ATLANTA (AP) - Students rallied from three of the nation's leading historically black colleges and universities to promote positive images of African-American youth.
More than 300 students from Clark Atlanta University, Morehouse College and Spelman College gathered for "Wells Fargo Presents: My Life, My Story, #MyUntold." The panel discussion was held Tuesday at Clark Atlanta and hosted by actor Terrence J with the hopes of using the platform to affirm positive cultural perceptions.
The Associated Press spoke with Terrence J, who attended an HBCU, and three black students who shared their personal experiences about cultural mischaracterizations.
Before he starred in the "Think Like a Man" movies and became co-anchor of E! News, it wasn't always an easy road for Terrence J. Poor grades out of high school meant schools such as Duke and the University of North Carolina turned him down.
Then North Carolina A&T gave him a chance, starting him on academic probation as a freshman. But by the time he graduated in 2004 with a degree in mass communications, Terrence J finished at the top of his class, served as student government association president and worked as a DJ for the school's radio station.
"People sometimes think HBCU programs are not up to par, and it's just not the case," said Terrence J, former host of BET's popular music video countdown show, "106 & Park." ''Every time I see an applicant at E! for an internship or job, I know they are incredibly qualified. Our programs are up to par. We just need a chance."
ADRAIN A. ARTARY, Clark Atlanta, Junior
Whoever coined the phrase 'a jack of all trades is a master of none,' they never met the 20-year-old Artary.
The sociology major juggles 18 credit hours, studying, working as a tutor, serving as undergraduate SGA vice president and on the school's retention committee while maintaining a 3.71 GPA. He even introduced Terrence J at the panel discussion before heading to his criminology class.
It's all in a day's work for Artary, who sometimes sends his paycheck from tutoring to his mother in Jamaica to ease her financial struggles. Such struggles motivate Artary, who wants to earn an internship with Google.
"From day to day, it's all about remembering what brought you here," said Artary, who earned a scholarship through the United Negro College Fund-administered Gates Millennium Scholars Program.
REID P. MOSS, Spelman, Senior
Moss applauds actresses Kerry Washington, Gabrielle Union and Viola Davis for breaking through in lead TV roles as black women on hit shows.
But the way other African-American women are portrayed in a negative light on several reality TV shows bothers Moss, a 21-year-old major in sociology with a minor in comparative women's studies.
"There are black women who have careers, families and are happy," she said.
So the Philadelphia native created a YouTube channel to highlight successful black women and offer inspirational self-love messages to empower viewers.
Moss is taking screenwriting, production and documentary courses with aspirations of working in the television and film after graduating.
TEMITAYO AGORO, Morehouse, Senior
Coming from Fort Worth, Texas, Agoro says attending Morehouse was more of a cultural blessing than a cultural shock. Back home, he says black men are often viewed as nothing more than entertainers and candidates for sports such as football.
But Agoro, a photojournalist, wants to dispel that perception. The 22-year-old African Studies major and two-sport athlete started his own company, the AUC Cam, a media outlet that captures professional African-American students on campus.
Agoro runs the company with three friends, taking photos of black men and women in business attire. He also catches students taking action on campus, including a recent protest against violence and sexual assault.
When he's not in classes, playing sports or taking photos, Agoro volunteers with inner city youth. He shows them how to work a camera.
"I was able to show them how to shoot with a camera, not a gun."
Follow Jonathan Landrum Jr. on Twitter: http://twitter.com/MrLandrum31. His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/jonathan-landrum-jr