Bev May visits Berea College, receives Service Award
This past Thursday, long-time KFTC member and community advocate Beverly May visited Berea College to receive the Berea College Service Award, an honor conferred to those deemed by the college to be “persons who in their daily lives and service to humanity have exemplified the Great Commitments.”
Any KFTC member familiar with Bev’s tireless advocacy for the people of Appalachia through her work with the uninsured and the homeless as a nurse practitioner and her activism against the ravages of mountaintop removal would no doubt agree that few people in Kentucky are more deserving of the award.
After the award ceremony, Bev delivered a speech at the final Berea College Convocation of the academic year focusing on what she called the “Commonweal,” or the social fabric that ties communities together.
“The history of this nation could be told as the continual weaving and fraying of the social fabric,” Bev said, observing that modern day policies sometimes “rip the commonweal and leave gashes in the social fabric,” including legislation that busts unions and privatizes prisons. She highlighted the role of three-strikes laws in “the disappearance of whole communities behind bars,” while discussing the alarming influence of private interests over public policy, saying “Privatization means everything has a price and can be commodified.”
Bev ended with a call to service to the students gathered in the Phelps-Stokes Auditorium, encouraging students by sharing her own experiences with community service and activism. She cautioned students not to attack problems on their own, saying “Let's think about how to do social justice like we mean it. There is no reason to attack any problem alone. If I've accomplished anything at all it's because I had people working alongside me.”
Bev emphasized the need for patience and perseverance in the fight for social justice, along with the sobering reality that positive change can take more than a lifetime. “Your defeats aren't final. Your ideas aren't the only ideas. The work will go on long after you are resting on a hillside,” she reflected.
Bev spent much of the afternoon visiting and touring the campus, appearing at a lunch-time dialogue and a student labor meeting to discuss her work and her perspective on the meaning of service and the need for activism. She ended her visit with dinner at Berea’s Boone Tavern, where she shared a meal with local KFTC members and students and staff from the Center for Excellence in Learning Through Service.
KFTC members were proud to share this important day with Bev and the recognition of her service and leadership in the fight against those things that threaten the health of her community. Her recognition by Berea College provides an example for students and others to aspire to, and is a vindication of her work, bravery and sacrifice of those who choose to stand up to those who threaten the social fabric that holds Kentucky together.