PARIS, FRANCE Aaliyah Heath reigned as Miss Clark Atlanta University from 2015 until her graduation in May 2016. Then, Heath did what few saw coming, yet she always knew was possible. She moved to Paris, France to pursue post-graduate studies at The American University of Paris. That’s where the global communications major became an unwitting ambassador of black people and how blacks are seen on the global stage. She is tackling this latest challenge with grace and style, always rising to the task of representing the best of who black people are in part by rejecting low expectations of her in the classroom.
Serving in this capacity is nothing new for the young fashionista, who majored in fashion design while at CAU and, has dreams of one day launching her own fashion magazine. “My goal as a global citizen is to show that all black people are not the same,” said Heath. It’s a simple statement, which often has to be reiterated to knock down misconceptions rooted in negative stereotypes. “Attending Clark Atlanta University really helped me to set my standards high.”
Heath is joined in Paris by roommate and fellow CAU 2016 alumna Stephanie Alexander. The international relations student, who also attends The American University of Paris, was extraordinarily blunt about the challenges she faces living and studying abroad.
“I’ve experienced the sentiment of low expectations because of my skin color,” Alexander bemoaned. “I’ve witnessed the rewarding of white mediocrity and the expectation of black perfection, which is unattainable because perfection isn’t real,” she continued. These are the kinds of unsettling drivers coupled with her CAU political science degree, which compel Alexander to work doubly hard at reaching success and quashing the misconceptions of doubters.
Christopher Scott attends graduate school alongside Heath and Alexander. He, too, finished CAU in 2016 with a bachelor’s degree in political science. His superior grades earned him the opportunity to study international relations in Paris. This fall he heads off to law school where he’ll study international law with hopes of eventually landing a career at the United Nations working on behalf of marginalized black people worldwide. Despite his big dreams, Scott is under no illusions about the state of world race relations. Still, he remains optimistic. “I’m just really glad to see CAU preparing students to be global change agents,” Scott declared. “You’re really giving students a chance to step outside of Atlanta and outside of the norm.”
The trio of CAU alumni was interviewed on camera about a wide range of socially conscious topics by a group of current CAU film students on a study abroad trip in Paris. We told you when they departed for France the film students would be spending their spring break week producing two soon-to-be-released documentaries about the ostracization of black French filmmakers. These interviews are a culmination of their efforts.
CAU’s robust study abroad offerings have caught the attention of neighboring Atlanta University Center institutions, some of which have arranged for their students to travel abroad with us. Study abroad represents a significant component of the University’s growing International Programs office, led by director Gwen Wade. International students make up more than 20 percent of CAU’s expanding student body. Diversity is part of President Ronald A. Johnson’s vision of “Lifting Every Voice” by providing all CAU students with a competitive edge in an increasingly global workforce.
Plans are already underway for our next study abroad excursions this summer to China, Jamaica and London. To help defray costs to students, support CAU study abroad programs with your financial gifts. Click the link to give: https://invest.cau.edu/give-now.