matthews said that was an interesting aspect about the class: being able to try out new instruments and music styles with your peers.

“It’s a lot of fun,” he said. “We’re all learning it together.”

Salanki-Rubardt said she enjoys seeing the concert come together.

“No matter what I throw at them, they do it,” she said. The performers in the class get about a month to prepare the music for each concert.

“This is also, in some ways, copying the professional environment that is waiting for them,” Salanki-Rubardt said. “You don’t always have time; you will get ready when they ask you to perform.”

Students meet in class once a week to practice their music and have their peers critique their performances.

“This is the best audience you will ever have,” Salanki-Rubardt said. “These are your peers who love you, who really support you, who want you to succeed; you don’t have to be embarrassed if you miss things [because] that’s the natural way of learning.”

“You get a lot of opportunities to be critiqued and to critique yourself,” music education major Tiffany Castillo said. “You’re getting honest feedback not only from your instructor but from students.”

Castillo, a mezzo-soprano, performed two pieces in the concert: “Music for a While” by Henry Purcell and “Guarda qui che lo verdai” by Joseph Haydn. While she said she has been working on the Purcell piece for nearly three years, she said she had just received the Haydn piece. Castillo said it had a lengthy tempo and three different sets of lyrics, all in different languages.

“I’ll be honest, it was quite difficult learning it,” Castillo said. “It’s a very interesting piece.”

She said her favorite piece was “Lily’s Eyes” from “The Secret Garden.”

“It’s very sweet and very empowering and has a strong message that I really enjoy,” she said. “The voices of the two performers singing it sound phenomenal, I almost cry every time I hear it.”

All the students had nothing but praise for their instructor.

“She is just a sweetheart all the way around,” Castillo said. “She is just an amazing performer, she’s an amazing instructor, she’s honest; she doesn’t sugarcoat anything. She just brings a lot of joy.”

“She is a wonderful instructor and a lovely lady in general,” Kern said.

“It’s really fun, and Dr. Salanki is a great teacher,” music education major Marcus Baker said. “It helps us learn how to critique each other and how to give positive feedback.” Baker plays the double bass in the ensemble, and this is his third time taking Chamber music. He played Antonio Vivaldi’s “Sonata No. 5 in E minor,” which was written for the cello but was transcribed for the double bass.

“It’s something you won’t hear very often,” he said.

Salanki-Rubardt said she enjoys seeing the students grow and is enthusiastic to see how much the program continues to thrive.

“People are coming back and taking it six, seven times,” she said. “That is something they are doing because they want to be there, not because they are required.”

The Chamber Music concerts will start back up again in October for its fall season. For more information about the Chamber Music class or the Department of Music, visit the website.

‘Listen to your heart, think for yourself’

By Mackenzie Kees

Opinions Editor

 These are some of the notecards created by Baptist Bible Bookstore found in the philosophy section at Barnes & Noble. Photo by Mackenzie Kees.

These are some of the notecards created by Bible Baptist Bookstore found in the philosophy section at Barnes & Noble.
Photo by Mackenzie Kees.

We have all seen those people on the side of the road with the signs dedicated to one or another of the various gods from modern religions. These people may force you to take one of their pamphlets, but otherwise seem (relatively) harmless. They feel the need to spread the word of God, and that’s their prerogative — but what happens when that self-appointed privilege starts to interfere with another person’s way of life?

I’m standing in the philosophy section of Barnes & Noble in Pensacola on a Sunday afternoon. I’ve been coming here for the past several months in something akin to a ritual in search of seemingly innocent little notecards.

At the size of an average business card, the notecard I find today is sticking out between pages 19 and 20 of “The God Delusion” by Richard Dawkins. It is red and bears the message: “He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. – John 3:18.” The phrase “is condemned already” has been underlined, and following the Bible verse there’s a handwritten message scrawled. It reads: “Why go to Hell? You Must Be Born Again!”

There are several things wrong with this scenario, the most obvious being that this little notecard does not belong in this book. It has been added by an outside party not associated with Barnes & Noble, but by another bookstore in fact, which some argue is unethical.

The second most obvious problem that the notecard’s creator, Bible Baptist Bookstore, does not seem to understand is that most people reading a book authored by Dawkins do not believe in a hell. As such, the message being conveyed will likely fall on deaf ears; at most it will cause annoyance and invoke incredulous feelings in its reader.

If Bible Baptist Bookstore’s intent was to spread the word of God, shouldn’t the message have been aimed at explaining the principles of Christianity instead of just a blanket condemnation against all those who disagree with them? I have only found notecards in books regarding reason, those usually favored by non-believers, which indicates that their goal was not as innocent as just “spreading the word.” The true purpose of the notecard was to tell anyone who picked up the book that they were going to hell for not believing in God.

Most religious people don’t realize that the god they believe in has more to do with the happenstance of birth than it does anything else. People raised in the Middle East tend to believe in Allah, while people born in the West are more inclined to believe in the Judeo-Christian God. Children raised in religious families are usually indoctrinated into the religion of their parents without ever being taught to question it. This perpetuates the cycle of religion being passed on from father to son and so forth, which makes it seem more like a tradition than a true belief.

I will forever be grateful to my mother for stopping this cycle in my own family. Growing up, she always told my sister Libby and I to “listen to your heart and think for yourself.” I was never told that I had to think a certain way in order to get into heaven or else I would be damned to hell for all of eternity. The way the Bible focuses on the horrors of hell could scare the bravest of children, whom are already impressionable, into believing out of fear, and believing in God simply for fear of being reprimanded in the afterlife is not an honorable reason to have faith in Him.

Without being well-informed, it would be impossible to make a reasonable decision about any religion, let alone choose one to practice. I’ve strived throughout my life to make sure that I never squander my mom’s precious gift to me by learning everything I can about all religions, so every time I see another intolerable notecard at Barnes & Noble, I can’t help but be frustrated. I have to wonder if the person behind these cards ever researched religions beyond his or her own. Did he or she even try to understand the world from another religious perspective? What makes him so intolerable to systems of belief different from his own?

As I grew up and evolved intellectually, I came to understand something important about myself: I fit in nowhere. It seems like a depressing thought, but in actuality it is incredibly liberating. I stopped trying to figure out where I fit in and simply let myself be. It was that freedom that helped me to realize I am best described as a Humanist.

As a Humanist, I believe that “human beings have the right and responsibility to give meaning and shape to their own lives. Humanism stands for the building of a more humane society through an ethics based on human and other natural values in a spirit of reason and free inquiry through human capabilities. Humanism is not theistic, and it does not accept supernatural views of reality.” The International Humanist and Ethical Union’s mission statement really spoke to me. It felt right.

After months of holding on to them obsessively, I’ve finally allowed myself to let go and trash the numerous notecards bearing messages of hate and fanaticism. I’ve realized that my obsession with these notecards has more to do with me trying to understand the human psyche than anger. All that is left of my former frustration and indignation is a terrible sadness, but underneath it all hope still glimmers. Hope for the future of mankind and a vision of a world that will finally free itself from the shackles of intolerance. This world will be filled with people who love each other rather than a distant supernatural father figure. It will be a world full of love, acceptance and peace.