The Arkansas Tech University Department of Diversity and Inclusion dedicated the week of Nov. 2-8 to highlight diversity. An interesting part of Tech’s inaugural Diversity and Inclusion Week was a three-day Human Library series.
The idea behind this event was that students could “check out” a real person by talking to them and learning their story as if they were checking out a book at the library. Each speaker told their story for 30 minutes and allowed 10 minutes for questions.
The human library concept originated in Demark and spread to several countries around the world. The project was presented by the Ross Pendergraft Library and the Department of Diversity and Inclusion.
Barbara Lackey | “Four blacks at Tech”
Lackey was one of the first African Americans to attend college at Tech. She was born in Russellville and went to Horace Mann High School in Little Rock, eventually graduating from Tech.
She grew up while segregation was still happening in some places. In fact, she could have been one of the alternates for the Little Rock Nine, but her parents wouldn’t let her go because they were afraid for her safety.
She began her college career in Fayetteville. Her advisor told her she should have never come to school there, saying she should have gone to an all-black college and suggested she was inferior to whites.
Lackey spoke about this experience: “Somebody in authority, you believe what they tell you. So I thought, ‘Well, I am dumb, and I shouldn’t be here because that’s what she told me.’” She soon transferred to Tech and got to know her new advisor.
Lackey was asked when exactly she stopped feeling inferior.
She replied, “I’m not sure I ever did. I think it was after I came to Tech and became acquainted with Dr. P.K. Merrill, my adviser at the time. He never said, ‘Barbara, you are just as good as anybody else.’ It was just the way he treated me.”
Barbara went on to have a successful life in social work.
“My disability doesn’t define my ability”
Alharazi is from Saudi Arabia and has cerebral palsy. She spoke about dealing with her disability while living so far from home and her family.
When she was very young doctors thought she would have mental problems. Every time she would talk to doctors in Saudi Arabia they would ask her questions like, “Do you know this man?” and point to her father because they thought she was mentally disabled. Later doctors were very surprised to find that she was normal mentally and only had problems in her feet.
Alharazi did not know she was disabled until she saw herself in a video when she was twelve years old. This was when she noticed she walked differently.
A turning point in Alharazi’s life was receiving a scholarship to Tech. She finished her bachelor’s degree in public relations with a 3.88 GPA and is now studying to obtain her master’s degree in multimedia journalism.
When she first arrived at Tech, she went to Disability Services, and the department was concerned she wouldn’t be able to make it around campus. There were no buses for the disabled.
Alharazi spoke about that day: “I didn’t know what to do. I thought if I have faith, I can do it, and I am here, studying my master’s. I like to challenge myself, so I just do it.”
She found taxis helpful for getting around and soon had friends who were willing to give her rides.
“I think I am not different from anyone. The only problem for me is a hard time walking.”
Zach Stone | “Zach the deaf trans”
Zach started his life as a girl and made the transformation to the man pictured above with the support of his mother, Jeannie Stone, who is an English lecturer at Tech,. As a baby, Stone’s mother noticed he made noises like other babies, but he wasn’t forming words when he was supposed to. She did a number of tests to try to find the problem.
She decided it was his hearing when she caught him watching for his reflection in the window so he could hear himself coming down the stairs. He was diagnosed with hearing loss at 16.5 months old. When Stone was almost 9-years-old, he received a colloquial implant, or a hearing device. This device allowed Stone to hear and even learn how to speak.
“It was hard work learning to listen and speak, but my parents didn’t give up.”
When Stone started the eighth grade, he started to have a crush on a girl. Once he entered his freshman year of high school, he dressed in boy clothes and had short hair. Later on in high school, he dressed more like a man and acted more like one as well. Then a friend asked if he was transgender.
He went home and researched it and found it meant a female or male is trapped in the wrong body, and so they assume different gender roles. This explained Stone’s feelings. He soon after came out as transgender to some of his family and select friends. In college, he took on the name Zach is now one year and five months on testosterone. Testosterone makes him speak low, grow more hair, grow muscles and look manlier than he was before.