Aug 17, 2020

Sharing Our Stories: BSAT’s Virtual Ahmaud Arbery AMA

By Roderick Miligan T'21

Roderick Milligan and his family


At Tuck, there is a long tradition of being open to your classmates and making yourself vulnerable by telling your story. Sharing our stories is done through different facets of mediums like TuckTalks, Ask Me Anything panels, or short rides to the nearest ski resort. Each moment allows one to be their authentic self and broaden the minds of those who may not have had similar experiences in life.

When Ahmaud Arbery was killed in February, my wife implored me to speak up. My initial reaction was to write a post about how Ahmaud Arbery's death impacted me, and I did so on LinkedIn. I wrote about my current successes and how Mr. Arbery would not be able to reach his full potential; then, I encouraged some of my followers to run, walk, or hike xxx miles in remembrance of Ahmaud Arbery.

The next day, the Black Students Association at Tuck (BSAT) club asked me to help organize an event to discuss this incident of injustice with the Tuck community. To be honest, I was tired. It was a week before the end of the school term, and I just wanted to study, play with my son, and be around my wife. And yet, as a black man and the newly elected Diversity and Inclusion chair, I knew that it was a burden I had to bear for my son and classmates that were profoundly hurting. We organized an Ahmaud Arbery Ask Me Anything (AMA).

These types of extracurricular activities can feel like a "Black Tax." The “Black Tax” requires spending time to host events to educate people on black issues or working to advance minority presence in the student body.  The "Black Tax" strips one's time from studying and other club or fellowship activities to focusing on educating others on and developing solutions for black issues. Many underrepresented groups are "taxed" in this manner. We proceed because we understand our seeds might bear fruit later.

We decided to host a virtual Ahmaud Arbery AMA event that focused on the panelists’ personal experiences with racism and the weight it leaves with them. The panelists also discussed the lack of initiative from other people to speak up about similar incidents of injustice. We were all open in our responses, and there was tremendous interest in advocacy from the Tuck community. I left the discussion exhausted, in need of time to mentally decompress, and instead we began to plan an "Allyship Series" to equip our community with concrete actions.

Unfortunately, a few weeks later, George Floyd was senselessly murdered by a police officer. I didn't think I needed to say anything else; I didn't want to host another AMA event. I wanted someone else, someone outside the black community, to step up. They did.  As the news began to spread about Mr. Floyd’s death, I was overwhelmed with the number of Tuckies that reached out to see if they could do anything. A few weeks later, a group of Tuckies organized a book club to read The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander. Two hundred fifty people signed up to join the book club, including Tuck deans, faculty, and staff members. I didn't have to implore anyone to step up; the Tuck community had listened to our Ahmaud Arbery AMA event and responded with great empathy.

The majority of people hope that their efforts towards a cause will bring about change. We wake up early and stay up late, not to improve ourselves but out of altruism for the future of our community. I believe the AMA event was a small push towards sweeping changes in the future. The Tuck community provided its black students with that platform, and it will continue to do so.

If you would like to learn more about Tuck’s efforts towards creating a more diverse and inclusive environment from the student board perspective, please feel free to contact me.

Roderick Milligan T’21 serves as the Tuck Student Body’s Diversity & Inclusion chair and is a MBA Fellow with the Center for Digital Strategies. This summer, he interned with Apple as a Global Supply Manager. Milligan holds a BS in electrical and electronics engineering from Tuskegee University.