The late Vivian Malone Jones holds an important place in University of Alabama history as the first black person to graduate from the Tuscaloosa campus. The 1965 graduate also had strong ties to another Tuscaloosa campus, Stillman College, where she lived while a UA student.
In a ceremony Thursday, Stillman College President Cynthia Warrick and YWCA USA CEO signed a memorandum of understanding for the construction of a YWCA facility on the Stillman campus. Warrick announced that the institution’s name will be Vivian Malone Jones YWCA at Stillman College.
“She credits staying on this campus and in the West End community for being able to graduate from college during that time,” Warrick said. âIn addition, the university hired a driver who was a student at Stillman to take him to and from Stillman. She had a room at Winsborough Hall. She ended up marrying her driver, Mack Jones. He graduated, went to Emory (college) and became a doctor.
Stillman plans to remove two existing residences, both contaminated with asbestos and lead paint to make room for the YWCA installation. Williams Hall and King Hall have been vacant for several years and will benefit from hazardous materials mitigation and demolition via a brownfield assessment cleanup grant from the Environmental Protection Agency.
During her career, Malone Jones worked as Director of EPA’s Environmental Justice Program. The Mobile native died in 2005.
Warrick, noting the lack of recreational 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 one gymnasium and no recreational facilities for students or staff. Warrick said part of the motivation in making the deal with the YWCA is to provide recreational opportunities for students and to help the college recruit.
âI have spent every summer at YWCA camp so I know how important it is for the community to bring the YWCA to Tuscaloosa and Stillman College. It’s going to make a difference and a significant impact on West Tuscaloosa, âsaid Warrick. âIt will mean a lot to our community. Stillman and the West End are in need of a full recreational facility.
Elisha Rhodes, CEO of the YWCA, said the facility will help meet the needs of the community.
âI remember how I got into the YWCA and the resources they provided to me as a black kid from downtown Brooklyn. YWCA was founded for young women, âsaid Rhodes. âThey created a space for young women to thrive, to create their own future. Our partnership with Dr. Warrick and Stillman College gives us the opportunity to advance the legacy of the organization and bring the resources this community desperately needs.
Another major issue, Warrick said, that the YWCA will address is the desperate need for on-campus child care for students.
âChild care is a huge void in this community. I have young students, old students with children, teachers and staff with children. We saw with COVID that it was a real challenge to make sure these kids had somewhere to go. We had teachers and staff who brought their children to school. We had students with their babies in the classrooms, âWarrick said.
Rhodes said the YWCA brings many services to a community beyond recreation. In addition to providing child care services, the YWCA also helps with housing, food assistance, and other services designed to help underserved communities.
âWe know there are many systemic barriers that continue to plague the community in which we currently sit,â said Rhodes. âIt is our unique responsibility to create solutions, to dismantle the systemic barriers that not only students but the external community face. “
Part of Warrick’s vision when he took on the job to lead Stillman College in 2017 was to integrate the college and the West End community.
âStillman is going to be in the community and the community in Stillman. That’s part of why this partnership is so important, as we will bring these services to Stillman and the entire community, âsaid Warrick.
The YWCA provides community services with a special mission to uplift women and tackle issues of racism. Rhodes said it is the largest provider of gender-based services for victims of domestic violence. The organization also contributes to workforce development programs and housing needs.
âBasically what we do is when we see a community need, which is usually in underserved communities and we call it that, black and brown communities, we work in partnership with the communities. We don’t tell communities what they need. We are working in partnership with them so that they get the resources they need to move from a survival space to a prosperous one, âsaid Rhodes.
The installation will be a multi-million dollar project and Warrick plans to start raising funds at the start of the year, although she has said donations are welcome now. The school is now working with architects to develop plans for the new facility as well as for the renovation of Winsborough Hall, the residence in which Malone Jones lived.
The college plans to convert Winsborough into senior housing. The YWCA already manages housing in five counties in Alabama from its location in Birmingham. Stillman will partner with them to manage the accommodations for those who will live in Winsborough Hall. It will also open up opportunities for students in a variety of academic disciplines to work with the elderly.
The project will be funded by federal grants, corporate donations and private donations. Warrick said anyone interested in donating to the project can contact her at Stillman College or Rhodes at the YWCA. Online donations can be made through give1876.stillman.edu or www.YWCA.org.