Dozens braved the cold weather early Saturday morning at JSU for the 11th annual Latasha Norman 5K Run/Walk to advocate for the prevention of domestic abuse and hear from the parents of a 20-year student who was murdered by her boyfriend in 2007.
In memory of the victim, JSU’s Division of Student Affairs established the Latasha Norman Center for Counseling and Disability Services, which sponsors the annual event.
Dubbed the “Celebration of Life: Putting an End to Domestic Violence,” the run/walk was held on the Gibbs-Green Memorial Plaza.THE two individuals with the fastest times in the men’s and women’s divisions were L.C. Grant, a 61-year-old from Shaw (20:35.7); and Trivia Edwards, a 20-year JSU junior finance major from Jackson (25:37.2).
Meanwhile, Norman’s father, Danny Bolden, said the annual event means so much to the family. He expressed his gratitude to JSU, the community and others who traveled great distances to participate in the event.
“This is the 11th year of the Latasha Norman Walk. We’re so appreciative that JSU has held up to its word. They continue to do what they promised. Awareness about domestic abuse is much needed on this campus and in the city. You can get out of this situation by seeking help. The Latasha Norman Center is supplying that by educating people that domestic violence is wrong and will not be tolerated,” Danny Bolden said.
His wife, Patricia Bolden, said, “It’s important to help our young people who are victims of domestic violence. They must make sure they tell someone, and let them know what’s going on.”
She described her daughter as one who was “a loving, caring person, a sweetheart – always giving. This run/walk is a good cause so that other people are aware of domestic violence, and they can always go to the center for help.”SHANICE White, lead therapist for the center, said, “It’s important for us to continue to do this event because Latasha is not the only victim of domestic violence. There are so many women – and men – who are victims. We must spread the word about awareness.”
She said one in three women and one in seven men are victims of domestic violence. “So, we must come together and have a conversation to try to end this problem.”
While the center’s main focus is on domestic violence and helping victims develop a safety plan, White said it also addresses mental health issues for students, faculty and staff. She noted the long-lasting psychological effects of domestic violence.
White said the problem is complicated further because “there are so many people out there who feel they don’t have a voice. They are not aware of the resources that are out there.”
She cited organizations such as the Mississippi Coalition Against Domestic Violence that serves as a resource.
As for the competition, women’s winner Edwards was stunned by her performance because “I haven’t run in over a year.”
However, Edwards works out regularly and had another reason for participating in the run/walk.
“I witnessed domestic violence against my mom when I was a little girl. I kept that in the back of my head as I was running because I’m actually running for everybody else, including my mom and me. It was a personal thing. To victims, I want to say just keep pushing. Stay strong and stand up for yourselves. Know your worth. Whoever is experiencing domestic violence please do something and don’t just take the abuse.”MEN’S winner Grant said, “I’ve been coming here the last two years, and I wanted to come out to show my support and try to be a blessing and help raise awareness.”
The Mississippi Coalition Against Domestic Violence was also present.
Policy coordinator David McDowell, said, “We want to bring awareness and prevention of domestic violence and sexual assault. I see a lot of men here today. I’m excited because it’s very important that we all speak up together and stand in solidarity.”
Using the acronym STAND, McDowell is urging individuals to confront domestic violence head-on:
- S – Speak up if you hear excuses for violence or victim blaming
- T – Treat your partner with respect
- A – Always challenge abusive behaviors
- N – Never assume they’ll be OK
- D – Direct, Distract, Delegate or Deny
“We don’t ever want to be in a situation where we have to bring awareness because of something that happened. We have an opportunity every day to stop systemic issues, stop violence against women and interpersonal violence of all sorts,” McDowell said.
As well, he said, “We are able to find shelter for people and help them find jobs and move forward in their lives. Unfortunately, if they feel alone or don’t feel there’s a community to support them, they might not come forward. This could be deadly.”
Similar to the coalition, other participants in the run/walk sought to lend their voices to the movement.
Michael Caples, leasing and facilities coordinator for JSU’s Housing and Residence Life, called the event “a great deal because we’re spreading awareness.”
Previously, Caples worked with the Latasha Norman Center and still continues urging victims to use available resources. “People who are affected by domestic violence should create a safety plan on how to leave and get help,” he advised.
Also, Jasmine Collins from Missouri gave a helping hand by distributing bags to participants and cheering them on as they made their way to the finish line.
“I go to the center to help with my own problems, so it just makes sense to be there to cheer on other people who might be going through something. The center has helped me to have a more positive outlook on things. For any hardship that someone is going through, it’s easier when you know that there are people supporting you. Going through something by yourself – while it’s possible – it can be harder because you feel like you’re alone.”
Bilal Hashim, a runner from Bentonia, has been an annual participant for quite some time. “I always run for Latasha. Addressing domestic violence is necessary, especially in our community. It’s been so endemic for so long because no one talks about it. I don’t know that there’s anyone who hasn’t been touched by this. My message is to speak up. If you’re a victim, let somebody know.”
Sylvia Morris, from Clinton, chose to walk. “It’s very important to bring as much awareness as possible. It’s happening every day. Young women need to know they don’t have to take it. Ladies and men, if it’s happening to you speak up,” she implored.
Morris was accompanied by her 12-year-old son, Sachem Stamps. “This is his first. I want him to be a part of this. He understands this issue.”
The youth said, “I never experienced domestic violence myself, but I believe we should bring awareness to it because not all people have the courage to use their voice to speak up and say something about it.”ADDITIONALLY, a nonprofit organization called “Women in Need” delivered its message of empowerment, too, by distributing information about its services.
Carolyn Hutton White, president and CEO, started a nonprofit organization in June 2018 called Women in Need to educate women on domestic violence, physical abuse, mental and sexual abuse.
“It’s been a passion of mine for a while and something that I decided to put into place,” Hutton White said.
As well, Women in Need aims to help single-parenting mothers with different trials in their lives.
“As a single parent, I raised two sons. It’s difficult being a single parent. I have a son who has suffered health issues, and my mother suffers dementia. Women go through a lot,” Hutton White said.
“A lot of girls have been abused by young men, and men sometimes go through abuse also. But this program is designed to help women of all ages. We’ve had young women and children who have committed suicide. I just feel women need to be educated as to what goes on in their daily lives,” she said.
Because of issues females face, Women in Need is sponsoring a workshop Saturday, Nov. 17, at Hinds Community College in Raymond in the Eagle Ridge Conference Center to address domestic abuse and violence.
As for the Latasha Norman walk/run, money collected from registration fees will go toward developing programs against domestic violence.