As a child, what profession did you envision for yourself when you grew up?
I had no idea what career I wanted as a child; I just knew I wanted to help people. Growing up I imagined that perhaps I would go into business, accumulate a bunch of money, and spend the rest of my life dispersing it. I thought I had to make a lot of money to help people. Morehouse’s liberal arts education taught me that there were a plethora of direct avenues to achieve impact, especially impact for people of color.
What was the most transformative course from your undergraduate education?
My senior year I took a course entitled School Design and Leadership taught by Morehouse Alumnus, Dr. Artesius Miller. Dr. Miller opened Utopian Academy for the Arts, the only currently active charter school in Clayton County, Georgia. Dr. Miller taught the intricacies of opening a school, exemplified through his own experience and those of the many school administrators he brought in to speak to the class. By the end of the semester we had served as mentees of school administrators across Georgia and presented mock drafts of a formal school proposal. This course taught me a specialized knowledge that has prepared me for a career in education and education policy. Dr. Miller’s course complemented my research on education inequality, while also demonstrating an ideal pedagogy, blending readings, conversations, projects, and experiential-learning.
You’re currently a PhD candidate in Sociology at Brown University. What does your research focus on? How have your experiences shaped your work?
My current research is concerned with how the Black working and middle-class negotiate multiple forms of capital (social, cultural and economic). Specifically, I am concerned with the ways social and cultural capital change as the Black middle-class experiences downward mobility. My personal life is closely intertwined with my research. My family grew up straddling the line between working and middle-class. Our social lives were unique in that we were exposed to the lifestyles of middle and upper-middle class folk but often could not afford to participate. As a first-gen college and doctorate student, my social experiences have changed, and I am interested in how people who have transitioned through economic classes make sense of their social relationships and the lifestyles they choose.
You’ve also participated in a number of mentoring programs, both as a mentor and a student. What inspired you to take part in those programs? What has been the most impactful experience for you?
Friends from Morehouse really pushed me to take part in many of the programs I participated in through undergrad. My friend Lewis Miles pushed me to apply to the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship (MMUF), and I finally did my sophomore year. MMUF has been an invaluable resource that has given me great mentorship and even better friends. The most impactful part of Mellon for me was a trip to Cape Town, South Africa. I traveled in Cape Town in January of my junior year and it was my first time abroad. Having an international experience was a pivotal moment that shaped my worldview and the ways I thought about research. Forever indebted to MMUF and Lewis.
What was the best advice you were ever given and who gave it to you?
There was no single piece of advice given to me that I would label as best. Morehouse as a collective has given me the best guidance I have ever received. From professors, alumni, and other students, I learned so many lessons that shaped and changed my life for the better. By graduation, it was amazing to reflect on my academic, but especially my personal and social growth, facilitated by Morehouse. This indescribable feeling is something we describe as the ‘Morehouse Mystique’ and it is what makes the institution imitable. My experiences there are why I advocate so ferociously for HBCU’s like Morehouse.
You were part of the Morehouse College graduating class that had their student loan debt paid by billionaire and philanthropist Robert F. Smith. Has this experience continued to impact you?
Dr. Smith’s gift has, without exaggeration, changed my life. He lifted a weight off the shoulders of 396 men that day that can only be repaid by living lives as free and impactful humans. The gift has allowed me to start saving, begin donating to my alma mater, and establish a healthy financial footing as I progress through adulthood. For my classmates, it has allowed them to take positions in education, the non-profit world, graduate and medical school and healthcare positions that are impactful yet grossly underpaid and underfunded. Without the weight of student-debt, my class has been able to choose careers with the goal of impact and passion, rather than money to repay loans.
Do you think Phi Beta Kappa and a well-rounded, liberal arts and sciences education are important in today’s society?
A liberal arts education is critical in a 21st
century world. Regardless of one’s career trajectory, liberal arts learning imbues the classroom with a subjective meaning that has long been discarded as unimportant. As a sociologist, I recognize the inimitable value of culture, that being art, music, history, food and much more. Exposure to these fields in the humanities and social sciences is critical to producing well-rounded, knowledgeable and compassionate human beings. The value of an organization like Phi Beta Kappa, an exemplary of these ideals, is immeasurable.
What book are you reading right now? Are you listening to any podcasts or watching any shows? Anything you'd recommend?
I am currently reading Just Mercy
by Bryan Stevenson and Blue Chip-Black
by Karyn Lacy. I recently finished An American Marriage
by Tayari Jones which was really amazing. In terms of podcasts I listen to “Let’s Talk Bruh” and "Stuff You Should Know." These are two podcasts that discuss the peculiarities of Black Masculinity and the histories of unique people and events, respectively.