The University of Central Arkansas legacy is rich with black achievers who have paved the way on campus, in their communities and in their fields. In honor of Black History Month, we’re spotlighting members of the campus community who are living black history today. We met with Victoria Mays, volunteer coordinator in UCA’s Division of Outreach & Community Engagement. Mays is also pursuing her Master of Fine Arts in creative writing.
Who is a black figure in your field that you admire? Why?
As a creative writing MFA student, Tayari Jones is an author that I admire. Tayari visited UCA in the fall of 2017. During her visit, I had the opportunity to chauffeur her around town and eat dinner with her. At that time, I had not read any of her books or even heard of her. As a new student, she poured into me and spoke of the importance of creating space for my writing in the midst of the chaos of life and the value of showing up no matter how much it pays. At that moment, I didn’t know of the success that she was about to embark on. A few weeks later, her book “An American Marriage” was selected by Oprah’s Book Club, and it was announced that her novel was going to be made into a movie. Tayari has shown that time and consistency is the key to excelling.
Why do you celebrate black history, and how do you honor black history on campus?
I celebrate black history on campus because it creates a sense of community. It is not every day that people come together to choose to recognize, educate and honor the achievements of black people in any capacity. Coming together allows everyone to learn more about someone successful that they already knew and also about someone they have possibly never heard of.
How would you encourage others on campus to take part in honoring black history?
Some ways that others on campus can take part in honoring black history is by connecting with the community of black people of various backgrounds on the campus. Attend a new black organization meeting and find out how they are making a difference. Attend a black culture event on campus or in the local community. Travel to an African American museum (Mosaic Templars Cultural Center), visit an art gallery (Hearne Fine Art) and/or purchase something from a local black business owner.
I value being a black woman every day of my life. I love my complexion, the kinkiness of my locs and the DNA of my ancestors flowing through me. We can all honor black history by recognizing that our greatness cannot be restricted to one month. By studying the struggle of our own ancestors and other trailblazers who paved the way for us, we can tap into our own strength and who we truly are.
What book, album, film or historical figure would you encourage others in the UCA community to learn more about during Black History Month?
This month, I would encourage the UCA community to learn more about civil rights attorney Bryan Stevenson. Recently, I had the opportunity to watch “Just Mercy,” a film that captures a snippet of Stevenson’s struggle to free a wrongly condemned death row prisoner. Stevenson has truly committed his life to helping create justice for individuals who are not afforded proper representation when it comes to our legal system.
What are ways that we can serve our communities during Black History Month?
One way that we can serve our communities during Black History Month is to get involved with organizations that are fighting inequality and promoting social change. Set your intentions and purpose for getting involved and strive to commit to making service a regular part of your life, whether you decide to give one hour every two weeks or one Saturday a month. Uniting with others to serve over a consistent period of time is one of the ways we begin to enact change.
One opportunity that we are promoting currently is the “Reading is Electric Read-a-Thon” with the Community Action Program for Central Arkansas (CAPCA). Now through March 20, you can help by scheduling a time to visit and read to Early Head Start and Head Start kids. It is vital that we show up for our youth because they are our future and will carry the torch when we no longer can. Also, there are plenty of other opportunities that can be accessed via GivePulse: uca.givepulse.com/search.