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Entertainer, alum adds voice to outcry in support of human rights

Recording artist and former “American Idol” contestant Kimberley Locke isn’t the first alum to speak out in the midst of the firestorm surrounding the recent exit of Belmont women’s soccer coach Lisa Howe. Locke, like many alums, expressed disappointment over what she called a matter of “human rights.”

Formerly signed to Curb Records, Locke has worked with several organizations such as Youth Aids and One Heartland, a camp for kids dealing with stigmas attached to AIDS or HIV.  She sat down with the Vision Thursday [Dec. 9] to talk about her alma mater.

What was your reaction to the controversy?

Being an alumna of Belmont University and knowing what Belmont wants to represent, it’s disappointing. I am a huge supporter of gay rights—I say gay rights [but] it’s human rights. It’s a human being issue. Discrimination affects everybody. I felt like I needed to say something. I think that everybody who has ever been discriminated against should say something.

You mentioned you’ve been involved with organizations relating to gay rights, etc.

I just came from Vegas for World Aids Day [Dec. 1.] I work with an organization called One Heartland. We have just expanded our mission statement to include the LGBT allies and community. We work with children who suffer from social stigma due to or caused by, but not limited to, AIDS and HIV—that disease, life-threatening illnesses.

Just working with teenagers every year, it’s eye-opening to me, and I think that’s why this issue is so important. Lately we’ve been dealing with the bullying situation in schools, and we’ve been dealing with the bullying of the gay community. Some kids are committing suicide. I think that Belmont, by their actions, are perpetuating that. Whether intentional or unintentional, they’re sending the wrong message. I think it’s hard enough for kids who are teenagers, let alone those who are in college, who are trying to figure it out.

It was eye-opening when I left Nashville to move out and pursue my career, that there’s a lot of kinds of people in the world. We’re all different, if you go out into the world with a closed mind and discriminating against people, I think that you miss out on a lot of blessings. Everyone has something different to bring to the table whether they’re like you or they’re different then you. Most of the time we learn the most by being surrounded by people who are different from us, and that’s what the college experience is about—coming to college, meeting new people, exploring different things, finding out who you are, and how you are going to contribute to this world. I don’t think that should matter based on your race, your religious background, your sexual orientation, your sexual preference, whatever. I don’t think that matters.

I feel like, as a person who believes in God, or believes in a higher power, it’s not my responsibility to judge those people. It’s my responsibility to love people the way I want to be loved and to learn from them whatever I can, and maybe help them in some way. I think that’s the unfortunate thing about this situation. I loved going to school here, I loved my professors, but I know that what’s happening right now here doesn’t represent me, and I think that’s the unfortunate thing with a lot of students. Things like this happen, and the students who are here, they don’t feel represented very well by the school of their choice, and that’s the unfortunate thing.

How do you think this affects Belmont’s reputation or perception of it?

One of the reasons I wanted to come to this school is because people knew this school as one of the top schools in our area, it’s academically challenging, a lot of kids come here for the musical aspect of it all, and they know they’re going to get a great education here. I felt like, if I want to go somewhere that people are going to know when I say the name, “Belmont University,” this is where I want to go. I think that now that we’re going to have to defend our choice of the school because of this, I don’t think it’s a bad thing, I think it can be rectified.

I think there comes a point in all of our lives where we’re at a critical moment, at a crossroad where we can go left or right and make a clear change, and I think that Belmont’s had a couple of issues over the past few years, from the professors to the students. If these things continue to repeatedly occur, then yes, I think that people are going to look at this school as a place where they will be discriminated against, and I don’t think that’s a good thing.

What do you think Belmont can or should do at this point to improve the situation?

The first thing that comes to me is an apology. I don’t know if anyone’s apologized. I know that when I feel wronged, if somebody apologizes, apologies go a long way. It’s a small gesture, but it goes a long way. I’m sure Lisa would appreciate that as well.

I think there should be an apology to the student body. I think they have ostracized some of their own student body and the students keep the doors open here. I think they have to go about it a different way. You can’t say “we accept everyone” and then turn around and shut people out. They have to pick a position. It’s tough to say exactly what they should do, but I think they need to do something and it needs to be in a clear direction.

Belmont is a Christian school and one of the things I know about Christianity, is it is not our place to judge anyone. We’re all born into the same sin and God didn’t make us perfect. Instead of embracing the student body, they’re rejecting parts of it, and I don’t think that’s very Christian-like.

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