Recent Howard Graduate Defies Odds

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Howard Capstone Feature

by Jihan Asher

Ke’Andrea “Kiki” Ayers grew up feeling compelled to keep her home life a secret until a class assignment gave her the freedom to write about her family’s struggles with homelessness.The assignment was published in the District Chronicles, then later in The Hilltop.“I walked into the School of Communications one day and saw myself on the front cover of the District Chronicles,” says Ayers, who at one point lived in a white Ford Taurus with her mother, brother and sister. “I was so nervous about how people would react if they knew about my life.”Nerves soon gave way to surprise and then profound gratitude as she received support from her friends, peers and professors. More than that, people she didn’t know felt comfortable enough to confide that they, too, were once homeless. Ayers was no longer alone with what she thought was a shameful secret.Lawrence Kaggwa, Ph.D., one of her professors and the publisher of the District Chronicles, acknowledges that writing a personal narrative is not a typical assignment for a reporting class. However, he sees it as offering students the critical distance to “confront their challenges and share their stories.”

 

“Some of them are ready, others are not,” says Kaggwa, also interim chair of the Department of
Journalism. “I tell them not to write them if they feel they are not ready yet. Kiki was, and her story touched a lot of people.”
“My past was just a chapter in my life, not the whole story, so I keep writing.”
Before completing her bachelor’s degree in broadcast journalism this past December, Ayers spent her time at Howard laying the groundwork for a career in the entertainment industry. Former journalism chair Phillip Dixon remembers her commitment to learning for the sake of learning—not merely for the grade.“She was on a mission. Her capacity for hard work was amazing,” says Dixon, who recalls Ayers once taking time out from the Homecoming festivities and “running all over the place to shoot video.”In 2008, Ayers co-founded The Urban Feed, an online entertainment news magazine, with current student Andrew Asare. Eager to launch the magazine, she began researching local artists and conducting interviews and photo shoots on campus. With 80,000-100,000 web hits a month, The Urban Feed has featured interviews with artists such as Lupe Fiasco, Melanie Fiona and Juelz Santana. Ayers networks with many of her readers on Twitter, where she has more than 25,000 followers.The mogul in the making has also interned at NBC, MTV, BET and WPGC 95.5 FM and garnered production credits, including on the 2011 BET Awards and the 2011 MTV Video Music Awards.Eager to learn even more, Ayers and her colleagues convened a panel on campus last year, titled “Women in the Entertainment Industry, Minds Behind the Business” at the Blackburn Center. The event featured women representing different aspects of the business.

Ayers moved to New York City in early 2012, but will return to Howard in May to participate in the Commencement ceremony. After all of her struggles, she says that receiving her degree “means beating the odds and acknowledging the fact that I deserve to be more than just another statistic. My past was just a chapter in my life, not the whole story, so I keep writing.”

 

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