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Texas A&M University-Kingsville went from blue and gold to orange and black on Aug. 26, when Piper Kerman, author of Orange Is the New Black, My Year in a Women’s Prison, addressed a crowd of students and fans at Jones Auditorium. She was on campus as part of the University Lectureship Series.

Piper Kerman visits TAMUK

Kerman, who wrote her memoir after being convicted of money laundering and drug trafficking, spent 13 months at a minimal security women’s prison in Danbury, Conn.
“This is not just a book about prison,” Kerman told audience members. “It’s a book about women.”

The author covered a wide array of topics, her memoir and the Netflix series it inspired. Kerman gave a firsthand account of life behind bars and how incarceration can destroy lives–both the prisoner’s and often their loved ones.

“I was on my way to join the biggest prison population in the world,” Kerman said. “The United States has more of its own people incarcerated than any other country in the world. We have 5 percent of the world’s population, but we have 25 percent of the world’s prisoners.”

Kerman said students should be mortified by the number of U.S. women warehoused in jails and correctional facilities each year. Often these women are jailed for minor drug crimes and find themselves caught up in an unrelenting system that is good at offering punishment but not so good about delivering rehabilitation and redemption.

At one point during her lecture, the statistic “650%” flashed on a screen.

“650 percent is the percentage increase in the incarceration of women in this country over the last 30 to 40 years. That’s kind of a big number, right?” Kerman said. “Women offer us a very crystlized new example of people that we have chosen to lock up in this country, who we never should’ve put in prison before. In 1980 there were 500,000 people in prison and jail in this country and today there are about 2.4 million.”

Kerman also showed a clip from the first episode of “Orange Is the New Black.” She pointed out the subtle details of the scene, describing it as “almost line for line verbatim from the book,” down to details of the cell she spent her first night in and the way her cellmate climbed down from the top bunk.

Audience members after the lecture said they were moved by Kerman’s prison experience and advocacy for women’s rights

“It was very in-depth about the prison system,” said junior Briana Harris. “She was very brave to go into prison for 13 months. I couldn’t have done it.”

Graduate student Alexis Lakers also enjoyed Kerman’s lecture.

“Piper is just such a down to earth person. When she walks in, you don’t think ‘oh she went to prison and has such a big story to tell,’ and so for her lectureship series, my favorite part was that you have to remember that these women are human and that all the people who get incarcerated for such petty crimes shouldn’t get those big sentences.”

Mario Padillo, a junior, said he had never read Kerman’s book nor watched her show. He was invited to her lecture by his roommate. He was glad he went when it was over.

“The best part was describing her situation, and how she went from nowhere, then onto a bad path that she overcame and stands where she is now,” he said.

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The second floor of the SUB was taken over by the sound of children’s laughter and music.

The National Association for Music Education (NAfME) collegiate chapter at Texas A&M University – Kingsville (TAMUK) hosted the very first Javelina Music Day at the Memorial Student Union Building on April 18.

“The purpose of Javelina Music Day was to spread awareness of the importance of music in our schools,” said Jorge Rangel, music education major and president of the NAfME collegiate chapter at TAMUK.

The event included a live performance by Mariachi Javelina, dances by the Corpus Christi Chinese fan dancers, a research gallery provided by music department students and music activity stations for individuals of all ages to enjoy.

“A lot of the parents brought their young children to the event and really enjoyed the hands-on experience in instrument petting zoo, classical music and movement, and parachute games,” said Catherine Tu, assistant professor of music education.

Over 100 people attended the event.

“This event was a great a way to learn about music from around the world, the importance of music in public schools, and how music develops young minds while still having fun,” said Orlando Medrano, music performance major.

Javelina Music Day was filled with TAMUK music students and members of the community who brought their children to experience the music.

“I believe that music day was a community effort that provided and established an importance of music,” Medrano said. “And, by TAMUK dedicating a day just for that reason proves that this university supports music and emphasizes that music is a crucial part in the development of the human.”

Each experience of the event did not have any age restrictions. Individuals of all ages participated in each station together.

“Music education is important because it promotes non-musical skills like language development, social interaction, and mathematical operation,” Tu said. “However, some schools in our nation have terminated music at the elementary level due to budget deficits.”

Javelina Music Day was funded by a co-curricular service-learning award of $2,750, and was sponsored by Dr. Duane Gardiner, director of service learning program at TAMUK.

“It would be nice that we will get funding from various resources or even an external grant and really promote hands-on music experience for the community,” Tu said. “We’d like to see more music education students coming out of their comfort zone and hone their teaching skills during this event.”

The NAfME collegiate chapter at TAMUK wish to continue hosted Javelina Music Day in the future.

“Music does something even better for our students than what can be measured directly on a test score,” Tu said. “Music shapes the way our students understand themselves and the world around them.”

Music education majors had the chance to research music subjects and talk about them in the research galleries at the event. Potential stations could also include a story-telling/folklore, make your own instruments, music and science, and/or music of your heritage.

“It is our hope that the hands-on music education experience provided during this Javelina Music Day will instill a deeper appreciation of music that will last a lifetime,” Tu said.


Texas A&M University-Kingsville is investing approximately $600,000 this year to install a new video surveillance system on campus that will provide better campus monitoring...