Personal Reflections Highlight Kickoff Event

Arkansas Tech University student Ameil Brown can remember when she felt alone as a minority student in high school.

Then she found her voice, and she used that voice to tell her story during ATU’s 2019 Black History Month kickoff event at Hindsman Tower on Friday, Feb. 1.

“My senior year (in high school) I started watching the media more,” said Brown. “I started seeing how people were portrayed in the news, and I started listening to my peers and the things they would say about what was going on in the news. I was the only black girl in my class, so I was kind of like the outcast, but I would speak up when something was said. I realized this is something that I am very passionate about. I realized I am very pro-black and that I live for this type of stuff.”

That awakening caused Brown, who grew up in Dardanelle, to consider attending one of the institutions categorized as Historically Black College and Universities (HBCU), but her family convinced her that ATU would be a better fit.

“Surprisingly enough, I was around more black people here than I’d ever been around my entire life,” said Brown. “I went to this informational meeting for Zeta Phi Beta sorority, and I was like, oh my goodness, this is everything I ever dreamed of. They stand for everything I want to be. Next thing you know, I am the president, and the next thing you know we have three members with more to come. My child is 5 now, and she mimics everything that I ever do. I need her to have a real role model. Zeta was my first way of providing that role model image for her. I started taking more initiative. Anytime a question was asked in class, I would answer. If anything related back to black issues, I was going to speak up in class. I gained a lot of respect from my peers here at Tech. Professors took notice of me, and I have references now. I started taking every opportunity that was presented to me.”

As a result, Brown has gained membership in the National Society for Leadership and Success chapter at ATU and she is applying to serve on the ATU Presidential Leadership Cabinet during the 2019-20 academic year.

“Where you start is not where you have to end,” said Brown, who is majoring in broadcast journalism and shared during her remarks that she wants to spotlight the untold stories of black people during her career. “The way you want to go is up to you.”

Dr. Alaric Williams, associate professor of college student personnel and interim head of the ATU Department of College Student Personnel, also shared a personal reflection during the ATU Black History Month kickoff event. He recalled that as he went through his academic career, he heard doubts based upon his rural roots and his ethnicity.

He used those doubts as fuel.

“I remember going to college, and I didn’t mind sharing where I was from,” said Williams. “It was a small town with 1,300 people, and someone had heard of Stamps. They said ‘you know, there’s nothing really good that comes out of southwest Arkansas.’ I shared that with my mom and dad, and they told me to continue proving them wrong. That’s basically what I’ve done for the majority of my life…make a personal statement of proving people wrong. I decided to pursue a doctorate degree, and an individual told me ‘people who look like you don’t get doctorate degrees.’ You know me…called mom and dad and shared that with them. Mom said ‘what have I told you your entire life? You prove them wrong.’ That’s what I’ve done, but at the same time, they told me that while I was proving people wrong to continue paying it forward. That’s what I’ve tried to do with my life and with my children.

“This is a month of pride and celebration,” continued Williams. “We look at all of the individuals who have paved the way for us, but for me, I make it a little more personal. I look at my mom and dad and my grandparents. Being the only one in my family to make it this far in my education, I can say I proved the naysayers wrong. My challenge for you not only this month, but every month, is to pave the way for others.”

Dr. Danielle Brooks, assistant dean for diversity and inclusion at ATU, used her remarks at the kickoff event to share examples of triumphs among the African American community and the challenges that people of color faced and continue to face in America.

“But the darkness and the pain of my people’s history won’t stop the light of our future,” said Brooks. “Since those times, we have come a very long way, and we still have a very long way to go. On January 15, just a few weeks ago, all colors, creeds and beliefs marched together, right here on this campus, to commemorate what (Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.) stood for. That was a testament of progress. The fact that there are college students of color is progress. That fact that there are college graduates of color…that’s progress. The fact that ATU has in existence a Department of Diversity and Inclusion is definitely progress.

“I welcome and encourage you all to keep making the progress and keep making change,” continued Brooks. “Keep standing for not only equality, but for equity. Keep being a voice for those who either don’t have one or who have been silenced. We hope you all continue to come to our exciting events we have in store for Black History Month, and we hope you all are compelled by them to keep the progress going.”

Black History Month events for ATU students will include an excursion to the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tenn., on Wednesday, Feb. 13, and a soul food dinner from 6-8 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 20, in the W.O. Young Building Ballroom.

The month will culminate with an ATU Black History Month keynote address delivered by David Banner at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 27, in Witherspoon Auditorium. Banner is a rapper, record producer, actor, activist and philanthropist who was born in Brookhaven, Miss., and raised in Jackson, Miss.

Visit to learn more about the ATU Department of Diversity and Inclusion.