In HBCU circles, Ali is highly regarded. She’s praised by her fellow sister queens and renowned for her “Ali LovesSSU” campaign that got her the Miss SSU crown last Spring. Ali’s road to becoming the face of Savannah State University is that of legend. Starting as Miss Sophomore, Ali worked her way up the mantle of student leadership before becoming the leading Queen. Ali, a graduating senior, detailed her experience at SSU for us and the lasting legacy that she’s leaving upon her matriculation.
Randall: Thank you so much for allowing me to do this interview! Truly an honor! Could you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Ali: I’m just a country girl from Georgia trying to make a difference, if not in the world, at least in my community.
Randall: How was your high school career?
Ali: High school was a bit of a challenge for me. Never failed any classes, but I just had a hard time focusing. I was editor of the yearbook, president of FBLA, and apart of the morning show broadcast team.
Randall: How’d you end up at Savannah State University? From my research, I see that you were originally going to attend Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach, Florida!
Ali: Wow. Yes…Bethune-Cookman was definitely a “go” for me. However, my mom and one of her close friends INSISTED on me taking a tour of Savannah State. Eventually I decided to listen to their wise thoughts and go on a tour. When I got there, it was literally the most beautiful school I had ever seen. I met Dr. Dozier, the president. She convinced me to come by telling me about the Journalism Mass Communications accreditation. I got a scholarship…and the rest is history.
Randall: You’re a mass communications major, the best major there is! What made you want to major in mass communications and what do you want to do with your degree after Savannah State?
Ali: You know, sometimes, people see things in you that you do not see in yourself. Since I was young, I have always been interested in cameras and wanting my own talk show. Once I started taking biology and chemistry classes, I knew that I did not want to go into that field any longer. So, as time went by, I had to do some research on what was best for me; and my pastor always told me that once I got to college, I needed to take up film and pursue a degree in it. After finishing at Savannah State, I plan on receiving a Masters in Film from another HBCU, and begin working on the start of my production company that will focus on entertainment news.
— M6 ♓️👑 (@alithepoet_) July 14, 2017
Kings and Queens gave me a different outlook pic.twitter.com/06eZR4IVx4
— M6 ♓️👑 (@alithepoet_) July 14, 2017
Randall: Let’s talk about your experience at Tiger! I want to go through your first few years at Savannah State. How was your:
- Freshman Year?
I was still in the process of learning “Ali”. I didn’t really have a lot of friends, but, my first week, I talked to just about every single person in my class. I like talking to people, so, that’s what I did. I ended up meeting my best-friend, Jamal Hendrix. He and I were in the same classes and I’ll never forget, he came up to me and asked me for my Caprisun, and I said, “no”. *laughs* He and I tried to start a production team on campus, which connected me with a lot of people. I then decided to run for president of my resident hall (Tiger Court) which was fun, and definitely a learning experience. I was apart of a modeling troupe *laughs* “Savage, Inc.” the only print modeling organization on campus. I joined the National Council of Negro Women, Savannah State Collegiate Section. Joining NCNW was one of the best decisions I have made in college. I learned the value of accountability, service and friendship. My freshman year was one for the books, definitely. I gained two mentors, Chauntilena Butler and Jasmine Raglin, who have guided me into the Savannah State woman that I am and still striving to be. They both encouraged me to run for Miss Sophomore, which was a tough battle for me.
- Sophomore Year?
Sophomore year was SO FUN. I met tons of people, and really reached out to not only my sophomore class, but the university as a whole. Out of all my years at Savannah State, sophomore year taught me A LOT. It humbled me more than anything. I went into a state of isolation, of staying in my room and only leaving if I HAD to…and I was good at faking the funk. Sophomore year was the platform of my entire Miss SSU campaign. My role as Miss Sophomore was great. I took a lot of mental notes from the 1st Mister Savannah State, Rakeeb Akande on leadership and perception. I had great events, met great people in New Orleans (Leadership for Kings and Queens Connection) and the overall experience was great. During my campaign, my platform point was “ALI-aspiring, leading, and inspiring” Aspiring my goals, while leading and inspiring others to do the same. So, as Miss Sophomore, I made it my mission to talk to my peers to see how can they reach their goals.
- Junior Year?
Junior year also opened up my eyes to a lot of things. I was a Community Assistant, which is similar to an RA. Being in the presence of potentially great freshmen on a daily basis helped me realize my potential. Being JCP was cool, I didn’t get to do a lot that I planned, but I enjoyed it. It helped me realize my leadership capabilities. But, being Junior Year Ali, that’s who forced me. I began my journey with God and myself. I started to dedicate myself to God by going to church, meditating and understanding that my biggest fear is that I am powerful beyond measures. I had to let go of not only toxic people, but the situations they brought and the forgiveness I never had in my heart. I had to feed my mind spiritual food so that I could be nourished mentally. As my favorite motivator, Sarah Jakes Roberts stated, “In order to elevate, you must isolate” and I did just that.
Randall: One thing I discuss in my book A Queen’s Pain is campus politics and the social environment at HBCU’s. In the book, the main character Raynetta Duram has a warped sense of what popularity is. She sees popularity and “clout” as being Greek (specifically a member of the Rho Eta sorority on Laketon State’s campus) and holding a title. Raynetta goes on to serve in multiple positions on the Laketon State Royal Court, However, she feels as if she pales in comparison to her rival Jessica who becomes Miss Mu Theta, the pageant queen of the brother organization to the Rho Etas. In your opinion, how much does position truly matter in a collegiate environment? Does it truly make or break your experience on campus? Ali: The way I see it, we are all leaders. These titles…they’re just that, titles. Anyone can make a change on their campus. Does it make or break you? I don’t think so, I know plenty of people who have had, and are having an experience just as great as mine by just going to class and showing up to events.
Randall: In your rise to prominence at SSU you networked heavily. How’d you network and what did you gain from networking?
Ali: I networked by just being me. Lol, sounds cliché, but true. My family will tell you that I literally NEVER met a stranger, and I see it to be very true. I love talking to people and learning of their passions, I get tired of talking about me at times.
Randall: You served as Miss Sophomore on the SSU Royal Court and then served as Junior Class President! What are the similarities and differences between Royal Court and SGA?
Ali: Being on Royal Court is about the “social” aspects of the campus; having events, showing up for parties, looking good (laughs). Whereas being in SGA is all about politics. As president, I had to oversee my board and make sure everything was executed properly. Now, being on the executive board is a little bit of both, especially now as we are transitioning to having a new president of the university.
Randall: Did serving in SGA aid you in eventually becoming Miss Savannah State? If so, how?
Ali: I honestly don’t think so. A lot of people didn’t even know I was junior class president.
Randall: What made you want to run to be Miss Savannah State University?
Ali: I’ll give you a short answer: I wanted to run for Miss SSU because the queen is the official ambassador of the university, which means I get the opportunity to meet potential students and convince them to come to the university which I love dearly, in hopes that they can gain that same love during their experience. Now, another reason as to why I wanted to run was because when I was Leadership for Kings and Queens in NOLA as Miss Sophomore, I was in a workshop, and the speaker, who was a previous Miss Bowie State, told us, “as queen, you want to be so good that the university forgets who the last queen was” and that stuck with me. I don’t care about the nice clothes and makeup, yeah, it’s nice…but so is some school paraphernalia. I didn’t run for Miss SSU, or even Miss Sophomore to “boost” my resume or make me look good, I did it for the purpose behind and that’s where some people confuse the position.
Randall: Tell us about your campaign!
Randall: What was your platform?
- My theme was “AliLovesSSYOU” and these were my platform points:
- “Hey SSYOU, I’m Home”
An initiative for the freshman class of 2022. This initiative will help enhance the student morale while educating them on the rich history of SSU. I firmly believe that the tiger pride spirit will increase the retention rate of class 2022.
- “There’s nothing without SSUYOU”
A platform specifically for the mental health of our student body. Without you there could be no SSU. This platform will focus on aiding the student body for a healthy mental well-being; while enhancing self-confidence and worth.
- “Get SSYOU-nified”
Bridging the gap between our faculty/staff and student body. I will create programs that will showcase the resources that our institution has for us. I will partner with different degree programs and departments to allow students to learn from and interact with different faculty and staff.
- “Making SSYOU home”
As the primary ambassador for SSU; it is my duty to recruit new Tigers to our home of which we love. Therefore, I will collaborate with the Office of Admissions and Tiger Ambassadors to do local and distant recruitment.
Randall: What were strategies that you used to reach the students to garner their support?
Ali: I hosted events FOR the students. I knew what they would come out to and I did it. Yet, I had to cater to EVERYONE. So, I made a rap that was catchy so that people could remember me, who doesn’t love music? I had a FREE brunch on a Saturday morning, I held a FREE haircuts, hair curls and FREE lash event, a toiletry drive for our STAR (Students That Are Rising) Program, I had a free car wash, a meet and greet. It was also Spring Fling so I made sure I showed up to events. I even got hypnotized! I had about 90% of my residents and their friends on my campaign team, I asked athletes, ROTC, Greeks, Party Promoters, Alum, SGA Friends from other HBCU’s …YOU NAME IT, they helped me!
Randall: What were some problems that you encountered in your campaign and how did you overcome them?
Ali: Lack of Sleep!!!! Seriously, I didn’t have any issues.
Randall: How’d it feel when you found out that you won?
Ali: Quick story: every night at 12:00 am I get a bible verse to come to my phone…so, voting ended at 11:59 pm on April 5, 2018…I was sitting with my friends talking about who knows what, lol…and at 12:00 am on April 6, 2018 my FAVORITE bible verse came to my phone (Proverbs 3:5-6) CONFIRMATION. So, 12 hours later was when we had announcements, I was running late. I was so nervous, I ended up oversleeping! So, I get there around 12:10 and my advisor is announcing who won Mister (Ced was late too) right after, he announced queen…751 votes! I had no words, all I could do was smile, and to the day, I STILL can’t believe it.
Randall: Tell us about your coronation! How was it and how were you feeling?
Ali: Coronation was a dream come true. I’ve always wanted to be Cinderella, and to see a carriage waiting on me and my king was so surreal. It was SO BEAUTIFUL. My mom got up and said a beautiful speech and I would’ve cried, but I didn’t want to mess up my makeup. Lol. I asked my advisor for a specific crown and he said “no” then when I got ready to be crowned I see it there, and im just like WOW. But, he also told me no for the carriage. Shoutout to Mr. Desmond Stowe and the Office of Student Life, they’re the best.
Randall: How’d it feel to go viral this past summer with the other HBCU Queens?
Ali: I didn’t know we went viral to be honest. But we were getting all the likes and DMs, lol.
Randall: How’d it feel to meet HBCU queens from other schools?
Ali: We had already been talking in the millions of groupchats before NASAP, so, when I actually met them, it was like I had already known them forever.
Randall: How was National Black College Alumni Hall of Fame weekend?
Ali: The best. It’s always a great time when I’m with my sisters…we laugh, we fuss, we cry, we eat! But never really slept, but that was okay, I love them and being around them, getting to know them a little more and them getting to know me a little more was a pleasure. Though only 10 placed, we all won. We all had fun, and I think that was what’s most important about that weekend.
Randall: What’s next for you in your reign?
Ali: I plan on having a few more events, even some day parties…I really want to venture out to other states and recruit. I plan on starting a mentoring program in the community for the next Miss Savannah States.
Randall: Where can we find you on social media?
Ali: Follow me on Twitter @alithepoet_ and on Instagram @alithe81st my Facebook