Where History Meets the Future

Where History Meets the Future

Last weekend, I traveled to my hometown of Jackson, MS to celebrate Mother’s Day with my mom and to Tougaloo College to perform my annual national alumni board duties as the Atlanta alumni chapter president, Southeastern Regional Representative, and Assistant Secretary of the Board (and yes, I had to take minutes for a three-hour meeting, lol).

Every time I go back to campus, I’m reacquainted with my memories of “coming of age” at Tougaloo. A pretty precocious 16-year-old, I was pretty sure I was making the correct decision by bypassing my senior year to enter college and start pursuing further education in my passion–mathematics–as well as an education in life and an advanced education in black history. Growing up, I was exposed to lots of heritage because my parents were very determined to ensure that I knew about where we’ve come from and what I would endure to get to my future. Attending HBCUs, for summer academic programs and for college, solidified all of that–by showing me that there were lots–i.e. a campus full–of young black scholars with different backgrounds and goals that were still very much like me. This was important to a kid who grew up one of a handful of black kids in the gifted program, the accelerated classes, the AP classes, the academic organizations at a majority white school. I kept wondering–is it really diversity if I’M the diversity? It meant volumes to me to see that I was not an anomaly. In addition, as a math student, it was important that I had professors who made a conscious choice to teach at my institution–not because they had to, but because they cherished the meaning of it–and who made a concerted effort to push students to the cliff and made us jump into our unknown greatness. First, Dr. Raffoul, who was the dean of the math department when I got to Tougaloo, sat down with me in his office and told me that although I hadn’t taken AP Calculus (since I hadn’t been a high school senior), he was confident that I could take Calculus I with a bunch of upperclassmen and excel. It was tough at first, but with help from mentors and my professor, I aced it, setting the stage for several more semesters of pure math training. Fast forward to my sophomore year midway through Differential Equations when Dr. Fahmy, whose opinion I cherish until this day, challenged me because I had been slacking off. We had a conversation that I’ve never forgotten because it shook me to the core. He told me that when I came into his class as a freshman, I was something special–I was going places. But lately, I had been merely mediocre. And if I wanted to settle for mediocrity, that was fine, but surely he wouldn’t be spending so much time supporting me and helping me to find opportunities to shine and prepare for my future. I didn’t cry in front of Dr. Fahmy, but as soon as I passed through his doorway, I bawled from Kincheloe Hall to my room in Berkshire Hall, and I got my stuff together immediately. I got my first B the semester before, but that was the only B he gave me for the rest of my college career–and do believe that I worked for those As.

Congressman Bennie Thompson '68 and Ranada Robinson '02

The other thing that made Tougaloo so special is our tie to black history. Tougaloo was vital to the civil rights movement, and it was nothing extraordinary to have a conversation with someone who was right there in it. As an example, just last weekend, I got history lessons while touring the new Bennie G. Thompson Academic and Civil Rights Center. First, while giving an address at the ribbon-cutting ceremony, Congressman Thompson, class of ’68, told us about his time at Tougaloo and how he met while on campus not only his wife, but Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Stokely Carmichael.

Joan Trumpauer and Anne Moody

Then, while looking at the beautiful photos that adorn the hallways of the building, Dr. Doris Browne, class of ’64 and the VP of the Tougaloo College Board of Trustees (and my Gamma Omicron soror), told me about her time at Tougaloo–she graduated at 18–and her academic decisions after she left! She was friends with the Tougaloo Nine, and she told one of my classmates and me the story of what they did and why. She then pointed out Joan Trumpauer, the first white member of Delta Sigma Theta, who she still knows today (and they both live in the DC area), and Anne Moody. Now, my eyes got big when she said Anne Moody because I read her book Coming of Age in Mississippi when I was in junior high, and she’s always been a historical figure in my head–but not a real person. It really means so much to me that those kinds of conversations are commonplace if you’re interested.

Finally, the connections are invaluable. I meet someone new every time I visit the yard, and more often than not, seasoned alumni are happy to give encouragement and advice to students and younger alums. After the TCNAA meeting on Saturday morning, I met Eddie Irions, class of ’60, who is the Memphis chapter president. He told me how he’s revived the Memphis chapter and gave me suggestions on how to meet my goals with the Atlanta chapter. He gave me this quote, that I’ve been chewing on ever since:

Inch by inch, it’s a cinch… By the yard, it’s hard.

Simple, but so resounding because I’m the queen of wanting to get it done NOW. But I’m learning that some things just take time and small steps, and I’m happy that a fellow math graduate took the time to have a 30 minute impromptu conversation with me because he wants to see us succeed.

This is the testimony of an HBCU graduate. Despite the advice of my high school counselors to stay my senior year and see who else offers me money (simple answer–any school to which I would have applied) and the advice of people who thought a 16-year old on campus was a bad idea, I absolutely made the right decision. The time and dedication and effort put into students at HBCUs and maintaining ties to our values while forging ahead with 21st century initiatives (omg, Tougaloo has so much in the works!!) are truly noteworthy. No, HBCUs aren’t perfect, but what institution is? It’s important to keep in mind that it’s not just a place to fill our brains with more information (although Tougaloo, for one, does a very spectacular job doing so, ;))–but it’s also a place to fill our hearts and spirits with motivation, self-confidence, a strong identity, and meaningful connections.

Now, it’s just up to us to support our institutions–it’s up to us to make sure that they maintain viability and that we encourage continued relevance. Alumni giving and community support are imperative to ensuring that our institutions are able to train our children for the world–building and expanding networks, encouraging entrepreneurship, finding more and more avenues for research and innovation, but most of all, providing them with the foundational skills and knowledge that are necessary for critical thought and good decision-making. They’re our schools and our future. As President Bevery Wade Hogan said this weekend:

If the people who know you best don’t invest, why would anyone else?

Let’s make it happen.

Advertisements
MLM – Appreciating the Rain

MLM – Appreciating the Rain

Well, I’ve been dealing with some personal storms, and this morning, this story came to mind.  I posted this on 8-18-2003, and the story actually occurred in 2001.

On my way to work, I kept having the feeling that I left the stove on. So I turned around, and of course, it was not on. Luckily, I wasn’t late for work, but I hope I’m not becoming obsessive/compulsive. My ma says it’s probably just that I am growing up and realizing that I no longer have anyone to check behind me. Anyhow, it reminded me of two summers ago, my first summer in Atlanta, when I had an internship here, and I lived in the graduate apartments at Emory. I didn’t have my car with me in Atlanta, so I would walk to the Marta bus stop and catch the bus to the train and ride the train to my internship. Well, one particular morning, I was running late. It was raining lightly outside and I couldn’t find my umbrella or my hooded windbreaker, which was odd since I didn’t have much to look through. So I decided to walk through the drizzle so I wouldn’t be too late for work. The closer I got to the bus stop, the harder it rained. The whole way I fighting tears and asking the Lord to please let it stop raining until I got on the bus. When I got to the bus stop, it started pouring down. Rain was just beating down on me, and I was so upset that I was standing out there in the rain and that I would look a mess when I got to work. I decided to walk back to my apartment and dry off and start over. During my walk, I kept asking the Lord, “Why would you do that to me?” while crying and trying not to be hysterically upset. I walked back in my apartment completely drenched, and there was my answer… I had left my gas stove on. I immediately apologized to the Lord for doubting Him and started laughing after my heart stopped beating so fast after turning the stove off. What a tragedy it’d been if that gas had stayed on from 8-6… After I started over and got ready again, guess what. It was beautiful outside. And of course, I found my windbreaker under my books and folders in my bag (the one I was digging through as I walked in the rain trying to find something with which to cover up). And my umbrella was where I had left it–beside my desk… Unreal, huh? It’s instances like that one that let me know there is a higher power, and that I am watched over all the time. Well, let me get back to work.

One of my mantras is “perspective.”  Everything happens for a reason, yanno.  Even if it seems horrible or sad or negative now, there’s always a greater purpose that you’ll recognize when you try.  Even when you seem to not have any support or “covering,” God’s always there crafting and managing the situation.

One of my favorite quotes is “Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass… it’s about learning how to dance in the rain.”

And there it is.  Time to put my dancing shoes on.

 

Memory Lane Monday: Honey Bunches of Quotes

Memory Lane Monday: Honey Bunches of Quotes

Yeah, the title is a smidge cheesy, but it’s Monday, and it’s not a manic one so let me have this one.  And it’s time for an old post. 🙂  This one is from 9/16/2003.

A few quotes:

They say love hides behind every corner… I must be walking around in circles.

Love starts with a hug, grows with a kiss, and ends with a tear.

Love is like an hour glass–the brain empties as the heart fills up.

What’s better? A lie that draws a smile or the truth that draws a tear?

Don’t fall for someone who won’t be there to catch you.

Love is like war; easy to begin and hard to end.

Do you believe in love at first sight? Or should I walk by again?

If ignorance is bliss, why aren’t more people happy?

Two wrongs don’t make a right, but three lefts do.

Anything in parenthesis can (not) be ignored.

You don’t have to be faster than the bear, you just have to be faster than the slowest guy running from the bear.

In just two days, tomorrow will be yesterday.

Think of someone of “average” intelligence. Then think half the world is dumber than that.

If a word in the dictionary were misspelled, how would we know?

Ok, ok, ok, I typed more than a few, but I like them. 🙂

Aren’t these still great?  Well, a little cynical, but still at least a little funny.  Here are two more for the road.

It’s true that we don’t know what we’ve got until we lose it, but it’s also true that we don’t know what we’ve been missing until it arrives.

And in the end it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years. -Abraham Lincoln

<<::update:: 1:19 pm::>> I just got a new quote to add!

The issue is keeping the knot tied, not tying it. -R. Brian Gibson

Now ain’t that the truth!