Name: Béne Viera
Class: December 2006
Occupation: Journalist and Writer
Hometown: Nashville, TN
Current city of Residence: Brooklyn, NY
1) Why did you choose TSU?
I always knew I was attending an HBCU for undergrad. I didn’t even apply to any PWIs. My top choices were Southern, FAMU and TSU. When the acceptance letters came in for all three it boiled down to money. TSU offered me an academic scholarship and my mom is also an alum. It really was a no-brainer to stay in Nashville, live on campus, continue my mother’s legacy and graduate undergraduate debt free!
2) How did TSU prepare you for your current profession?
I was an English major, and I would honestly put my education next to any Ivy-leaguers in the same field. The top-notch professors I had not only taught well, but they gave tough love. They would gather you with the quickness if you weren’t on top of you game. But how TSU prepared me for my current profession has more to do with the confidence they instilled in me as a Black woman. It was often said by professors, “You have to be twice as good to get half of what they got.” It was imbedded in our heads that we would be competing with not only whites, but Asians, Indians, etc., and we would literally have to prove ourselves. Knowing that heightens your ambition. It does something to your work ethic. It prepares you in every way for what you will have to deal with in the real world, especially fields dominated by white males.
3) What’s the best advice you received from a parent, grandparent, family member, mentor or friend?
A few years into my career I didn’t think I was as far as I should be based on my age. I was comparing my journey to the journalists and writers I looked up to. “By 27 so and so had already written their first book!” A Black woman who is a NYT Bestselling writer many times over, got on the phone with me and told me to stop doing that. She dropped many gems, but the one I always go back to is her saying, “Put your head down and do the work; nobody can deny the work. Everything will come when it’s supposed to if you’re doing the work.” I’ll never forget it. Filmmaker Ava DuVernay has said something similar. Stop looking for mentors or advice on how to get there, and just work. We waste so much time with that when we could be mastering our crafts.
4) Why do you love TSU?
Tttttttttttt- Ssssssssss-Uuuuuuuu! My blue and white pride runs deep. I love TSU because I learned confidence. Because I was encouraged to critically think outside of what the books tell you. Because Blackness was celebrated. Because my professors looked like me. Because brilliant women were the norm. Because it was a family. Because most of my classmates not only looked at me, but were also intelligent. I could be myself. The traditions of TSU, the experiences, the lifelong bond with fellow alumni, is invaluable. Because of TSU I am who I am — a writer, thinker and activist.
Please follow @BeneViera on twitter and please check out her website beneviera.com.
Ms. Viera wrote the Shining Star Cover for Essence Magazine.