Darius Williams is a senior communication major who recently won The Monti Hippo Award for his story he tells as a black man confronted by a white police officer.
The Monti is an organization that invites people from the community to tell their story and relate their personal experiences without notes. The Hippo award is given to students for their inspiring stories.
What is the Hippo award and what does it involve?
The hippo actually is the logo and mascot for a non-profit organization called the Monti. The Monti is run by Jeff Polish. It seeks to build culture and community here in North Carolina.
Many people from across North Carolina meet to share stories — stories about their life from all different backgrounds. I merely had the opportunity to go and share my story.
Which award did you win and what did you win for?
I won “Best Drama.” The piece is on YouTube, if you go online and google “The Monti Darius Williams.” It doesn’t really have a title, rather it comes more out of an experience I had this past Fourth of July weekend in 2015. Essentially I encountered a white police officer. The video speaks for itself.
How many years have you been involved in the Hippo awards?
This is my first time speaking and my first time being nominated.
What got you into spoken word and the Hippo awards?
Well, the way I got involved with The Monti was by writing an article for the OGB near the beginning of last semester, really trying to critique and create conversation around race.
The article was picked up by Polish from The Monti, and before I knew it I was on the stage.
As for spoken word, since high school, it’s always given me an outlet to express myself — my pain, my joy.
I started writing poetry in 10th grade after my first girlfriend broke my heart. The rest is what it is.
What other activities are you involved with on campus?
I’m involved with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. That’s probably my only formal leadership position, the rest of my leadership has been informal.
Activism, volunteering, organizing events or trips, sitting on forums and meetings with administration, writing challenging pieces or equitable policy or speaking at different venues, just wherever I feel I can most effectively improve the lives of the student body as well as my Winston-Salem community.
This semester, outside of InterVarsity, I’m involved with an Anti-Poverty Task Force in Winston-Salem with Provost Kersh.
I’m also involved as a research fellow for Melissa Harris Perry at the Anna Julia Cooper Center and I’m a President’s Aide. Plus, I’m still organizing events!
How would you describe your role in activism and how did you get involved in that?
I wrestled with inequality, my identity and my place in this world as young as elementary school student.
But it was here at Wake Forest that I was sort of confronted with all those questions in real ways. I first got involved with activism my freshman year because I was, and still am, wrestling with those same things.
The only difference is that college made me realize, for the first time, that I wasn’t alone.
I guess my activism isn’t this main stream activism.
Often times we see activists as the ones who are holding the signs, doing the more visible work.
But a lot of my work has been behind the scenes, in the administrative realms, trying improve my community and fighting inequality through policy, writing articles, organizing events and sharing my story wherever people let me.
I enjoy creating spaces for conversation. So my activism-style is shown through writing, poetry, policy work and events like The Monti.
Yes, I’m at the rallies, like Kalvin Michael Smith. Yes, I’ve been a voice in these important conversations, like the subway protests last year, or the deliberative dialogues. I was there and will continue to be there.
But in terms of what I’ve organized, its been more discussion-based or story-driven.
Things that provoke discussion and then take these discussions and produce solutions that impact people through policy.
What are your plans post-graduation?
I have no idea. But I have three main options: either the Wake Forest Fellowship, Teach for America or a graduate program through Notre Dame called ACE Teaching Fellows.
I want to do one of those options for the next one or two years before either pursuing a Fulbright grant or some other grant to do either teaching or more research.
Ideally, I’d love to go to South Africa to teach and learn about their juvenile incarceration system.
Either way, I want to go to law school before eventually going into politics. Whether it be state level or national, I’ll find a way.
What are some pieces of advice or encouragement you have for underclassmen?
Life is about relationships. Don’t allow your papers to become more important than the people around you.