Friday November 11, 2016

Student Profile: Darius Beckham

University of Dayton sophomore Darius Beckham is an accomplished public speaker and writer who is also a 2019 Dayton Civic Scholar. The Dayton native and political science major hopes to one day make a lasting impact on the University and the city of Dayton.

You spoke at the Visual Voices conference in January at the Schuster Center in Dayton. What did you talk about and why?

I spoke about the subject of the black family and the plight of black men, women and children in America. It was a great experience and gave me exposure as a speaker. It also allowed me to represent the University of Dayton while engaging the city I call home. I presented an original poem at the conference, specifically about my mother’s childhood. The poem outlines the violence that devastated her youth. It’s a narration of some of the difficult events that she went through as a child, which really speaks to the violence that destroys black families.

You also spoke at the Colors of Leadership conference in April on campus. What was your message to UD students?

My favorite quote is “Life isn’t about finding yourself, life is about creating yourself” by George Bernard Shaw. My message to people at most conferences is first find yourself and then focus on what you want to do with what you find. I tie it to the idea of baking a cake. If you wanted to bake a cake, obviously there are necessary steps you have to go through. But you can't really make the cake until you find the ingredients. Looking at life in a different context, once you find yourself you then have to make something out of who you find. 

Who influences you as a public speaker and writer?

Martin Luther King Jr. I’ve read his autobiography, I have a lifesize mural of him in my room, I love replaying his speeches. I idolize him. A lot of people like to think of him just in the context of the black community, but America did not build a monument of him simply for what he did for African-Americans but for what he did for all Americans. 

What would you say your three biggest passions are?

Public speaking, writing and reading. You cannot be a knowledgeable speaker if you’re not a well-read person.

What made you start your blog on the website Medium. How do you go about picking topics?

When I discovered Medium, I saw it as a way to professionally convey my ideas and my thoughts in a setting where everyone would have access to them. Before I speak or write about anything, I look at my life. I take a step back, a step outside myself and look at where I am, what I’m thinking, what’s going on around me and I utilize that moment to think deeply about what I could say to myself. Almost everything I write, although other people will read it, is initially a message to myself. How can I say something that will resonate for someone else if I can’t really encourage or teach myself first? I just hope that other people will be able to get something from it too. I don't like to limit myself on topics, so I'll write about anything that strikes me at that moment.

Tell me about your latest article, “Has Post-Blackness Individualized the Movement?”  What is your view on the matter?

My question/concern is "What are we doing to make things better for ourselves?" One thing I made clear in the article is that I am not by any means attacking those who have contributed to the Black Lives Matter movement. I am making an honest critique; the movement is polarizing. A movement such as Black Lives Matter can be manipulated by those who don’t understand its mission, to sound like it’s against other races or against the police. I think it should be a moral movement, rather than a black movement. Police brutality toward black people is an American problem, one that has a long and troubling history. At the end of the day, the movement is going to be focused on injustices to black people in this country. At the same time we can’t really make progress or we can’t help ourselves without other people helping us help ourselves. 

Through speaking engagements and your blog, how have your messages been received? How do you want them to be received? 

They’ve been received fairly well. I'm always open for questions. I’m just a sophomore in college. I certainly do not have all the answers. I’ve only learned so much thus far. I write with the intent to educate both myself and others. I want people to read or hear my words with an open mind. I hope people are able to receive my words with curiosity so that we could possibly have a dialogue afterwards. 

The mission of Dayton Civic Scholars is to become civic professionals and citizen leaders through sustained interdisciplinary civic engagement and scholarship with a focus on the City of Dayton. Would you say being a member of Dayton Civic Scholars helps prepare you for the future?

Whatever my future looks like, I think Dayton Civic Scholars helps prepare me for it. I was born and raised in Dayton and my intent in joining the Dayton Civic Scholars was to give back. I wanted to not only represent UD but also myself as a kid from Dayton — a kid who has a connection to this city. Dayton Civic Scholars really provides me with the opportunity to step off campus and interact with everyday people that live in Dayton and be of service to them. 

What are your plans after graduation? What do you want to pursue? 

I’ve considered attending law school and becoming a civil rights lawyer. I strongly want to make things better for people who need hope. I want to be an encouraging voice for those who need representation.

- Dawnn Fann '19

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