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Malika Imhotep '15

African and Afro-American Studies

Greetings faculty, staff, new UDRs, returning UDRs and those of us who are graduating!

It’s an honor to be speaking to you today as one of 2015’s outstanding UDRs. Representing the African and Afro-American Studies department has been a labor of love. Not always the warm love of family (while there is and will always be a lot of that!) But the kind of love that leads you to protect and defend. When our department faced a firestorm of violent rightwing backlash as a result of a Brandeis student’s sensationalist and ill-informed publication over winter break, I was confronted by both the limits and responsibilities of my position. While unlike the erroneous article stated, a UDR is not in a position to mold the malleable minds of the Brandeis community, we are leaders selected because of a commitment to both our academic disciplines and our student body.

We are students. We are humans, with a right to our own opinions and their consequences. While I may have personally disagreed with my department’s decision to relieve my colleague of her duties I understood that as a department they had a responsibility to handle the situation gingerly. I, as a student had more liberties. I took this, and the numerous instances of racial terror this year—yes, there have been more then 10 murders of unarmed black folks over the past 6 months; yes, black lives matter—as opportunities to employ my AAAS training. I supported my sister scholar and my community at-large by listening and offering whatever resources I could, I encouraged folks with more questions then I could handle to look to our faculty and course listings.

Serving as undergraduate representative has meant more than quarterly events, it has given me a formal venue to enact an African and Afro-American Studies practice. Most of my advising has occurred in social settings. Most of my extra-curricular activities have been informed by my time spent in AAAS. To be an outstanding UDR is to be a student and advocate everywhere, all the time. It is a commitment to the interdisciplinary nature of lives.