Black Mizzou Alum: 'Missouri Has a Lot of Work to Do'

Aris Williams reflects on the challenges of being a Black student at the school's prestigious J-school.

As told to Calvin Stovall
When I was deciding what school to go to, Mizzou sold me on being the No. 1 journalism school in the nation — meaning, this school is highly selective on who they let in and that by having this school on my resume in the media and entertainment field I'd be seen as a GEM. Also, being from St. Louis, this is pretty much our big state school. 

I was offered a diversity scholarship, and I thought that was pretty cool. Once I got to campus I realized Blacks only made up about 7 percent of the university. That was a shocker! 

Still, we had a Black student union, a Black homecoming, and rather than join the Golden Girls, which was the cheerleading/dance team for the school, I started my own because I didn't quite fit the "look" for the Golden Girls.

I faced many obstacles on campus, but I took advantage of the fact that it allowed me to create. I formed the Main Attraction dance team, where we focused on technique. We wanted to show that campus Black girls don't just dance to hip hop. 

We ordered uniforms, got team shirts and did team bonding. Main Attraction was the only dance team to have girls of every race. It was not just a Black dance team; we had white, Asian, Hispanic and Black girls. 

I also created a radio channel. We didn't have an urban radio show in Columbia, so I started "Damn Good Jams," where I would play the latest in hip hop and R&B.

I faced issues when it came to having the things I needed for my show. We weren't allowed to promote our show the way others did. I didn't trip off of it, I thought maybe I am over-thinking. I noticed differences but didn't speak up about them.

In classes I would oftentimes be the only Black girl. In huge lectures, I'd see about three or four other Blacks. I minored in African-American studies because that's the first time I had seen a school focus on that. I grew up in Florissant, Missouri. My school as a kid was majority white. Then Blacks start moving in and whites moving out.
Missouri in general has a lot of work to do.
Aris is an account coordinator at a media agency in New York City. Previously she worked for Universal Music Group, Monami Entertainment, & Sean Combs Agency - The Blue Flame Agency since graduating from Mizzou. Aris blogs at
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(Photo: Aris Williams)

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