How did you decide on the history major?
I decided to be a history major because I’ve always been captivated by the past. I’m a firm believer that the past reveals information about the present and future. It is interesting to analyze and study how an event or organization that had humble beginnings was able to blossom into something that impacts millions of people today.
Are you minoring or double majoring in anything else? If so, how do the two work together – or separately?
I am currently minoring in African and African American studies. I am fortunate that this minor really complements what I’m working on in history. Seeing that the AFAM minor requirements are essentially all history courses, I am able to double dip a lot between fulfilling my major and minor credits. Also, I love that I am able to take history courses that really interest me. Like most students, they may love their major, but not necessarily every aspect of it. I am certainly not interested in all types of history, however with the minor in African and African American studies, I am able to take classes that really challenge me to think of the past from a perspective I’ve never thought of before.
What have you learned in a history class that really surprised you/changed your perspective?
In my short but vibrant career at Mason, I’ve been immediately “awakened” to the history of those who often don’t get their experiences shared. In my AFAM 200 class first semester of freshman year, I learned about vagrancy and pig laws and how they affected the African American community in the United States. I learned how the very precise and specific wording of the 13th Amendment marginalizes an entire group of people in such a discreet manner, that the majority of adults today simply thinks all the amendment did was abolish slavery in the United States. This semester in my Survey of African History course, I’ve learned about the death of over 10 million African men women and children in the Congo, due to the influence of King Leopold II’s Belgium in the late eighteen and early nineteen hundreds, essentially creating a “Holocaust” that many are never aware of. These experiences have surprised me, but at the same time have challenged me and have helped me grow as a student who is eager for more knowledge, and to reveal truths, identities, and experiences of the past.
Tell us about your dream occupation…
As a first-semester sophomore, it is still very difficult to say for certain what I want to do with my life. I’ve always been interested in getting involved with education. Whether that be as a teacher, administrator, school board official or counselor, the value of youth education has become more and more evident to me the older I get. I’ve also always been very interested in public relations. Any occupation that involves building or enhancing relationships is very possible for my future.
Have you had any internships? Or interesting jobs or volunteer experience? Tell us about it/them.
I have yet to obtain an internship, however, I have spent all semester applying for various opportunities for the 2017 spring and summer terms. I’ve mostly applied for federal government opportunities, however I also plan to apply to positions with the Smithsonian. Through my organization, Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc., I have participated in various volunteer activities including working with underrepresented and less privileged children with the FACETS program, volunteering to speak and give presentations at Sterling Elementary School, giving campus tours and talking about my college experience to Urban Alliance students, raising money for earthquake relief in Haiti, and raising over $1,300 for St. Jude Children’s Hospital.
Any accomplishments you’re proud of? Opportunities you’ve taken advantage of? Brag a little!
One of my biggest accomplishments thus far is receiving George Mason’s Early Identification Program full tuition scholarship. That scholarship is the reason I am able to attend Mason and the reason that I’ve had so many incredible learning opportunities. Looking back on my senior year of high school, I had to sacrifice a lot to even be able to compete for this scholarship. Hard work and dedication proved to prevail when I got the award offer in my email senior year. More recently, I participated in a life-changing history project focused on reconstructing the experiences of the enslaved children of George Mason, with four other undergraduate researchers and two faculty mentors. I delved deep into the legal records of our university namesake, especially his legacy as an owner of adults and children of African descent, and as a Justice of Peace in Fairfax. My investigation of the trial books archived in the Fairfax County Courthouse revealed that George Mason IV tended to avoid legal debates and proceedings involving the acknowledgment of enslaved people as human beings who were born to parents (some cases first noted birth dates of recently landed boys and girls from Africa before describing them as just chattel property). Mason took this approach as other prominent white men with property in colonial Virginia were beginning to think about the abolishment of slavery because it was wrong to deny any people freedom.
Tell us something people would be surprised to know about you.
Most people typically don’t know that I am the son of a teenage mother. My mom gave birth to me on her 14th birthday. Teenage pregnancy is highly frowned upon in today’s society. People often generate preconceived notions about the mother, father, or even the child being born. Automatically, less is expected of the child, the mother is typically shamed, harassed, and looked down upon. I am proud of my mother for the way she has raised me, despite the obstacle she has had to overcome along the way. The sacrifices she’s made, including refusing to accept a math and science scholarship to the College of William and Mary in order to ensure she had a consistent presence in my life, have done nothing but put me in positions to be successful, and I will continue to take full advantage of every opportunity given to me.