Category Archives: Black History Month

FedEx, TSU continue HBCU Student Ambassador Program partnership

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – FedEx has announced its continued partnership with Tennessee State University after launching its third cohort of the FedEx-HBCU Student Ambassador Program. Announced in 2021, the program launched in 2022 as part of an expanded five-year, $5 million commitment to selected HBCUs.

The student ambassadors representing TSU for the third cohort are Tamauri Murray, a junior studying computer science, and Chandler Lyons, a sophomore studying Business Administration and Supply Chain Management. “I am ecstatic that I’ve been chosen for the FedEx-HBCU Student Ambassador Program,” Murray said. “I can’t wait to dive into this journey and make the most of the unique learning experiences ahead. I am grateful for this opportunity to grow both personally and professionally.”

The impactful HBCU program through the world’s largest express transportation company chose TSU as one of eight HBCUs. The program helps prepare HBCU students for the workforce after college, providing exposure to FedEx leadership, team members, career-ready skills, and unique learning experiences.

In 2022 FedEx and TSU participated in a bell ringing ceremony at New York Stock Exchange, highlighting the HBCU program.

Lyons, from Atlanta, Georgia, said that every challenge presents a chance for personal growth. “And I am thankful for the chance to evolve,” he said. “I look forward to gaining professional skills and knowledge that will be pivotal for my career progression. This experience is important for HBCU students as it provides minority students access to a wider range of opportunities and connects them with a network of current leaders.”

TSU Board of Trustees student Shaun Wimberly, a former FedEx ambassador from the company’s inaugural cohort, said the continued partnership with TSU is worthy as he received great exposure from the year-long ambassador experience. 

“This gives us that competitive advantage that our HBCU students need,” Wimberly said. “So, we can get that foot in the door. These sorts of opportunities make up for some of the disparities that we have as an institution when compared to other schools who may already have better networking and resources due to historic events.” Wimberly said during his time as an ambassador, selected students were flown to New York to network with FedEx executives on Wall Street about climbing the corporate ladder and opportunities in the near future. Wimberly was one of two students who represented TSU in the FedEx program in 2022. The second student was Breana Jefferson of Madison, Alabama.

TSU President Glenda Glover and former FedEx HBCU student ambassador Shaun Wimberly, Jr., in 2022.

 Jenny Robertson, Senior Vice President, Global Brand and Communications for FedEx, said in a press release that providing HBCU students with exposure and opportunities to imagine what’s next beyond college is invaluable. “The continued support FedEx provides to HBCUs is one way we can help produce a strong talent pool of future leaders, creating additional opportunities to excel in their future career journeys,” Robertson said.

This cohort will convene later this spring and participate in quarterly sessions focused on interview training, mock interviews, and resume development. 

The HBCU ambassadors will also have access to applying for internships and experiencing mentorship opportunities with various FedEx leaders.

Each year, FedEx offers student ambassadors and additional HBCU practical experiences, including the “Career Expose” where FedEx Ground leaders engage with students about transitioning from college to professional life, resume writing, career tips, according to the release. It also consists of a “day in the life” in safety, engineering, finance, human resources, logistics/supply chain, and operations.

Career and finance event prepares TSU students for post-college

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Career development, financial literacy, and personal growth were the focus of the “Secure the Bag” tour recently held at Tennessee State University. Hosted by the TSU Career Development Center in collaboration with HBCU Heroes, the event featured panelists who engaged with students on financial awareness and their next steps after college.

Jeff Brown, the director of the Career Development Center

The event unfolded in three segments. The first segment featured discussions on entrepreneurship, business strategy, and launching, while the second focused on career preparation and generational wealth. The third segment comprised a financial health workshop, specifically addressing credit and debt management for college students. A portion of the event also centered around NIL and sports industry careers, featuring insights from TSU’s head football Coach Eddie George and former NBA player George Lynch.

Jalen Mask, a biology student from Memphis, highlighted the theme of “knowing your why” and the importance of financial awareness. “TSU is an HBCU that is underfunded,” Mask said. “Being that we live in a marginalized community, it is important to have events like this to understand finances because it does affect everything.”

Quentesha White, a junior studying criminal justice from Alabama, appreciated the guidance provided, especially as upperclassmen prepare to step into the real world. She found inspiration in the panelists’ journeys toward success.

Lawson Wright

“Hearing their (panelists’) backstories and the backgrounds of entrepreneurs ourselves is very inspiring and motivating for me,” White said. “I know when I was listening to what they did and the history of how they became who they are today, it pushed me a little more and gave me more motivation.”

Vice President of Student Affairs, Dean Frank Stevenson, kicked off the event, emphasizing the importance of grasping knowledge and hands-on opportunities.

“We are so excited that you all are here sharing information and pouring it into our students,” Stevenson said to the panelists. “I am excited about the collaboration, highlighting the significance of financial literacy, especially within the HBCU community.”

Jeff Brown, the director of the Career Development Center, said the center’s mission is to provide connections and opportunities to help students realize their purpose and future dreams. “The goal of the Career Development Center is to provide connections and opportunities to help each student realize their purpose and the future of their dreams,” Brown said. “We want them to be strong as students and grow as students, but also think about professional development as they approach graduation. But then also be clear about what financial empowerment looks like.”

Hosted by the TSU Career Development Center in collaboration with HBCU Heroes, the event featured panelists who engaged with students on financial awareness and their next steps after college. Panelist for the first segment of the event from left to right: Alex Sanders, Delfine Fox, Harold Simpson, Derrick J. Hill (on screen) moderated by “CDK On the Mic.”

Lawson Wright, a sophomore studying computer sciences, attended the event to enhance his networking and interpersonal skills. “Progress is progress,” Wright said. “My objective is to get better every day, and that event did just that.”

The collaboration with HBCU Heroes, co-founded by Tracey Penywell, brought in panelists and sponsoring companies. This also included business strategists, entrepreneurs, Chief Technology Officers, and representatives from JP Morgan Chase and Amazon, among others.

Angela Davis, the Career Development Center associate director, said the event was essential as TSU students are graduating and earning entry-level salaries larger than ever before and will need guidance on responsible financial management.

“They’re able to give students an inside look, and also coming from an HBCU perspective, they understand some of the things that our students go through in making the transition from college into the workplace,” Davis said about the panelists connecting with the students. “I think it’s of great benefit that they’re able to share their experiences and some do’s and don’ts and different expectations that our students may not be aware of.”

Kimya Savage applauds during the “Secure The Bag” event as panelists share invaluable insights and resources, empowering attendees with knowledge for achieving financial stability.

Davis added that she believed the event offered valuable insights, connections, and inspiration for TSU students. The goal of the HBCU Heroes Tour was to share real-life experiences with students in preparation for the next steps following graduation and their professional journeys. To learn more about the Career Development Center resources, visit

TSU grad first Black female to help discover element for periodic table

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Tennessee State University graduate Clarice Phelps’s interest in chemistry began with mixing concoctions in the kitchen of her Nashville home at an early age. However, it wasn’t until her 10th-grade year at Martin Luther King Jr. Magnet High School that she became captivated by science and developed a passion for chemistry. This passion laid the groundwork for her extraordinary journey of becoming the first Black woman to contribute to the discovery of an element on the periodic table. Beginning as a technician, she worked on purifying berkelium (BK), which was used to confirm element 117, now known as Tennessine. Tennessine is a chemical element with the symbol “Ts” on the periodic table and is classified as a halogen.

Phelps in the control room of the research facility at ORNL

“Taking a seat at the periodic table didn’t happen overnight, it was actually a 20-year journey” reflected the TSU grad.

After earning her chemistry degree from TSU, Phelps later obtained a Master’s in Nuclear and Radiation Engineering from UT Austin. Her path led her to the Navy for four years, where she applied her chemistry skills to radioactive materials, a pivotal role for her in the scientific community.

In 2009, Phelps joined the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, following her stint in the Navy. Two years later she conducted the purification work, a critical step in the discovery process, she said. Phelps and other lab members isolated the purified chemicals, shipped them to Germany and Russia, where they were used as target material to produce atomic number 117.

In 2016, she received the official confirmation that Tennessine was part of the periodic table. However, it wasn’t until 2019 that she learned she was the first Black woman involved in discovering an element, recognized by the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC).

“Disbelief, shock, and disbelief again,” is how Phelps responded to recognition. “I had to Google it, and I still was in disbelief. However, I thought about me – as a little girl, desperately looking for someone like me in science who was an inspiration, and it changed my perspective.”

Twenty-five percent of African American graduates with STEM degrees come from HBCUs, according to the United Negro College Fund.

Phelps said her higher education journey beginning at TSU was very impactful for her academic, professional, and personal career. “TSU was instrumental in establishing and building upon the confidence that I call upon to take up space where no space was made for me,” Phelps said. “I have found that by applying my knowledge, showing that I can do the work and serving my community by sharing in that knowledge is how I actively live out ‘Think. Work. Serve.'”

TSU chemistry professor Dr. Cosmas Okoro was Phelps’ assistant professor and advisor in 2000 and spoke highly of her both as a student then and as a chemist now. “She is very persistent, and she wasn’t afraid to ask questions,” Okoro said. “I am very proud of her accomplishments and this honor.” Dr. Okoro said Phelps is active in the chemistry community at her alma mater, as she was a keynote speaker for several virtual chemistry classes throughout the years.

Phelps anticipates that her groundbreaking discovery will impact the scientific community, especially in her field. “It will change the small-yet-growing community of African American scientists and other scientists from marginalized communities,” she said. “Being able to see something of themselves, to feel the common struggles that I share in this journey, to know the common invisibility of our impact on the scientific community, will be significant.”

Reflecting on her career challenges as a Black woman, Phelps noted that there were many challenges. “The most significant challenge is being seen, heard, supported, and respected. It has been my experience that you are relatively invisible in the scientific community if you are a Black woman.”

She added that many times throughout her journey she felt small or even dismissed. “But to be in this position now just confirms what I have always known about myself – that greatness is my destiny.”

Phelps said this opportunity is a once in a lifetime as she is leaving a legacy behind.

“One that will surpass my current existence,” she said. “It is healing in a way as well because I feel that I have become what I was looking for all those years ago.”

Phelps emphasized the importance of exposing Black children to STEM careers, stating, “Exposing children to STEM at an early age allows them to naturally develop an inclination towards it.”

Phelps is currently working on her doctorate in Nuclear Engineering and hopes her work will serve as the catalyst for more conversations focused on minority STEM involvement, diversity in science, and addressing biases in the scientific community. She aims to make science a relatable and appealing career opportunity for historically disenfranchised communities, she said.

Phelps believes her story serves as a testament to breaking barriers, leaving a lasting legacy, and inspiring the next generation of Black scientists.

A Black History Month Exclusive: TSU to host world-renowned, Oscar award-winning production designer Hannah Beachler

As the first African American woman to win an Oscar for production design, Beachler’s projects include Marvel’s Black Panther films, along with Beyoncé Knowles- Carter’s Lemonade, Black Is King and On The Run Tour II.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) –  As Tennessee State University continues to observe Black History Month, the University is pleased to announce the upcoming visit of Oscar winning and trailblazing production designer Hannah Beachler. TSU students will learn about Beachler’s road to success and her experiences, as she defied the odds while redefining the art of production design in Hollywood and around the world. TSU will host A Conversation of Excellence with Hannah Beachler, Tuesday, February 21, 2023, at noon in the Robert Murrell Form in the Student Center. The event is free and open to all students.

“TSU is excited to welcome Ms. Hannah Beachler to our campus and it comes at a most ideal time, as we join the nation in celebrating the monumental and global impact that so many African Americans have made to society,” said TSU President Glenda Glover.

“This is a special and unique moment for the University to be able to give our students exposure to an internationally acclaimed artist, who is African American and female. Our students can’t help but to be inspired and see themselves in her.”

In 2019, Beachler became the first African American woman to be nominated and win an Academy Award for Best Production Design for her designs and visuals on Marvel’s Black Panther. She has also collaborated with global icon Beyoncé Knowles-Carter on several projects, including the visual album LemonadeOn The Run Tour II and the highly acclaimed visuals for her musical film Black Is King in 2020.

Beachler is the first ever female production designer of a Marvel film franchise and has been responsible for multimillion-dollar art budgets. After becoming an academy award winner, she returned to Marvel for its highly anticipated sequel, Marvel’s Black Panther Wakanda Forever. The Black Panther franchise box office receipts have grossed over $2.1 billion worldwide to date. She is also an art director, known for her work in the 2016 film Moonlight and The Lion King in 2019.

Previously, the Ohio native has collaborated with filmmaker Ryan Coogler on Creed, the spinoff from the Rocky film series starring Michael B. Jordan. Her many credits also include Academy Award winning director Steven Soderbergh’s No Sudden Move, Todd Haynes’ docu-narrative feature film Dark Waters and The Collaboration, an unreleased film directed by Kwame Kwei-Armah.

TSU hosts Aristocrat of Bands parade to celebrate historic Grammy win 

Tennessee State University is hosting a parade celebration in honor of the Aristocrat of Bands historic Grammy win!

The AOB made history as the first collegiate marching band to win the music industry’s highest honor for Best Roots Gospel Album, The Urban Hymnal, at the 65th annual ceremony on February 5.

The public is asked to help celbrate the Grammy award-winning marching band this Friday at noon with a parade celebration. 

The parade will began at the TSU entrance (28th Avenue & Jefferson.)

Along with the AOB, President Glenda Glover, Nashville Mayor John Cooper, State Representative Harold Love Jr. State Senator Charlane Oliver and Councilperson Brandon Taylor will be present.

Students inspired, seek opportunity during 2023 TSU Day at the Capitol

 NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Tennessee State University turned the State Capitol blue for the 2023 TSU Day at the Capitol. Students, staff, administrators, alumni and faculty got a chance to speak with lawmakers and showcase many of TSU’s excellent academic programs. 

The University’s day at the capitol included nearly 100 TSU students, like TSU freshman Kindall Miller, who volunteered by delivering gift bags to lawmakers. What Miller didn’t expect was to visit the capitol for the first time ever and leave with a huge opportunity. 

TSU freshman Kindall Miller and Senator Brent Taylor

“I met Senator Brent Taylor and he was very kind …  saying he would be excited to work with me in the Fall,” Miller said. Taylor’s assistant followed up and gave the Alabama native an internship application for an opportunity to work in their office at the capitol next semester. Miller, who is studying social work manifested this internship opportunity as she hopes to one day become a legislation policy analyst, she said. Miller also noted that she enjoyed TSU President Glenda Glover speech during the kick-off event.

 “This has become one of the university’s most successful outreach programs as we take the opportunity to share with lawmakers the great things that are taking place at TSU,” President Glover said. From groundbreaking research projects to major campus infrastructure, Glover talked about how pristine the university programs are and thanked lawmakers who have been present and continue to provide for TSU every day.

“We take a little and produce the greatest people in the world.”

TSU President Glenda Glover said the Dat at the Capitol is an opportunity to share with lawmakers the great things that are taking place at the university.

During the event students also listened to inspiring words from freshman Senator Charlane Oliver, State Representatives Harold Love Jr. and Antonio Parkinson, TSU alumna Sandra Hunt and student trustee on the TSU Board of Trustees Shaun Wimberly Jr.

Senator Oliver said she is proud of TSU students and their academic journey so far.

“I want to congratulate each and every one of you for making it to where you are in life as a Black student,” Oliver said. “If you look around, it’s not too many of us up here. We need to see you more. Walk with that true blue pride today in the halls of power.”

Students, staff, administrators, alumni and faculty gathered for the 2023 Day at the Capitol.

While Senator Oliver gave the students encouraging words, TSU alumnus Harold Love Jr. told everyone that his alma mater is a leading university to train and transform society. “One of the goals of the day on the hill is to let legislators know what is going on at your university,” 

Love told the students. “Let them know about the great work, your classes, professors, and what needs there may be to help make your institution better to go from a R2 to R1 level.”

A key part of TSU’s day on the hill was the opportunity to showcase the university’s diverse research and academic offerings, TSU junior Davin Latiker, said his Day at the Capitol was a great experience and that he admired seeing African American lawmakers and alumni represent.  

TSU students got a chance to showcase many of the university excellent academic programs. 

“Seeing senators and representatives work behind the scenes and witness how much they care about the students meant a lot to me,” said Latiker, a junior mass communication major from Chicago.”

“My favorite part was seeing my fellow peers excitement and being in the presence of people who make a difference. This can be my reality.”

This year marks the 8th celebration of the Day at the Capitol. The community hasn’t attended a TSU Day at the Capitol since early 2020, due to the pandemic. 

Tennessee State University’s AOB becomes first marching band to win Grammy

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Tennessee State University’s marching band is now known as the Grammy-award winning Aristocrat of Bands! The AOB made history as the first collegiate marching band to win the music industry’s highest honor for Best Roots Gospel Album, The Urban Hymnal, at the 65th annual ceremony.

AOB is also featured on Spoken Word Artist and Poet, J. Ivy’s album The Poet Who Sat By The Door, that won a Grammy as well. 

“We congratulate our students, Dr. Reginald McDonald, Professor Larry Jenkins, and the band staff for this amazing accomplishment as we continue to write history and prove why the Aristocrat of Bands is the best marching band in nation,” said TSU President Glenda Glover.  

Walking the Grammy red carpet and accepting the award on behalf of TSU and the band were the album’s co-executive producers, l-r: TSU alum platinum recording artist Aaron ‘DUBBA-AA’ Lockhart, assistant band director Larry Jenkins, and TSU alumni, two-time Grammy award-nominated songwriter and artist Sir the Baptist

“It is quite appropriate that this historic moment in our institution’s history takes place during Black History Month, highlighting the accomplishments of great African American scientists, educators, civil rights and social justice leaders, innovators, visionaries and the trailblazing musicians of our Aristocrat of Bands.”

Dr. Reginald McDonald, AOB band director, said being the first college band in the nation, leading amongst HBCU bands is a ‘surreal’ moment that all universities can be proud of.

From l-r, AOB members Celeste Boykin, Curtis Olawumi and Logyn Rylander in Los Angeles at the 65th annual Grammy award ceremony. (Photo submitted)

“It is a true testimony to how HBCUs with tremendously less resources find ways to educate and overcome enormous obstacles,” McDonald said. “The lesson for our students is that hard work, dedication, determination, perseverance and faith always win.”

The album also features TSU’s New Direction Gospel Choir along with acclaimed gospel artist Jekalyn Carr, Fred Hammond, Kierra Sheard, J. Ivy, John P. Kee, Louis York and more. 

New Direction Gospel Choir’s powerful vocals are heard on “Dance Revival,” a track that lift the spirit and soothe the soul.

The internationally acclaimed gospel choir has been featured on BET’s Sunday Best, toured Europe with a command performance at the Vatican hosted by the Pope Francis.   

L-r: The Urban Hymnal was executively produced by, Assistant band director professor Larry Jenkins, AOB Band Director Dr. Reginald McDonald, platinum recording artist, TSU alum Dubba-AA, Grammy award-winning songwriter and artist Dallas Austin and two-time Grammy award-nominated songwriter and artist Sir the Baptist

Walking the Grammy red carpet and accepting the award on behalf of TSU and the band were the album’s co-executive producers, assistant band director Larry Jenkins, TSU alumni, two-time Grammy award-nominated songwriter and artist Sir the Baptist, and TSU alum platinum recording artist Aaron ‘DUBBA-AA’ Lockhart. Grammy award-winning songwriter and artist Dallas Austin also co-produced the album.

Jenkins thanked every student who worked hard to make the dream a reality.  

“Thank you to the best band in the land, Tennessee State University AOB. Thank you to all of our amazing students. Your hard work and dedication created the pen that allowed you to write your own page in the history books. We made history, but it is also February, so we also made Black history.”

AOB students gathered for the historic Grammy watch party. (Photo by Aaron Grayson)

It was just as exciting on the TSU campus as hundreds of students, including band members, waited anxiously for the category and announcement.

The Grammy watch party erupted when the band’s name was read as the winner.

Emotions couldn’t be put into words when the award winner for the Best Roots Gospel album was finally announced. 

There are more than 280 AOB members. Chelsea Flournoy, a music education major who plays the trombone for the band, jumped for joy with her fellow classmates. 

John King (Photo by Aaron Grayson)

“I cried tears of joy,” Flournoy said. “We worked so hard, long nights recording this album to make it perfect, and the perfect way got us a Grammy. I was confident in this album, we made history!” 

TSU senior John king, who plays the cymbal, said he was very confident in last night’s win before the announcement. “I saw the vision,” King said. “Being a part of this journey and seeing this being accomplished, it motivates me and it gives me hope.” 

Listen to The Urban Hymnal album on all music streaming platforms such as Apple Music, YouTube, and or Spotify.  

TSU’s Road to the Grammys: AOB game changing album brings Black History Month full circle, adds mystic to Music City and beyond

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Gospel music has the power to inspire change, unite communities, and serve as a voice for the marginalized. Oftentimes, the concept behind a soul stirring song or project can be just as profound. As the case for Tennessee State University’s Aristocrat of Bands Grammy-nominated album. It all stated from an idea written on a napkin. 

In February 2022, Professor Larry Jenkins, assistant band director for the Aristocrat of Bands, met with Sir The Baptist to brainstorm ideas about what’s next for the world-renowned AOB.

L-r : The Urban Hymnal was executively produced by, Assistant band director professor Larry Jenkins, AOB Band Director Dr. Reginald McDonald, platinum recording artist, TSU alum Dubba-AA. Grammy award-winning songwriter and artist Dallas Austin and two-time Grammy award-nominated songwriter and artist Sir the Baptist

The two-time Grammy award-nominated songwriter and artist liked everything Jenkins shared during their meal. In this musical meeting of the minds, the concept for the album was born on a napkin from a Mexican restaurant. 

“It just hit me, we should do a whole album,” Jenkins said to Baptist.

His response: I was waiting on you to say that.

Fast forward a year later, Baptist is a TSU alumnus and AOB is going to the Grammys after being nominated for their 10-track album The Urban Hymnal in the Best Roots Gospel Album category. They are the first collegiate band in the history of the Grammys to receive a nomination. 

Jenkins, who is a co-executive producer of the album, said this accomplishment will change the trajectory of Nashville’s Music City reputation. 

“You have an HBCU band doing an album … which is something that has never been done to this capacity,” Jenkins said, noting that this opportunity was a cultural shift. “I hope this sparks another resurgence of the impact and importance of music. Not just Nashville, but north Nashville and Jefferson Street and how legendary this air is here.”

Jenkins is referring to the historic aspect of Jefferson Street and its longevity of cultural African American music. Not even a mile away from TSU, is the reason why Nashville has been coined as, ‘Music City.’

The Urban Hymnal album cover. (Photo by Garrett Morris)

The Fisk Jubilee Singers, founded in 1871, performed in front of Queen Victoria. A performance that established Nashville as a musical hub and contributed to the city’s reputation as a center of musical excellence. 150 years after being founded, the Jubilee Singers won their first-ever Grammy Award in 2021.

“We call Jefferson Street the Grammy mile,” Jenkins said. And AOB being nominated for a Grammy in the category of Best Gospel Roots, the same category as Fisk Jubilee Singers, isn’t a coincidence. “Being a mile away from each other with so much history being packed into the biggest musical organization on both campuses is amazing.”

TSU alum Aaron ‘DUBBA-AA’ Lockhart, a platinum recording artist, and one of the executive producers for the album, said this award will mean more to just the university. “This is a cultural award for Nashville in itself. This will solidify Black music in the city,” Lockhart said.  

“Starting off at Fisk and ending off with TSU … this is something the culture needs.” Lockhart said he looks forward to honoring this award for ‘the roots that birthed us,’ and ‘being able to pass the torch,’ to future music students, AOB members and beyond.

Music education in many schools and institutions often prioritize the study of Western classical music, something that may result in a lack of cultural relevance and diversity in music. AOB band director, Dr. Reginald McDonald, who is also a co-executive producer for the album, said there is rich musical history and R&B moguls that orientated right in the heart of north Nashville.

TSU drum major, trumpet soloist Curtis Olawumi during a Fall 2022 performance. (Photo by Aaron Grayson)

“There is more to the city of Nashville and the state of Tennessee than country music,” McDonald said. “For Tennessee State University’s AOB to have produced an album to tie together two of the biggest music genres within the African American community, (gospel and HBCU marching bands) is extremely significant,” he said.

“You start bringing awareness and bringing on the Black music scene.”

Currently, there are more than 280 AOB members. Bringing a Grammy back to Tennessee will be yet another one of the Aristocrat of Bands historic accolades, and a great way to kick off Black History Month.

The Grammys will take place this week, Sunday, Feb. 5, at the Arena in Los Angeles, California. Listen to The Urban Hymnal album on all music streaming platforms such as Apple Music, YouTube, and or Spotify. 

Black History: TSU students encourage financial literacy and wealth management in memory of ‘Black Wall Street’

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Money management and entrepreneurship were the key topics at a financial literacy workshop on Feb. 15 hosted by a group of Tennessee State University students, along with the Women’s Center, to provide awareness and empower their peers.

Gabrielle Mosby, right, one of the organizers of the workshop, presents a gift to keynote speaker Kyle Smith. (Photo by Aaron Grayson, TSU Media Relations)

Titled “Bring Back Black Wall Street,” the workshop drew from the 2020 movie “Black Wall Street Burning,” that chronicled the 1921 Memorial Day massacre of Black people and the burning of the once thriving section of Tulsa, Oklahoma, referred to as Black Wall Street.

The students said the workshop, part of a Black History Month observance, was about knowing the past, shaping the future, and holding a conversation about empowering Black people to understand true financial wealth they can build upon.

Seanne Wilson, Director of the Women’s Center, makes a comment at the event. (Photo by Aaron Grayson, TSU Media Relations)

Kyle Smith, a Nashville businessman, was the event’s keynote speaker. He said building wealth and attaining financial success start with discipline, hard work, and “surrounding yourself with the right people.”

Gabrielle Mosby, a freshman business major from Memphis, Tennessee, who is one of the organizers of the event, said Smith’s message was just what “we needed to hear.”

By age 22, and fresh out of college, Smith had started and was running a fitness business in his hometown. Two years later, he started a mobile notary business. He said his goal is to help others, build great relationships, and make an impact in other people’s lives.

“Today I just want to tell students that being an entrepreneur in the beginning takes time, it takes consistency and finding yourself a good mentor,” said Smith, 27, who owns two successful businesses in the Nashville area.

“I want them to understand what it takes to be successful in business, but also understand how to save their money and build generational wealth,” Smith said. “Too often people in my generation want instant gratification and focus on the liabilities that come with it. We need to focus on building assets. Cars, jewelry, purses and things like that won’t make us money in the long term.”

According to recent statistics, African Americans account for 13 percent of the U.S. population with significant impact on the economy, yet they lag in financial well-being when compared to other groups.

“’Bring Back Black Wall Street” is a conscious conversation that talks about the hard-hitting issue of building wealth within our Black community and how we can actively make a change,” Mosby said. “Looking at his business achievement in such a short time, Mr. Kyle Smith’s message was on point.”

Seanne Wilson, director of the Women’s Center, said the workshop was one of the many programs the center provides to empower young women, as well as young men, to think about how they spend their money. 

“As we were discussing Black history and what should be one of our focus areas for the month, financial literacy jumped out,” Wilson said. “I wish when I was in college, someone had talked to me about wealth management, saving money, and not spending unwisely. So, now I want to be proactive and help them understand the value of money and not be reckless in spending it.” 

Fellow workshop organizer Karly Miller, a sophomore pre-nursing major from Houston, said students were inspired by Smith’s message of financial management.

“It is motivating to hear about and see African Americans of the past and present who have established and maintained wealth in the community,” said Miller.

For more information on the TSU Women’s Center, visit

Featured photo by Aaron Grayson
Kyle Smith, a Nashville businessman, who owns two establishments in the area, gives the keynote speech at the financial literacy workshop, organized by students at TSU.

Department of Media Relations

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About Tennessee State University

Founded in 1912, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a  premier, historically black university and land-grant institution offering 39 bachelor’s degree programs, 24 master’s degree programs, and eight doctoral degrees.  TSU is a comprehensive research intensive institution with a R-2 Carnegie designation, and has a graduate school on its downtown Avon Williams Campus, along with the Otis Floyd Nursery Research Center in McMinnville, Tennessee.  With a commitment to excellence, Tennessee State University provides students  with a quality education in a nurturing and innovative environment that prepares them as alumni to be global leaders in every facet of society. Visit the University online at

TSU alum who designed, constructed National Museum of African American Music continues as industry trailblazer, promotes student success by giving back


NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – When Don Hardin drives by the National Museum of African American Music, the Tennessee State University alum can’t help but smile, proudly. That’s because the firm he owns managed the design and construction of the facility, and he credits TSU with giving him the tools as a young college student to make it happen. 

“I love the Blue and White,” said Hardin, who graduated in 1990 with a degree in architectural engineering. “TSU is a part of me. I strive to be excellent.”  

Don Hardin. (Submitted photo)

However, a seed of determination and success was planted in Hardin by his mother before he came to TSU. She raised Hardin and his three other brothers by herself. He said her tough love is what they needed growing up in a low-income part of Nashville.  

“My mother worked hard; she set standards for us,” said Hardin. “She kept us out of trouble. She had strict rules that didn’t seem fair at the time, but it turned out to be a good thing because some of the guys who were free to run the streets didn’t turn out so well. All of my brothers are doing well, and it’s because of her upbringing.” 

Hardin said his math teacher at Maplewood High School was also a major influence in his life. He said the teacher recognized his talent and arranged for him to visit TSU and its College of Engineering his senior year. The Big Blue won him over, and he enrolled at TSU in fall 1983.  

Because he also enjoyed art, Hardin decided to major in architectural engineering, where he met Dr. Walter Vincent, Jr., who at the time was head of the Architectural Engineering Department. Vincent also noticed Hardin’s drive and talent, and took him under his wing.  

“He was a very engaging guy,” recalled Hardin of Vincent. “He was always encouraging us to get out of Nashville and take trips to places like Chicago to study buildings.”  

Vincent passed away on Nov. 30, 2020, at the age of 89. But Hardin said he will never forget the advice and encouragement Vincent gave him that would eventually cement his career in his chosen field.  

Hardin said it was tough to get internships in architectural engineering. However, his peers in electrical and mechanical engineering were getting job opportunities. Hardin said he went to Vincent to change his major, but the professor talked him out of it.  

“He said, ‘If you stick with it, it’s going to pay off.’” Hardin recalled him saying. “So instead of giving him a change of major form, I tore it up and decided to stay with architectural engineering.”  

And he’s glad he did. Vincent was right. When Hardin graduated, he had three job offers. The one he selected took him out of town for about 10 years. But he returned to Nashville and eventually started his own company, the Don Hardin Group, which hit its 20-year mark this year.  

TSU alumna Lisa Johnson majored in architectural engineering at the same time Hardin did. She said the small group that made up their major was close knit, and that they encouraged one another. Johnson said she was one of four women in the program at the time, and that Hardin was like a brother to her.

Don Hardin, son Donald III (center), and wife Tracy, CFO of the Don Hardin Group. (Submitted photo)

“Don is a good guy, gracious, and hard-working,” said Johnson, who is a construction manager. “Him having this business that he has today, I’m not surprised.”

Hardin and his team have been players in some of Nashville’s largest projects, including the Music City Center, Hospital Corporation of America, Nissan North America, the First Horizon (Baseball) Park, and of course, the National Museum of African American Music that officially opened downtown last month.  

Hardin said what he enjoyed most about the National Museum of African American Music project was the number of other African American businesses involved in the construction.  

“We’re proud of what we did,” said Hardin. “What we’re even more proud of is the fact that a lot of other African Americans got involved in something that represents us.” 

Both Hardin and Johnson said they’re glad they stuck with architectural engineering, and they encourage aspiring engineers to consider the field because opportunities in it have grown over the years.

“There are more programs offered,” said Johnson. “It’s still not as common as civil, mechanical and electrical, but it has become more known.”

Regardless of the major, Hardin said students should contact alumni in their field, or an area of study they’re considering, for support.

 “TSU students need to continue to reach out; press us for opportunities,” said Hardin, whose firm offers an internship to college students.

And he added this advice to them, words that were also told to him years ago.  

“Know that you can achieve whatever you set out to do,” he said. “You can do it. You can be excellent.”  

Hardin is a member of the TSU Engineering Alumni Association, and the Omega Psi Phi Rho Psi Alumni Chapter of TSU.

To learn more about the Don Hardin Group, visit

For more information about TSU’s College of Engineering and architectural engineering, visit

NOTE: Feature photo of Don Hardin at First Horizon Park courtesy of the Nashville Business Journal

Department of Media Relations

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