Tatyana Brown joined a video call thinking she was going to meet her roommate’s friend. But she realized something was up when Vice Chancellor Mariët Westermann greeted her with a smile. This was the moment Brown discovered she had been awarded the prestigious Truman Scholarship — the second NYUAD student to be granted the highly competitive award.
“Tatyana Brown, you are a Truman Scholar. Congratulations!” Westermann said. “As someone who got to know you well and also as the Vice Chancellor I am extremely proud of your accomplishment and very, very happy for you.”
Not expecting to hear about the results for another 10 days, Brown was clearly surprised by the news. “I’m in shock!” the Class of 2022 student exclaimed.
As one of the 62 new Truman Scholars selected from 845 exceptional candidates this year, Brown hopes to pursue a master’s degree in Africana studies with a certificate in gender studies to explore international Black feminisms, and a master’s degree in social work to gain skills that will support the community work she wants to do.
A New Perspective
“Leaving home and coming to Abu Dhabi really opened my eyes to more ways structures of power affect everyday life around the world,” Brown said. Being able to engage with schoolmates and discuss how they navigate these structures allowed Brown to reflect on wider dynamics at the crossroads of race, gender, and justice.
With the Truman Scholarship, Brown looks forward to “connecting with more organizers, artists, healers, and everyday people committed to social justice. I hope to continue traveling to explore how marginalized communities take care of each other, then dream and scheme with them on ways to replace harmful systems with life-affirming ones.” Her dream for the future is to use her travels to connect a global network of mutual aid projects uplifting Black women and gender marginalized people.
At NYUAD, Brown co-founded AZIZA, a community organization for Black women in Abu Dhabi, and helped build some of the first data pools, networks, and resources by and for local Black women. AZIZA grew from a two-person team to 14, helping to host 25 events the two years since its inception, uniting over 130 global Black women.
“The name AZIZA, which means beloved in Arabic, was thoughtfully chosen not only because the organization was founded in the region, but also because it is a common term of endearment used in Black communities,” Brown said. “It also happens to pay homage to Nobel Prize winner for Literature Toni Morrison’s dedication to the examination of a Black woman’s experience in her novel Beloved. The word captures so much meaning and honors the global nature of the love we have for each other.”
Brown said she has always been looked out for by Black women since her childhood. From her neighbor Miss Tia, who would twist Brown’s hair into a different style each week, to the daily hug from her second grade crossing guard, Brown developed her fundamental conviction around mutual aid: that everyone deserved to be free, healthy, and safe.
“From the day I entered this world, I was treasured and cared for… I will always have a debt to pay to Black women ahead of me. It is my calling. It is the work that I will do no matter what,” Brown said. “Love as an ethic will get you everywhere.”