Channing-Brown addresses SBU community as “ABR” author

photo: Austin Channing-Brown/Twitter

By Dustyn Green

ST. BONAVENTURE, NY — St. Bonaventure University held its annual “All Bonaventure Reads” keynote address on Tuesday night, as author Austin Channing-Brown virtually spoke to students about her book.

First-year students were asked to read “I’m Still Here: Black Dignity In a World Made for Whiteness” as part of their first-year experiences. Channing-Brown held a “fireside chat-style” question and answer session after her address.

“Each year, the All Bonaventure Reads committee selects a book for the community to read and discuss,” said Dr. Joseph Zimmer, vice president for academic affairs and provost at SBU. “These books usually deal with controversial subjects, so our students can learn to participate in respectful dialogue with others.”

Despite becoming a popular speaker, it is not without a sense of surprise that Brown accepted the honor of speaking to a campus-wide community.

“There are a handful of colleges and universities that (do something similar) and every time I am blown away,” she said.

The COVID-19 pandemic halted Channing-Brown from visiting the campus in Cattaraugus County, so instead, she visited from a room in her three-bedroom apartment with a rack of her “favorite books about racial justice.”

Channing-Brown has one ideology in her job that she gets excited about seeing in action, no matter how many times she can do so.

“The idea that the experiences of some Black students are going to be affirmed is really exciting to me.”

Although the topics she discusses as part of her career are difficult, she goes back to her days as a college student sitting in an African-American history class to find a strategy on how to educate her audience and that is using the word “friends” when she addresses the issues of race.

That thought comes from this professor, as she said, “being very involved in the lives of Black students.”

“It was a class that if you were a Black student, you had to take it,” Channing-Brown said.

Channing-Brown was pregnant when she was writing the book, and said that there was a “new  layer of emotion knowing she was going to bring a little boy into the world.”

Even with the emotional layer there, the power of this turn of events was more powerful than what the words above describe.

“I was writing about an America that I could not protect my son from,” Channing-Brown said. “It made me write with a fierceness that I do not know I would have had if I was not pregnant.”

Channing-Brown’s underlying message was something much deeper than the need to fix racial issues in the United States. She made a case for what it means to be against racism and condemn the actions of those around you.

“If you choose not to do anything for the cause of racial injustice, I am not here to judge you,” Channing-Brown said. “You just do not get to call yourself anti-racist.”

Dan Barry speaks on recent book

[Photo by Haley Schrenk]

By Amber Levias

Bona’s alum Dan Barry, spoke at the Sandra A. and William L. Richter Center last Monday evening about his book Boys in the Bunkhouse, the story of 32 men with intellectual disabilities who endured harsh physical treatment and low pay working in a turkey processing plant for more than 30 years.

Barry, a current writer for The New York Times, found his inspiration for the story during a visit to Iowa when he happened upon a small news article detailing exploited lives of 32 men working in a nearby turkey plant in Atalissa, Iowa.

“I wanted write about the men, not around the men,” said Barry. “I want people to have to have an epithet that people with intellectual disabilities belong. This wasn’t Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath. This happened a few years ago.”

Continue reading “Dan Barry speaks on recent book”

ABR author Iversen gives insight into her book

By Julia Mericle

The All Bonaventure Reads program, which each year chooses a book for the incoming St. Bonaventure University freshmen to read, chose the creative nonfiction book, Full Body Burden by Kristen Iversen, for the class of 2017. Dr. Iversen, author and journalist, visited campus on Monday Sept. 30 to speak to students about her work.

Iversen made appearances in several classes in the morning, offering a chance for students, including those interested in becoming writers, to have questions answered. Winners of the All Bonaventure Reads essay contest and University 101 class representatives had the opportunity to attend a dinner with Iversen, where they were given more information about her book and what life has been like since its release.

Finally, Iversen gave a presentation to the entirety of the freshman class in the Reilly Center, using photographs from her life and the Rocky Flats plant to, as she said, “demystify the story of Rocky Flats.”

The book provides a look into the controversial and secretive story of Rocky Flats, and nuclear weapons plant in Colorado that Iversen’s childhood house stood only a few miles away from. Earlier in her life, Iversen was a worker at the plant. Even as an employee, she did not discover the truth about what was happening at Rocky Flats until it appeared on “Nightline.” After that she quit.

“The day that I quit was the day I knew I would write a book someday,” Iversen said.

Iversen said that she never even knew if the book would be published, but she knew that the story of Rocky Flats was one she needed to tell and she could not write anything else until she did. The book has been a success and now Iversen tours college campuses around the country speaking about Full Body Burden. She said she loves talking about ethics at universities because she believes they are the places those types of conversations are most needed.

Iversen also noted that students from a variety of different majors can find something that interests them in the book, from physics to psychology to journalism.

“I really enjoyed Full Body Burden’s concepts and how she wrote it,” freshman journalism & mass communications major Catherine Brown said.” “I aspire to be an investigative journalist, so Kristen Iversen is an inspiration.”

According to Iversen, Rocky Flats today is continually undergoing a clean up process and there are potential plans in place to turn it into a wildlife refuge. However, there are still protesters at the plant and recent flooding in Colorado has brought radioactive waste issues back into the spotlight. The effects of Rocky Flats will be around for centuries to come.

“This is a story that is not going away any time soon,” Iversen said.

Students were encouraged by professors to examine the final line of the book, “To speak out or to remain silent is the first and most crucial decision we can make,” in order to discover the theme that earned the books its spot of the All Bonaventure Reads list. This theme was well discussed in Iversen’s speech and she heavily noted the importance it held in the Rocky Flats case.

Iverson stated that it was, “a story of citizen activism that worked.”

Freshman class presents on All Bonaventure Reads book

By Danielle Clark, Assistant Features Editor, @ddaniellee11

(ST. BONAVENTURE, N.Y.) Nov. 20 – St. Bonaventure University faculty, staff and students joined the freshman class in Doyle Dining Hall for the annual All Bonaventure Reads poster contest Wednesday afternoon.

Reflections on ‘In the Sanctuary of Outcasts’ challenged freshmen to express the main ideas from this year’s ABR book by Neil White, In the Sanctuary of Outcasts. Each University 101 class took central themes from the book and created various presentations.

“Some classes take it to their major,” said Abby Cohen, director of the First-Year Experience. “A psychology class is doing a presentation related to the stigma associated with people who are incarcerated, so you can see how each class would have taken a little bit of a different take.”

Various types of presentations bordered the rooms. Some groups made posters, some made floats, and others made videos.

 Steve Aprilano, a freshman marketing major, made a movie trailer with his group. Members of the group acted out essential scenes from the book, as Aprilano narrated.

 “We gained a really good understanding of the book and way better connectedness of the group,” he said. “It really helped our class to mesh.”

Professors and staff circled the room, voting on which group’s project they liked best.

Sporting ornate Mardi Gras masks, the winning group focused on the central theme of leprosy in the book.

 Carly Miraglia, a freshman education major, explained that in the book, the leprosy patients were able to express themselves only on Mardi Gras.

“When they wore the masks, they didn’t think about their imperfections,” she said. “And they had that one day every year when they didn’t have to think about them.”

The group gave out blank masks and asked their visitors to decorate the outside but write a word that described them on the inside.

“The students related the Mardi Gras masks to the way we hide behind our outward appearances to distract others from seeing the ‘real’ us on the inside,” said the group’s professor, Ann Marie Sitter-Tompkins, professor of education.

The group will have the choice between an in-class pizza party or a $5 gift certificate to Café La Verna for each student.

“It’s one of our staples in our ABR program because it’s able to bring everyone together under the same common theme,” said Cohen. “This is the first thing that all Bonaventure students had in common.”

ST. BONAVENTURE (Sept. 27) — Conor Grennan, author of the 2011 All-Bonaventure Reads book, gave a lecture and answered questions from the audience Monday in the Reilly Center Arena.

Grennan, author of “Little Princes: One Man’s Promise to Bring Home the Lost Children of Nepal,” also signed books in the university bookstore following his talk.

[Photos by Tony Lee, @sHecKii]