Maya Darville

Maya Darville, RTA, Barnard College ‘24 

Date Interviewed: July 26, 2023

Introduce yourself!

Hello! My name is Maya Darville. I’m a senior at Barnard College and I’m from Atlanta, Georgia. I’m pursuing a combined major in Africana and American Studies and a minor in Anthropology. I’m a Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellow, and I’m working on a project that focuses on the intersections between race, gender and sexuality within the activism of the Civil Rights Movement. This year, I served as a Residential Teaching Assistant for the Freedom and Citizenship Program. I look forward to gaining more experience in education, research, and policy.

What drew you to work at F&C?

That’s pretty easy. I have a good bit of experience in student mentorship and in education. I'm a predoctoral student and a pre-law student , meaning that I am going to go to grad school to get a PhD in Africana Studies with the intention of becoming a college professor. I also plan to pursue a JD with the intention of becoming a civil rights lawyer. Ultimately, I strive to create equitable educational policy. Growing up, my experiences mirrored a lot of you all’s. I was a low income student at a predominantly white school with very little support for the college application process. I didn't know anybody who wanted to major in Political Science or Africana Studies, so I didn’t even know where to start in my search for college mentorship. I'm the first in my family to even consider law school. So, I figured that the younger version of myself would definitely find a program like this helpful, and I just found that my skill set matched what F&C was looking for. Working with low-income students, students of color, and other underserved student populations makes my heart happy. This is what I want to do with my life.

What is your favorite part of the program?

My favorite part of the program? I would say reading hours, I like reading hours a lot. I enjoy reading and writing hours just because I feel like that's when I get to hear the most about what you guys think about the texts. We have some philosophical conversations about life and school. I feel like that's where you all make real life connections with the things that you're reading. Within these times, I’ve seen you all take your educational journeys by the head. It’s so fulfilling to watch you all draw connections between the text, your experiences, and systems within the world we live in.

What is your favorite reading in the program and why?

My two favorite readings are predictable because I’m an African American Studies major. Number one would probably be Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Junior's Letter from Birmingham Jail just because it's eleven pages of scalding critique of the Baptist Church. It needed to be said. I also appreciated the well articulated shade in it, because I think a lot of people have this conception that activism and policy is this, like, clean cut thing. That you have to be cordial and civil and all things, and he's still a non-violent leader, but people need to be reminded [about] who they are. The whole point of his speech was to put a mirror up to the religious sector of the country and be like, “Oh, is this what you stand for? You're telling us you want us to do this, but you are condoning hatred on the other hand, why is it that we have to be peaceful while you all can call us racial slurs?” Whilst maintaining his air of non-violence, Dr. King points out the hypocrisy and the complacency of the white moderate. This piece is emblematic of the ethos of the whole movement. 

I think my second favorite would have to be The Souls of Black Folk by W.E.B. Du Bois just because he's one of my favorite anthropologists. He is one of the first people to even pioneer the idea of double consciousness, which is, in simple terms, the idea that as minority people (or in his example Black people) have their own consciousness that is characterized by our perspectives, experiences, and sociocultural understandings. But in order to survive in a country or a society that hates you, you have to almost absorb the consciousness of the oppressor so you can figure out how to navigate life. It creates turmoil and a unique type of stress. He was one of the first academics to put a name to this feeling, and one could argue that his findings birthed a whole generation of intersectional Black literature.  Also, his work, The Souls of Black Folk is one of my favorite books, I would say.

What is one piece of advice that you would like to give to F&C students?

I would say that if the dreams that you’re having [for your future] are scaring you, you’re on the right path. What you want to do should frighten you because you are just destined for big things. I remember being your guys’ age—I feel like I date myself when I say that, I’m literally only 21—but I remember being 17 and applying to college and  being scared to even say that I wanted to go to Barnard just because it was so selective. It was so daunting to think that a student like me would be able to get into a school like Barnard or Columbia. It was even crazier to think that I could get into Barnard and prosper, but I’m here; I’m graduating next year with the highest honors, a national fellowship under my belt, research experience, and teaching experience—I’ve pretty much gotten everything I can out of this university and I’m plan on coming back. If you don’t take the chance and believe in yourself, life will pass you by. You all have to kind of buy into the fear in a way that says, “Okay, I’m having this fear. The fear is real, it’s valid, but the fear can’t control me.” In fact, you should be kind of scared. You shouldn’t look at your dreams and be like, “Oh yeah, I feel like this is 100% totally achievable.” There should be an element of vulnerability and fear to your dreams. If you’re feeling a bit of fear, you’re moving in the right direction.

What is one fun fact about you?

I’m a lifelong Michael Jackson fan. I was such a fan that I convinced my parents to give my younger brother (whose name is Michael) to make the name “Jackson” one of his middle names. There is legitimately not a single song in his catalog that I do not know. My favorite album is Invincible and my favorite song right now is Heaven Can Wait.