Lawrence Brown Wins Ford Black College Quiz
Stillman College junior Lawrence Brown had a secret. Though inquisitive friends tried to coax it out of him, he wouldn’t say a word. Last year, he was selected to participate in the seventh annual Ford Black College Quiz, a syndicated, nationally televised game show about the contributions of African Americans. Lawrence, who was the first Stillman student to be selected to participate in the competition, traveled to Spelman College to tape the show. He competed against students from eleven other Historically Black Colleges and Universities and was a first place, $5,000 winner.
Everybody wanted to know how Lawrence fared in the competition. Unfortunately, he was sworn to secrecy and could not announce the results of the game or provide any hints about his performance until the show finished airing nationwide in March. Even the amount he won was a top secret. The Tuscaloosa News interviewed Lawrence, and ran his photo on the front page. But Lawrence carefully avoided telling the newspaper zilch about his score. In an interview with The Advance, the College’s online student newspaper, a reporter asked for hints. Lawrence gave none.
Once the program finally aired, about six months after he won, Lawrence could let down his guard. “It was really difficult making sure I didn’t drop any hints,” he admits. “There were times when I was tempted to tell someone, but I knew that I couldn’t. Most of the people I know found out that I won when they watched the show on television.”
“Competing in the Ford Black College Quiz was a great experience. I was very nervous at first, especially in the first round. I was visibly shaking but, as time went on, I chilled out. It was really nerve wracking, but I had an opportunity to meet a lot of wonderful people and it is something I will cherish for the rest of my life,” says Lawrence, who enjoys reading CNN.com every day, and listens to NPR (National Public Radio). He is also a part of Stillman’s Honda Campus All-Star Challenge (HCASC), a quiz team that battles over subjects ranging from African American history to science and technology. When Dr. Thomas Jennings, an associate professor in Stillman’s Department of Social Sciences, asked him to apply to compete in the Ford Black College Quiz, Lawrence seized the opportunity.
“It was a no brainer. This is my sport. As far as extra-curricular activities go, this is one of the only things I do,” he explains.
While his interest in news and current events undoubtedly aided him in preparing for the competition, memorizing information from Ford’s 80-page study guide was even more helpful. Surprisingly, the guide included a great deal that Lawrence did not initially know about popular culture. And although most scholars would agree that studying about the feats of Harriet Tubman is more important than knowing Rihanna’s real name, Lawrence believes that there are great benefits to learning pop culture. “This is the culture we live in and we have to know what’s going on in the world today,” he says. “It’s important to be able to relate to people in order to understand where they are coming from and what they are interested in. It can help you to connect with others on a certain level. It’s important in the workplace and at school.”
Memorizing a vast array of information is challenging. Hitting your buzzer before your opponents hit theirs can be nerve wracking. Despite the stress, Lawrence enjoys all aspects of the competition. “Competing helps you academically because studying for competitions forces you to tap into knowledge you would not normally tap into. And you meet really interesting people. People exchange Twitter handles and FaceBook each other. It is a great networking opportunity, and it looks good on your resume.”
He is particularly grateful that the competition highlights African American history. “It’s important to know your history, especially if it’s one that isn’t always at the forefront in history books,” he states.
Watching Lawrence win on national television was cause for celebration. But months before the Stillman community discovered that he was a first place winner, students, faculty and staff were already proud of him for being the College’s first student to compete in the Ford Black College Quiz.
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