Opening Convocation speaker advises students to 'listen and learn'

HAMPTON, VA – Graduating seniors waited for their final Convocation Sunday at Hampton University. The weather, clear and sunny, seemed as bright as their futures.

When the school marshals finally gave the signal they marched in single file to Ogden Hall, the intimate auditorium that held so many memories.

There Hampton alumnus, healthcare pharmaceutical strategist and co-founder of #HamptonNation, Calvin L. Butts Jr. delivered his keynote address. Butts shared three points with students.

Hard work is never enough. Never settle and be comfortable. Always keep working, Butts said.

Butts has studied university president William R. Harvey's business tactics and advice, which has helped shape Butts to become the leader he is today. Butts was inducted last year to Hampton University's inaugural Alumni Forty Under 40 because of his continuous hard work and determination.

"The person next to you is working hard too. You must be creative and show the world that you are different," he told the students.

Although Butts urged students to work harder than the people around them, he also believes networking is just as important.

"Partnership can be valuable if you choose the right people, but you guys don't have to worry about that here at Hampton," Butts said.

Butts said he relied on those relationships in order to succeed after graduation. One of his many successful LLC's is profitable because he partnered with a former classmate who he viewed as friendly competition.

Butts chose to attend Hampton University because of the people he could meet here. He was convinced to attend after he saw his name on an envelope pasted on the window of the Administration building. When he opened it, he saw that he had been accepted and knew immediately he would accept.

Some seniors in the audience were inspired by Mr. Butts' success.

"One day I will own a real estate agency and hopefully deliver the keynote address at a opening convocation ceremony like Mr. Butts did earlier on today, " said senior finance major Gerald Campbell.

Finally, Butts urged students to listen and learn.

"Listen to your peers like you have to listen to your wife when she is speaking," Butts said. "If you find something you are good at, keep trying to be your best at it."

Some students took Butts' advice to heart.

"Patience, persistence and perspiration make an unbeatable combination for success," said graduate student Brandon Meekins.

The writer is a student in the Scripps Howard School of Journalism and Communications.

From the 757 to the NFL and back again

Story and Photo by Butch Maier

There are those who floor it on their way out of town.

No looking back. Not even a split-second glimpse at the rearview mirror.

Then there are those who could not look themselves in the mirror if they turned their backs on the places where they grew up.

"From the 757 to the NFL," a July 13 panel at Hampton University's Scripps Howard School of Journalism and Communications, might as well have been called "From the 757 to the NFL and back to the 757."

Three prominent pro football names from the Hampton Roads area code – Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, former Atlanta Falcons and Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Mike Vick, and former New Orleans Saints quarterback Aaron Brooks – returned to share stories and words of wisdom for area high school football players. Pictured here: From left, Aaron Brooks, Mike Tomlin and Mike Vick.

NFL writer Jason Reid of The Undefeated, an ESPN-run website, moderated the 90-minute-long, live-streamed event at the Scripps Howard Auditorium.

Tomlin was born in Hampton and attended Denbigh High in Newport News. Vick and Brooks are cousins from Newport News. Vick starred at Warwick High after Brooks made his mark at Ferguson High.

The three have not lost sight of their origins.

"It's as simple as paying it forward for me," Tomlin said. "I love this place. I'll always come back here. It's an awesome feeling to see that 757 guy."

He pointed to dozens of teens in high school jerseys and added, "I can't wait to see you guys."

The impact of football on Tomlin's life can't be understated.

"It was a vehicle for me and I'm sure for all of us to get out, get educated, do productive things and stay off the streets," he said.

Brooks faced similar circumstances. He seeks to offer hope and encouragement to others.

"There were strong challenges, but we prevailed," he said, mentioning his early housing struggles.

Vick will be inducted into the Virginia Tech Sports Hall of Fame in September. It seems astonishing now, but when he left the 757 for Blacksburg, it took time for him to adjust to the college game.

"I really didn't know if I could play college football for four or five months," said Vick, who finished third in the Heisman voting as a redshirt freshman in 1999 and sixth during an injury-marred sophomore season. "There were times early in my career when I wanted to pack up and come home."

Brooks, who starred at the University of Virginia, had no such learning curve upon his arrival in Charlottesville.

"The competition I experienced in the 757?" Brooks said. "I felt like I owned the campus."

He went on to own the distinction of being the quarterback who led the Saints to their first playoff victory, defeating the defending Super Bowl champion St. Louis Rams in 2000.

There is one distinction Brooks could do without.

Reid asked the panel if society would ever stop viewing quarterbacks who happen to be African American – such as Vick and Brooks – as "black quarterbacks" and view them simply as "quarterbacks."

"I would hope so, but until that day comes, I think it's going to be difficult for white America to accept us," Brooks said. "We don't run around saying we are a 'black quarterback.' ... It's just a stigma that's been placed on us that has been very hard to shake."

As a Pro Bowl QB, Vick had no difficulty shaking defenders early in his career.

What advice did he have for those looking to follow in his footsteps on the field?

"At the end of the day, you just have to chase greatness," Vick said. "Either you want it or you don't.

"Everything's not going to be perfect. Everything's not going to go your way." For Vick, who served 18 months in federal prison for his role in a dogfighting operation, setbacks on the field also were educational.

"Through the losses, I found out how much I truly loved the game," he said. Vick was NFL Comeback Player of the Year with the Eagles and was thankful Tomlin brought him to Pittsburgh for the final season of his career.

That was several years after the coach tried to persuade Brooks to join the Steelers.

Tomlin told him, "You'll be with a great family."

Brooks, who had children by this point, responded, "I know, but I've got my own family."

Still, Tomlin had to ask.

"I'm unashamed about my affinity for guys from the area," the coach said. "Just knowing where they are from, what they are about. There's a hardening, just being from this place."

There also are hard times for NFL coaches. Even ones with stellar records. Such as the time last season when three-time All-Pro receiver Antonio Brown live-streamed Tomlin's locker room speech on social media.

Reid mentioned how that's not an easy situation.

"It's not," Tomlin said. "But I'm not gonna trade him."

Laughter filled the Scripps Howard Auditorium.

Reid also brought up how Tomlin has been called just a "rah-rah" head coach – even after a Super Bowl title and a second conference championship.

Unfair criticism?

"It is, but not unexpected," Tomlin said. "We're compensated to be judged – even unfairly." Tomlin added that "it's tougher on my mom than it is me. I've had to convince her not to call in and represent me on talk shows."

Hampton University President William Harvey kiddingly asked Tomlin why he didn't follow in his father's footsteps at Hampton – opting instead to star as a receiver at William & Mary.

That still didn't keep Dr. Harvey and the university from presenting Tomlin with a framed honorary HU jersey to match ones given to Vick and Brooks.

How's that for a welcome-home gift?

Hampton U. film fest focuses on African-American identity

By Destin McMurray

On Thursday, Hampton University will hold its first annual Film Festival from April 6-7. The School of Liberal Arts is the host.

The inaugural festival was launched last year. During this week's festival there will be film screenings and panel discussions that focus on the complexities of African-American identity.

Two well-known Hampton University alumni from within the film industry are to be reunited during this festival. Robi Reed, an Emmy award-winning casting director/producer/vice president, president of talent and casting and original programming at BET, graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in speech communication and theater. Ruth Carter is an Emmy-award winning and two-time Academy Award-nominated costume designer who also graduated from Hampton. Her most recent work will debut in Marvel studio's "Black Panther" movie.

"I'm both excited and inspired by this year's film festival," said Trayonna Hendricks, a senior journalism major from Chesapeake, Virginia. "With our theme being 'From Hampton to Hollywood' I can't help but see myself in the guests and panelists."

At 10 a.m. the film festival opened with a screening of "Tanna."

The writer is a student in the Scripps Howard School of Journalism and Communications.

Michael Eric Dyson Returns to Hampton U. for Obama book read-in

By Kiana-Alexis Salley

The Hampton University School of Liberal Arts and Education invited Michael Eric Dyson, Ph.D., to present his book "The Black Presidency: Barack Obama and the Politics of Race in America" as the selection for the 2017 university read-in. The event is Wednesday, March 22 in Ogden Hall.

The opening 6 p.m. session will be a discussion with Dyson and a Q&A opportunity about the reading. This event is free and open for the public.

The book touches upon how former president-elect Barack Obama's biracial ethnicity affected not only his presidency and the nation's identity, but his accomplishments and successes through his two terms. As Dyson sheds light on the black power structure and racial division, the book emphasizes the "damning indictment of our quest for real democracy and true justice."

As some anticipate their first read-in of the semester, others are familiar with Hampton U. tradition. Shonda Buchanan, assistant professor and former chairman of the Department of English and Modern Foreign Languages, has attended all read-ins since 2004 and finds that this event "creates an important discourse that needs to be had for this campus' population as it illuminates issues of cultures and politics." She awaits what she calls the "informative, dynamic, and fun" experience.

Differing from previous HU read-ins, it is a surprise that a non-fiction book was offered this season. Other read-ins have featured fictional works from other authors.

There is to be a re-order of more copies of "The Black Presidency" to the William R. Harvey Library on campus during the week of the event for students, faculty, and staff members.

Dyson is a Detroit native, but is no stranger to Hampton's campus. Last May, Dyson was the commencement speaker. Dyson earned his BA at Carson-Newman College, and his MA and Ph.D. in religious studies at Princeton University.

As a two-time award winner for the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work in non-fiction in 2004 and 2006, his foundation of analyzing the socio-economic status of the African-American community and their roles within the government has educated people across the globe.

For more information regarding the Read-in and discussion, call 757-727-5421.

Blacks in STEM: ‘Why can’t we just be diamonds?’

By Atira Kennedy

In a society that debates the value of HBCU's -- Historically Black Colleges and Universities -- these institutions generate the most STEM graduates, Claudia Rankins of the National Science Foundation said Thursday March 16 at Hampton University's Black Family Conference.

Rankins, Ph.D. and former Hampton U. School of Science dean, said HBCUs produced twice as many Science, Technology, Engineering and Math bachelor degrees per 1,000 students than so-called predominantly white institutions [PWIs] in 2014.

"HBCUs were and always are at the forefront of social justice," she said. "HBCUs overproduce in engineering degrees."

With only 15 accredited engineering departments at HBCUs, Rankins said here focus has been geared toward the success and development of the programs. To assist, the NSF began a "GEAR UP Program" that is very popular at Howard University. The students accepted into the program spend 10 weeks abroad learning different aspects of science and engineering.

Other programs include the "Hampton Nano Club" and the "REU Program" (Research Experience for Undergrads). Each program provides the eligible students with money towards their schooling such as $34,000 stipends, and $5,000 for summer training work. An additional $12,000 allowance goes towards the student's school. This 10-week paid internship program is offered to majors in the STEM fields and the social sciences.

Back in the late 1800s said Rankins, HBCUs opened its doors to anyone, including women and Native Americans. HBCU's were and still are at the forefront of social justice and change, said the speaker. HBCUs – 107 institutions – compromise about 3 percent of the nation's higher learning and in 2014, said Rankins, they enrolled about 9 percent of all African-American undergraduate students.

Many non-HBCUs collect funding from the government and additional help from other sources, so Rankins turned the attention to the schools in need. "Diversity helps the community," said Rankins. She believes that every student that attends an HBCU should be provided with the same opportunities and resources as other colleges and universities, especially because of their value and quality. She is willing to put forth the additional effort to make new opportunities available for students who have open minds to accept them.

"Why do we have to be diamonds in the rough," said Rankins, "why can't we just be diamonds?"

Kelsey Crimiel and Kaelyn Lowe contributed to this report. The writers are students in the Scripps Howard School of Journalism and Communications.

STEM mentor Isaiah Warner of LSU to close Black Family Conference

By Timia Whitsey

Hampton University's 39th annual Black Family Conference is set to end on Friday, March 17, but not without a bang. The conference aims to celebrate the many achievements of black families and explore the developments that have propelled the families' progression in society.

At 9 a.m., the final day of activities will consist of a student research symposium poster session led by the School of Engineering and Technology, a talent show and a luncheon featuring closing keynote speaker, Isaiah Warner, Ph.D.

Warner is a Howard Hughes Medical Institute professor dedicated to engaging undergraduate students in science. He currently serves as a professor at Louisiana State University and was recently named the 2016 Southeastern Conference Professor of the Year. Warner's determination to help students reach their full potential just as others did for him during his childhood drove him to not only teach, but also pioneer a mentoring program for first-year science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) students.

"At points in my life when I've been in a quandary, there have been people showing me the way, and without them I wouldn't be where I am today," said Warner.

To continue the legacy of mentorship that essentially birthed Isaiah Warner's career and love for science, he designed his program to ensure that it comes full circle. After STEM students receive assistance in their studies, they are expected to guide other students in need.

Warner's impact reaches more than just his own students. His devotion to the youth makes him fit to share his teachings with aspiring scientists across the country.

In fact, some of Hampton U.'s own STEM majors anticipate Warner's appearance at Friday's luncheon and appreciate the time that he set aside to impose his wisdom on students.

"It's great that Isaiah Warner is coming to speak at the Black Family Conference," said Brian Hicks of New Orleans, who is in 5th year of the 6-year pharmacy program. "It means a lot to me that he cares enough about our future enough to come talk to us."

Through workshops, dialogue and entertainment, the Black Family Conference intends to help individuals gain life-changing knowledge that will improve the community.

Friday's series of events and closing speaker serve as the cherry on top of an inspiring and informative 3-day event.

The student is a writer in the Scripps Howard School of Journalism and Communications.

Limb regeneration doctor inspires students at Hampton U. confab

By Montana S. Crider

Hampton University is hosting its 39th annual Conference on the Black Family from Wednesday, March 15 to Friday, March 17. This year's conference seeks to explore the developments of technology and increase public recognition of how technology affects us all and the generations to come. The theme, "Design 101: Black Families Rising Up!" will acknowledge attributes, the work and research done by African-Americans in the STEM fields -- science, technology, engineering and mathematics -- along with Hampton students.

The opening ceremony took place at 7 p.m. Wednesday in Ogden Hall, with Cato Laurencin as the keynote speaker. Laurencin is an expert in limb regeneration research, and serves as a professor at the University of Connecticut.

Once serving as dean of U. Conn's School of Medicine and the vice president for Health Affairs at the university from 2008 to 2011, he has currently taken on more roles as the chief executive officer of the Connecticut Institute for Clinical and Translational Science, the director of the Institute for Regenerative Engineering, and the director of the Raymond and Beverly Sackler Center for Biomedical, Biological, Physical, and Engineering Sciences at the University of Connecticut.

Laurencin is one of only three practicing orthopedic surgeons in the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, and was the first Orthopedic Surgeon to achieve University Professor level rank in the country, according to his biography on the U. Conn website.

"Science, engineering, and technology are fields where most African-Americans feel they do not belong or will not strive well, so to see a black man who has held his head high through times where he may have been shot down is inspiring," said Gibril Ghee, a sophomore kinesiology major from Atlanta.

"I am a biology major, hoping to go into dental, but it is harder to stay afloat when there are not many people on your side once you get into the real world," said Lauren Brown, a sophomore biology major from Burlington, North Carolina.

Laurencin, and many people like him, are changing and opening a path for students of color. His achievements give students of color hope, and encourages them to set forth on a path that many do not think is for them.

Hampton University's Conference on the Black Family shed lights on families and individuals who make a change and inspire those who wish to follow their path. "I hope to meet more and more people like Laurencin because they are such an inspiration, even for me, an accounting major," said Morgan Harris, a junior from Hartford, Connecticut.

The student is a writer in the Scripps Howard School of Journalism and Communications.

Hampton U. forum on “Birth of a Nation” movie

By Roger Wynn

A panel discussion on the 2016 film "The Birth of a Nation" is scheduled for 6 p.m. Thursday at the William R. and Norma B. Harvey Library of Hampton University. The panelists will discuss if the film successfully portrayed the insurrection of Nat Turner.

Last October, the movie "The Birth of a Nation," co-written, co-produced and directed by Nate Parker, was a period drama film based on the insurrection of Nat Turner that took place in Southampton County, Virginia. The movie attracted a massive amount of attention due to not only accolades at the Sundance Film Festival and NAACP Image Awards, but because of accusations of rape that were made against Parker and co-writer Jean McGianni Celestin.

In 1999, Parker, who was a wrestler and student at Penn State University, and Celestin, who was Parker's roommate at the time, were charged with raping an 18-year-old female in their apartment after a night of drinking. Parker was found not guilty because he and the victim had consensual sex prior to the incident. However, Celestin was convicted and sentenced to six months in prison.

The incident brought a negative outlook on both Parker and the film.

In 2012, the woman who accused Parker and Celestin of sexual-assault committed suicide. The victim's death certificate noted that she had suffered from major depressive disorder with psychotic features, including PTSD, due to physical and sexual abuse and poly-substance abuse. These incidents relating to Parker complicated the marketing plan for the film.

"A movie that was supposed to be about our history gets shot down because of the scandal of the director/actor," said Simone Williams, 20, a strategic communications major from North Carolina. Simone believed without the rape controversy, the movie could have been successful at properly illustrating that 19th-century event.

Some people believe that Parker's film was purely overshadowed by his past allegations and took away from its significance. "I think people wanted a reason to not take it seriously and bringing up that guy's old rape charges kind of took away from the real message of the movie," said Kennerly Benraty, 21, a pre-law major from Portsmouth, Virginia. Kennerly believes "The Birth of a Nation" could have had an impact on culture in general considering the historical significance the film brought the world: "I think it made a lot of people go back and watch the original 'Birth of a Nation,' which turned a lot of heads."

Some people who watched the Nat Turner biopic may not even be aware of who Nate Parker was or his past conflicts, but do feel as if the movie could have done a better job at portraying this specific time in history.

"I feel like '12 Years of Slave' did a better job at reflecting slavery in a vivid way," said Alexis Clark, 22, a senior kinesiology major from Portsmouth, Virginia.

Clark also said that the insurrection of Nat Turner was such an important period in time for African-American culture because it was the start of a new beginning. However, she also believes that people were not fond of the movie because it was based on history: "America lives in fantasy. History is fact-based. If the core of that movie was about a slave revolt started by a mutant or vampire, it would have made 10 times the money and attention."

More questions and discussions about the success of the film will be open to the Hampton University campus at 6 p.m. Thursday during the panel "Black History in the Commonwealth: The History of Nat Turner, Did Hollywood Get It Right?" The panelists will include Bruce Turner, Bill Bryant, Booker T. Mattison and Robert Watson.

The writer is a student in the Scripps Howard School of Journalism and Communications.

Ballers: Howard vs. Hampton equals extra effort

Story by Nia Little

"Who is the real HU," you might ask? Well, the Hampton University women's and men's basketball teams take on Howard University Saturday at 4 and 6 p.m. at Hampton University's Convocation Center. Students and alumni from Howard, Hampton and nearby universities attend each year.

Cheerleading teams and dance teams prepare to entertain the crowd. Like other collegiate sports, cheerleaders practice throughout the week to prepare for upcoming games.

Diamond Broughton, a sophomore strategic communications major and member of the Blue Thunder cheerleading, squad says "Practice is more fun because we get to come up with new material to show off."

In the past, cheerleading teams would prepare new material for the larger crowd and possible cheer battles. A Hampton vs. Howard cheer battle video went viral during football season last fall.

Rivalry games like the visiting Bison vs. the Pirates are far more intense compared to other games during the season.

Said Broughton, "We put a little extra 'umph' into our appearance and performance."

Rival games are more than a battle between basketball teams, they give cheerleaders a chance to battle other squads and score points of their own.

"Other games, we usually don't have anyone to cheer against," said Broughton. "Most people don't realize cheerleaders have their own secret game going on, on the sideline."

What's a basketball game without a crowd? Students who do not regularly attend Hampton home basketball games plan to attend this one. "At games like this, the band plays new music, the cheerleaders are intense, and the crowd is more involved" said sophomore pharmacy major Tyra Smith.

Tristin Davis, a biology major from Memphis, Tennessee, plans to put on his best weekend outfit – a nice pair of jeans and a T-shirt and Nike Jordans – and hang out with friends in preparation for game time.

It is safe to say that the cheerleading team's hard work doesn't go unnoticed. There should be more attendees, dressed to impress at this week's game.

The Blue Thunder cheerleading team members said they are ready for this week's rivalry. Watch the cheerleaders live in action Saturday. Tickets can be purchased at ticketmaster.com.

The writer is a student in the Scripps Howard School of Journalism and Communications.

Founders Day speaker found her calling at Hampton U.

By India Anderson

Hampton University and Mass Media Arts alumna Allison Seymour will be a guest speaker at Sunday's Founder's Day.

The accomplished Scripps Howard School of Journalism and Communications Hall of Famer said she was overwhelmed with excitement to come back and share her words of wisdom with Hampton University students. Seymour said she intends to encourage and remind students to let their lives do the singing like the words of the alma mater.

Now working with Fox 5 News, Washington, and with 28 years of television experience under your belt, Seymour understands that success takes patience.

After four great years of enjoying the waterfront, joining the Gamma Iota Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta, and feeding her passion for television in the former mass media arts program inside Armstrong Hall, Seymour graduated from Hampton in 1988.

Seymour started her television career at ABC News Washington Bureau and worked behind the scenes as a production assistant and desk assistant. She then decided to continue her educational journey at the University of South Carolina at Columbia. After receiving her Master's of Mass Communication, Seymour worked as a production assistant and a writer for a local news station.

After her first on-air job at WUTR-TV in Utica, New York. Seymour moved to WBNG-TV in Binghamton, New York and became the main anchor at the station. In Hamptonian style she made history and became the first women to be the main anchor at the station.

"My four years has lasted me 28 years," said Seymour when asked how Hampton University has had an impact on her career.

In 1999, she joined WTTG-TV [Fox 5] and never looked back. Hired as a general assignment reporter and midday anchor, she kept pushing her way up the Fox News ladder.

In 2007, the D.C. metro area native became main anchor at Channel 5 on "Fox 5 News Morning and" and "Good Day D.C."

Reflecting her accomplishments and where she is today, Seymour said, "The confidence I gained at Hampton helps me everyday."

Due to to her hard work and dedication to television, she was inducted in the Scripps Howard School of Journalism Hall of Fame in 2012.

"One of my proudest moments thus far," said Seymour.

Over time, her show expanded from a three-and-a half hour show to six hours and 35 minutes show. Seymour said she is proud of everything the show has become.

Now, the married mother of the three has built a supporting viewer base at WTTG-TV. She is honored to be in the anchor chair reporting on events that shape the lives of people in the D.C. community.

As her journey in television continues, Seymour still acknowledges Hampton University as the place where she found herself. "Because of Hampton, I have a better sense of who I am, where I belong, and my overall worth." she said.

On Sunday she intends to speak to the driven students of Hampton, pushing them towards their goals and dreams and reminding, as she reminds herself, to let their lives do the singing.

The writer is a student in the Scripps Howard School of Journalism and Communications.

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