On the importance of the realtionships she built
“I can honestly say that, even currently, a lot of the opportunities that I’ve been presented with–especially immediately after college when I was doing internships and stuff like that–it was specifically women of color. Women, they look just like me. They gave me those opportunities. If it were not for me getting connected with Nyumburu Cultural Center or doing other extracurricular activities, I wouldn’t have met these women. They wouldn’t have even considered me for these awesome opportunities that obviously helped to catapult me to where I am now. It just boils down to relationships. Yeah, you’re there for a quality education, but relationships are so vital, and so crucial to how you evolve in your career life, your personal life, etc, and so forth. “
ORAL HISTORY TRANSCRIPT
Interview with Aminata Steele (2002-2008)
Interview Date: 8-24-2021
Interviewer: Francena Turner
Method: Zoom recording
Length: 22:48 minutes
Transcription software: otter.ai
Transcription edited by: Francena Turner
NARRATOR BIO: Aminata Steele came to the University of Maryland. College Park from Lanham, Maryland in 2002 and she graduated in 2008 with an American Studies degree. After working in marketing for the American Bar Association, Steele is currently a consultant for the Department of Veteran Affairs. While at UMD, Steele was an active participant and leader in events held at or sponsored by the Nyumburu Cultural Center.
KEYWORDS: American Studies, Easton Hall, Hagerstown Hall, Calvert Hall, Nyumburu Cultural Center, noose, Kanye West, John Legend, Memphis Bleek, Lil Wayne, DMX, Art Attack, Fraternity Row, Jo Poletti, Psyche Williams-Forson, Johanna McCants, Dan McClune, Anne Carswell, American Bar Association, marketing, Department of Veteran Affairs, consulting, affirmative action, networking
Francena Turner 00:01
My name is Francena Turner and I’m an oral historian working on the Reparative Histories, Black Experience Oral History Project. I want to thank Aminata Steele for participating in this interview with us today. Was Steele your last name when you attended the University of Maryland?
Aminata Steele 0:21
Francena Turner 0:23
What’s your hometown?
Aminata Steele 00:25
Francena Turner 00:27
When is your birthday?
Aminata Steele 00:30
December 19th, 1984
Francena Turner 00:33
Mine is December 20. How would you describe your life prior to attending the University of Maryland in terms of family composition, thoughts on education, home community, those kinds of things?
Aminata Steele 00:50
I actually grew up and lived maybe within a mile from the University of Maryland College Park. The expectation was always for me to go to school. However, all the way up until my 11th year of high school, I was pretty determined to go out of state for college. And then once the reality set in around tuition costs, and how much more feasible it is to me to attend a state school and then obviously taking into account that Maryland [garbled sound]. But traditional family, two parent household. I was raised by my Mom and my stepdad.
Francena Turner 01:57
I think your video froze.
Aminata Steele 02:05
I’m so sorry. It left and came back.
Francena Turner 02:09
I only heard bits and pieces of your response to that question. I didn’t hear anything past or couldn’t understand it past “up until your 11th grade year, you wanted to go out of state.
Aminata Steele 02:36
Exactly. I’m going to try to go into a different room. One second. Because sometimes the connection is a little bit in my office. Okay, is it breaking up still?
Francena Turner 02:54
No, it’s not breaking up now.
Aminata Steele 02:56
Okay, perfect. All the way up until my 11th grade year, I was considering going out of state for college. Once reality set in around tuition cost and just how much more feasible it is to go to an in-state school, then taking into consideration that even at that time, Maryland was considered a good school. It just made more sense to me to stay local, and go down the street since it’s so close. The expectation, again, was always for me to go to college. My father has a degree, my mother does not. And I was actually raised in the home with my mother, my stepfather, and then my younger brother.
Francena Turner 03:47
What year did you enroll at Maryland?
Aminata Steele 3:51
Francena Turner 3:52
Okay, and how did you come to choose a major?
Aminata Steele 03:58
Almost like anybody else, going in to an advisor. When I originally went to Maryland, I was on the business track. At the time, they had this really good program where you would take a lot of different prerequisites that were business oriented. It was the first wave of that program once I started in Maryland, but it’s basically a feeder program into the business school. Maybe you don’t meet all the requirements to go straight into the business school, but in a little small program, they weed you out and feed you into the business school. I originally started there, and then it was an accounting major. As I got deeper into taking business courses, I just realized that I probably would not be content, pursuing accounting for the rest of life. So I started to explore traditionally liberal courses. Arts and humanities type core courses. History. Media Studies. Around the time American Studies made the most sense, considering I had accrued so many credits. It was really getting down to the wire; I had to officially declare what my major was going to be. My advisor at the time made the recommendation that I should consider American Studies. It wasn’t even on my radar at first. I didn’t even know an American Studies program existed. It worked out.
Francena Turner 05:27
Walk me through, if you can, your memories of the first time you walked up to the campus as a freshman.
Aminata Steele 05:36
Freshmen typically were in Easton Hall, which is all the way on the other side of the campus closest to Greenbelt Rd. I just remember it feeling communal. I never would have imagined–I grew up in that area—how big that school is. Ever. I don’t even think to that point I’d ever gone to any event or program or anything on campus. Driving by it, I had no clue as to just how massive a campus is. So it’s really its own community within a community. Obviously, as a freshman, a lot of your classes are on the other side of campus, so just getting acclimated to that time management, etc. and so forth. I can say that was like one little small challenge.
For the full transcript, please email university archivist, Lae’l Hughes-Watkins at firstname.lastname@example.org.