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Black History Month, A Continuous Footprint


Note: This month, the Office of Equity and Diversity will be talking with UTHSC leaders in recognition of Black History Month.

Michael Alston, EdD

Michael Alston, EdD
Assistant Vice Chancellor
Title IX Coordinator
Office of Equity and Diversity

OED: What does Black History Month mean to you? Why is it important?

Dr. Alston: Black History Month is important because it prompts us to heed history as it relates to people, events and achievements of African Americans. This was the intent of Carter G. Woodson as the Father of Black History in highlighting the contributions of African Americans in U.S. history. Throughout my life I remember reading about the lives of Frederick Douglass, George Washington Carver, Booker T. Washington, Marian Anderson, Paul Robeson, Bill Russell, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Jim Brown, Wilma Rudolph, Dianne Carroll, L. Douglas Wilder, Prince, Lani Guinier, Barack Obama, Tarana Burke and many others coupled with the events and achievements connected to each of the referenced individuals. It was awesome to learn about their “lived experiences” through books, lectures and movies, and Black History Month is important to me because it is a continuous footprint no matter how large or small.

OED: Do you have a favorite soul food restaurant in Memphis? What is one of your preferred soul food dishes?

Dr. Alston: The Crock Pot 2 is my favorite soul food restaurant in Memphis/Shelby County, and I do not get there often because it is not healthy to over indulge. The greens, candied yams, cornbread, macaroni and cheese and fried chicken are my top choices. The smothered pork chops and chicken are also good, and my favorite thing to do is mix the candied yams and cornbread together for consumption as my dessert (this is something I did growing up).

The Crock Pot 2 is located at 7911 E Shelby Dr in Memphis.

My favorite dish is freshly cooked turnip greens minus any sugar with some degree of bitterness as it relates to taste. If there is a hint of any sweetness in those turnip greens, I will not eat them. When my father made turnip greens, he would mix kale with them.

OED: Will you share a favorite quote of yours, attributable to a figure in Black History?

Dr. Alston: Yes, the quote is by Audre Lorde. Audre Lorde was a poet as well as a civil rights activist. The quote is “It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.”

OED: Is there a book, movie or author that you would recommend to others to learn more about Black History?

Dr. Alston: Yes, the book titled From Superman to Man by J. A. Rogers. I received my hard cover copy as a gift back in 1993. Once I started reading the 132-page book it was hard to put it down in reference to my first response about why Black History Month is important. I am certain reading From Superman to Man is what made the quote shared by Audre Lorde resonate with me, because everyone brings something to the table.

OED: What is one experience that has shaped the person you are today?

Dr. Alston: Several experiences have shaped me into the person I am today. The most significant experience was the death of our son, Joshua Michael Alston, on June 6, 1996. Joshua passed six days prior to his first birthday at Le Bonheur. It was a devastating time for our family, and as you know grief is a normal part of life that inevitably touches all of us. Through this experience, former colleagues and friends from the University of Tennessee at Martin (UTM) created a campaign to endow the Joshua Michael Alston Memorial Scholarship. We contributed to the campaign to endow the scholarship, and over the years we have met several of the scholarship recipients at UTM. For me this meant slow down and focus on what really matters.