The JTAC/ Alex Huerta
Tarleton State University has a staff full of leaders. A prime example of Tarleton leadership and prominence is exhibited every time Lathes Towns, commonly known as Momma T, steps into a room. Momma T has become a face of Tarleton State diversity as well as excellence among women.
“I have been at Tarleton for 14 years. I would describe my time at Tarleton as a long trail ride, a slow dance and a lot of moving pieces. I feel like I’ve adjusted and I’ve become a professional mover since I’ve been at Tarleton. I say that because I started in the office of parent relations when I first came on board and I transitioned into family relations. Now I am the director for student involvement and family relations,” Towns said.
“I’m everywhere for a reason. If students see “Black Momma T” at the theater or the President’s house but don’t know me yet, they know that it’s a door they can swing open too. I try to intentionally be everywhere so students who look like me know that they can be in those places too. There is no door at Tarleton State University that every student is not invited to go through. You just have to have courage to identify who you are to go through those doors,” Towns said.
The unique thing about black excellence is that it comes in multitudes. The Black Student Union is an on campus organization whose mission is to inform and empower black men and women on campus while also bringing awareness to the black community. The BSU is a newer organization, having just started in October of 2019, with a growing number of members each semester. The five principles of the BSU are unity, cultural awareness, integrity, respect and discipline. The BSU has served as a safe haven for all black men and women on campus and plans to continue to do so for as long as they can. As the organization grows, so does the safety net on campus for black students.
Regarding minority organizations on campus, students have not always been there for each other.
“Our black students on campus have never had continual support from their other black peers. With that being said, I’m currently attending and trying to listen and help the Black Student Union. I’m trying to help and support black students individually,” Towns said.
“The black students who come and seek me out and I see constantly on campus are the ones I try to encourage the most. I want them to be who they are. A large percentage of the black students on campus come from a community that has only been saturated with other black students or students of color. We have a great community,” Towns said. “Tarleton State University in Stephenville, TX is filled with great people. I try to tell students to be who they are and connect to the people who want to see you be successful. That connection might not always look like you and that connection probably didn’t come from the same area that you came from but that connection might have had a few of the hardships you had but not the same hardships. You have to own some of the conditions that society places on you but you don’t have to let them control your journey and destination.”
The amount of representation Tarleton State has displayed on campus for Black History month has spread the word about the importance of the month. Aside from that, there are a number of scheduled events in line to empower black students on campus and raise awareness amongst those in support.
“I celebrate Black History Month everyday. I feel like as a black person, I celebrate everyday and I feel like all black people do. When the month comes around, since I am at a predominantly white institution, I try to highlight the things within the institution that shines a spotlight on the black students who have come and gone. I try to inform people through my social media and I join in with student organizations that put on activities at campus. This past week, I got to hop in the kitchen and make my famous hot water cornbread and I feel like that was my contribution to the students,” Towns said.
“It’s not the transitioning that hurts us. It’s standing still and being afraid to advance. That’s the advice I would give to black women coming to this campus. It’s not who you are when transitioning to Tarleton that hurts you, it’s your standing still and being silent that hurts you. Be out there and be who you are! I don’t change who I am for many people. I try to develop who I am all the time because I feel like I was a late bloomer. Sometimes we want to hold on to who we truly are deep down and not try to cultivate who we want to be. My biggest thing is to be who you are and cultivate that. Be the best of who you are. Don’t let people change you but let them develop who you are,” Towns said.
Although to some she is just another smiling face, for black students, Towns is one of the many prominent leaders on the Tarleton State campus. Her 14 years of service as well as her constant urge to push students to be their best is what sets Towns apart from the rest. She is a key example of Tarleton’s core traditions in action. Through her civility and service, Towns has shown that excellence only comes after you put forth your best effort to always be yourself.