Saint Mary’s students, faculty, and staff celebrated the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. during a day of observation, learning, and service, Jan. 16, 2023. From keynote speaker Stephanie Woolley-Pigues, aunt of Chloe Pigues ’23, to empowering workshops by various women who demonstrate excellence in their careers, to an artistic Stars of Hope community service project, this commemoration touched the hearts and minds of each member of the Saint Mary’s community. In this article, Belles student newspaper staff members describe their takeaways from some of the sessions.
Keynote by Stephanie Woolley-Pigues, J.D., LL.M.
By Chloe Coleman ’23
Ms. Woolley-Pigues kicked off the day by delivering a compelling keynote speech in the chapel, where she discussed her professional experiences and how she interprets the meaning of MLK Day. She challenged Saint Mary’s to consider what it can do on a local level to answer the Martin Luther King Center of Atlanta’s call to “Cultivate a Beloved Community Mindset to Transform Unjust Systems,” whether it is on campus, at home, or in our entire community. She credits her inspiration to Attorney General Josh Stein and Governor Roy Cooper, who encourage her to “be fearless in the pursuit of what sets your soul on fire,” as articulated by Jennifer Lee.
Black-ology Coffee Company: Brewing Confidence
By Cecilia Roberts ’24
Lori Jones, a former UNC sorority house chef, began Black-ology Coffee Company, LLC at a point in her life when everything felt compromised. Jones uses her coffee company to “awaken the dormant confidence within to brew a successful life.” During the stressful times COVID-19 brought to our society, it was important to find an outlet, something that eased your mind and reset your brain. For Lori Jones, this outlet was brewing coffee. Jones described how the four minutes it takes to brew her coffee are four minutes when she can form her mindset for the day. Jones described how having this mind reset can unlock confidence, a powerful tool that can give you feelings of control over your life. Having this confidence gives you the ability to set concrete boundaries, have others respect these boundaries, and embrace rejection. Jones stressed the importance of having a mentor when pursuing a passion project; someone that can push you to try your hardest but support you at the same time. Jones also described how being a part of a beloved community was very important to her, a community whose members are cared for by one another. Jones supports other local shops and non-profit organizations in the Raleigh area and recently, Black-ology Coffee Company LLC has become a vendor at the Alexander Family YMCA cafe in Raleigh. You can visit their website at https://black-ology.com/pages/shop-now as well as their Instagram and Facebook pages.
Our Stories on Race: Conversations, Community, and Finding Common Ground
By Abby Foreman ’23
Katie Gailes, the “knee baby” of a rambunctious family with 12 children, was born in Oxford, North Carolina, and grew up in Winston-Salem. She has been an advocate for African Americans since high school, taking every chance to further explore her culture and her family’s history. In high school, Gailes was one of the founding members of the first Black Panther organization in Winston Salem, the fourth president of the Ebony society, and a student in the second class of black students at her school. When Ms. Gailes was pursuing her MBA at Duke, she was one of eight women out of 40 men and one of four out of 40 people who were racial minorities. Not to mention, while in the program, Gailes was pregnant with her daughter and was the first person to have a child and simultaneously continue the school's program. She began work at IBM and was one of the first black female IBM system engineers. Eventually, she moved jobs and, in December, realized it was time to begin what she fondly called her “passion project.”
This project involved two goals that she had spent her life pursuing: entrepreneurship and bringing peace to America. Gailes firmly stated, “If you start or solve a problem or learn anything on your own, you are an entrepreneur. You have to be someone who is able to see an opportunity and is bold enough to pursue it.” This idea of starting something new and eventually connecting America together grew into the project Our Stories. Our Stories is an organization that has brave conversations about race and encourages peace. The goal is not to challenge others’ opinions, rather it is to bring up questions about race and experiences and leave having a better understanding of people’s humanity. The program has three versions: community, faith, and corporate. Each group has one 30-minute facilitated Zoom session a week and nightly homework, over the course of six weeks. These groups have 10 people at a time (five men and five women, five white and five of a racial minority) and with these people, strive to reach an admirable goal. “Our Stories isn’t trying to reach 40,000 people, we are looking for the next 10. If you can change the hearts of ten people and send them back out into the world, it will be more sustainable.”
Oberlin Village’s History is Raleigh’s History
By Jayne Beth Martin ’23
Many of us drive down Oberlin Road on our way to school each morning and wonder what the story behind those beautiful old homes is. Just a few years ago, these homes were renovated and restored back to their original glory with vibrant colors. To tell the story of these homes, it begins in 1850 when Jesse Pettiford, a freed Blackman purchased 16 acres of land. A community began forming on Pettiford’s land and it became known as Oberlin Village. In August of 1865, Wilson Temple United Methodist Church was founded. The Methodist Church still stands proud today and hosts worship services each Sunday at 10:30 a.m. In 1873, the historic Oberlin Cemetery was established. Oberlin Village created a school in 1882 and in 1892 a coed African American college was founded named Latta University. Sadly, in 2007 Latta University burned down in a fire. Today, a two-acre park is dedicated to Latta University where it stood. From Oberlin Village, Joe Holt Jr. was the first boy to integrate Wake County Public Schools. Holt attended Daniels Middle School, now known as Oberlin Middle School, in 1956.
Our speaker, Ms. Cheryl Williams offered these facts and more, encouraging us to get involved in the Oberlin Historic Community. Walking tours of Oberlin Village are held on the third Saturday of every month. On April 1 from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m., there will be a clean-up for the Oberlin Cemetery. Ms. Williams’s family has been members of Wilson Temple Methodist Church for decades, and she encouraged us to come to one of their services. Ms. Williams is a founding member of the Friends of Oberlin Village Organization which can be found at www.friendsofoberlinvillage.org. Ms. William’s main piece of advice was to get involved in a culture outside of your own and embrace it.
Equity Through Arts: Justice Theater Project
By Maisie Cahn ’25 and Margaret Montague ’23
The Justice Theatre Project is an organization in Raleigh that sheds light on social issues through theater performances. This organization is bigger than community theater. It pays fair wages to their actors, directors, and stage crew, and each performance inspires audience members to think about important issues and spark change amongst society. Melissa Zeph and Haven Powell are both members of the Justice Theater Department. Haven Powell is involved with performances on stage, while Melissa Zeph is involved more in the organization and business aspect of the organization. The Justice Theater Project is a local non-profit organization with the goal of impacting people’s hearts and minds through “really powerful theater.” The theater purposefully does different shows to touch on different topics of social concern, such as the LGBTQIA+ community, the Jewish community, environmental issues, etc.
An important aspect of the Justice Theater Department is how it functions as a non-profit organization while paying all of its actors and employees. Zeph and Powell highlighted in their presentation the most effective strategies of breaking even with their budget. These strategies include fundraising, partnering with other non-profit organizations, accepting individual giving, and through savings. Zeph and Powell explained how they had to be creative during the COVID-19 pandemic quarantine, through selling pot pies and making movies. The Justice Theater Project also organizes summer camps for children where they perform a junior show. These camps employ teachers for summer jobs and give children the opportunity to develop deeper understandings of current events. Through creativity and powerful stories inspired by true stories, the Justice Theater project gives a voice to social justice issues, encouraging others to appreciate the untold stories of history.
Microagressions and Intersectionality
By Riley Foreman ’25
This workshop was unique in that instead of bringing in a speaker from the Raleigh community, it was presented by none other than four Saint Mary’s students: Mahari Bennett ’24, Yara Escamilla ’24, Angel Asare ’24, and Windsor Boyette ’23. These students led an important discussion about microaggressions and intersectionality by inviting the audience to share their own experiences, ask questions, and give thoughtful responses. In addition to these discussions, the speakers also addressed negative experiences that they have encountered in our SMS community and how we as a group should handle them. Altogether, this workshop encouraged those in attendance to be proud of their heritage and to reevaluate how they should treat others in their community.
A Call to the Table with Joy Shillingsburg
By Isabel Yates ’23
Joy Shillingsburg - a high school history teacher turned nonprofit founder - has a clear and contagious passion for what she does. Shillingsburg began giving meals in 2017, through a federally funded project called the summer nutrition program. However, in 2019 she decided to switch gears, and began using donations from churches and local organizations to cook and deliver meals in community centers around Wake Forest. In October of 2022, she officially founded the nonprofit Wake Forest Community Table. Now, every Monday and Wednesday, you can find Shillingsburg (and often her daughter Vivian, Saint Mary’s class of 2023) delivering meals at the Hope House in Wake Forest with a team of volunteers. However, the organization isn’t just about providing meals. Shillingsburg began the session by asking us to imagine something, drawn from a metaphor first explained by Desmund Tutu. You and your family rent a nice vacation house by a river. The first morning, however, you see a child floating down the river, and have to rush to help her out. It isn’t over though - more and more people float down the river, and your nice riverside vacation becomes a nightmarish rescue mission. The point of this metaphor? You can keep pulling people out of the river, but to really solve the problem you have to go upstream and find out why they are falling in. At Wake Forest Community Table, Mrs. Shillingsburg’s mission is to feed people facing food insecurities - “pulling people out of the river” - but also to “go upstream” and investigate the systemic issues causing food insecurities in the first place. This is the goal of the community education sessions the organization holds four times a year, and the question she challenged us with in today’s session.
After a morning of learning and reflecting in workshops, Saint Mary’s School students gathered in Chan-Poyner dining hall to paint Stars of Hope dedicated to various organizations. While the activities and workshops commemorating MLK Day concluded on Monday afternoon, Saint Mary’s continued the celebration the next day during chapel, where Chaplain Stoddard shared a recording of Dr. King’s speech, “But if Not.” Needless to say, the impact of Dr. King’s compelling words reached every corner of the Chapel and gave the community a glimpse into what it was like to experience Dr. King’s work in real-time. As keynote speaker Stephanie Woolley-Pigues articulated, the King Center of Atlanta calls on individuals to “Cultivate a Beloved Community Mindset to Transform Unjust Systems.” Saint Mary’s MLK Day Celebration of 2023 facilitated the beginning of this transformation through learning, service, and reflection.
The Belles 2022-2023 Staff
Co-Editors: Chloe Coleman and Isabel Yates
Emma Claire Broome
Jayne Beth Martin