No matter who you are, the past year has been one of critical change, challenge, and reevaluation as we all have had to contend with the stress and strife of a global pandemic, toxic political climate, enduring racism, and yes, continuing to manage our day-to-day lives. Here at the Mary Lou Williams Center for Black Culture, we have also been facing our fair share of transformative trials. Over the summer of 2020, our beloved Office Coordinator, Roslyn “Ms. Roz” Mickens retired after being the face of our center for seven wonderful years. Just last month, Chandra Guinn, our visionary director for 15 years, transitioned out of her role to become the Executive Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at the advertising agency McKinney. To top off this time of change, our phenomenal Student Development Coordinator, Brie Starks, is leaving her position effective February 11th to pursue an amazing opportunity working in anti-racist education with local organization we are. The Mary Lou is all the better for the innumerable contributions of this team, and the legacy will be with us as we step forward into the new chapter of our life at Duke. And, pray tell, what does this life look like?
Currently at the helm of the Mary Lou Williams Center is our Interim Director, Quinton “Q.” Smith, and you may be currently asking yourself, “…who is that?!?” Well, Q. is in his 5th year at Duke, and had been serving as the Assistant Director for the center over the last year taking on many of the assessment and training duties of the space, as well as collaborating with campus partners. Q. is also a social worker, and is currently in his 3rd year in a PhD program with a passion for racial identity, cultural wealth, and the well-being of Black students. While Q. is taking the lead as the center is planning for its next steps, he will not be doing it alone. Helping him out this semester is Ann El, a Staff Assistant coming to us from Housing and Residential Life, three undergraduate assistants (Cartier Robinson ’21, Johnna Lambert ’21, and Jada Purkett ’24), as well as one graduate assistant (Parker Martin, MPP ’21).
This semester, the new Team Mary Lou will be curating a number of campus events for Black History Month, and planning for some of the staple spring programs, like BSAI, the Abele Awards, and Final Honors. The team will also be looking at ways to address the importance of Black mental health throughout the semester, connect and partner with more student groups, build stronger relationships with centers, departments, administrators, and faculty members across campus, and chart a path forward for the future of the Mary Lou. To stay up to date on what’s going on, be sure to follow us on Instagram, @mlwcenter, and if you would like to connect with the center to find out more or volunteer, email Q: firstname.lastname@example.org.