Terrence “J” takes a selfie with a crowd of students
Terrence “J” takes a selfie with a crowd of students
Diversity & Inclusion
January 19, 2016

Stories to change the perception of the African American experience

Students from three Historically Black Colleges and Universities in Atlanta gathered to share stories and help alter the perception of the African American experience.

When Natasha Eubanks started her blog in 2005, she was a new law school student from New Orleans whose life had been uprooted by Hurricane Katrina. Her blog, The YBF (Young, Black, and Fabulous), was a hobby she hoped could help fill a void she saw in coverage of African American celebrities on mainstream entertainment sites.

“I wanted to read about Black Hollywood and had a hunch that others might, too, but nothing like that existed,” says Natasha.

Her hobby took off, and Natasha left law school to build her blog into a business. Ten years after her first post, the site has become one of the most visited entertainment sites covering African American celebrities, with more than 13 million readers each month.

Now, Natasha is interested in using storytelling to promote positive images of African Americans. “If you don’t tell your story, someone else may do it for you — and you may not like what they say,” she says. “If you want to influence the narrative, you need to be part of the conversation.”

So Natasha joined a recent panel discussion with television personality Terrence “J” Jenkins, the United Negro College Fund’s Richard Shropshire, and Wells Fargo’s Lisa Frison to discuss this important subject. More than 300 students from Clark Atlanta University, Morehouse College, and Spelman College — three Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) in Atlanta — gathered at the Atlanta University Center Consortium to listen to the panelists and have candid conversations about education, career paths, and hardships.

Terrence “J”
Adrain Artary, Terrence “J,” Natasha Eubanks, Lisa Frison, Richard Shropshire, and Ernita Hemmitt.
Terrence “J” and Adrian
Alex Elle and Terrence “J”
Television personality and philanthropist Terrence “J” takes a selfie with students at the Atlanta University Center Consortium.
Student Adrain Artary (left), Terrence “J,” Natasha Eubanks, Lisa Frison, Richard Shropshire, and Clark Atlanta University Dean Ernita Hemmitt.
Terrence “J” and Adrian
An “Instameet” with Instagram celebrity Alex Elle with Terrence “J.” Elle helped students share their stories through Instagram with the #MyUntold hashtag.

The event, hosted by Wells Fargo, is part of a Wells Fargo social storytelling campaign celebrating the untold stories of African Americans. Called MyUntold, the campaign has reached more than 6 million people through digital and social media since its debut in 2013.

“MyUntold is Wells Fargo’s way of providing a vehicle that accomplishes this by supporting the telling of a comprehensive story focused on the beautifully complex experiences, accomplishments and achievements of African Americans,” says Lisa, Wells Fargo African American Segment Strategy leader. “African Americans don’t just make history during Black History Month, so we shouldn’t just be telling our story in February.”

With help from the panelists, Wells Fargo is shifting the focus of MyUntold to millennials and students at colleges and universities. Recent reports show that enrollment at HBCUs is on the rise, and though the schools account for fewer than 3 percent of all U.S. colleges and universities, they enroll 11 percent of all African American students in the U.S.

“MyUntold provides an important vantage point of the community that extends one-dimensional storytelling,” says Terrence. “My college experience changed my life and set me on the path to success. I hope we can inspire students to share their stories, challenge the mainstream narrative, and become the official storytellers of their community.”

The event included several opportunities for students to document their personal stories through videos and social media posts. Students shared and recorded stories about their families and the experience of attending HBCUs. Writer, photographer, and Instagram celebrity Alex Elle also joined a group of students on campus to take Instagram-worthy photos and video at landmarks on campus.

“Things like MyUntold uplift our people and help propel the next generation to succeed,” says Ernita Hemmitt, dean of students at Clark Atlanta University. She says she believes the storytelling campaign and focus on candid conversations about successes and persevering support the school’s motto, “Culture for service.”

Ernita concludes, “Each person has a story to tell and live. It’s important that our students, histories, and stories are heard.”