By Anjali Gahlaut
The Hooks Institute’s “Where Are They Now?” series explores how the institute has shaped the lives and careers of former alumni. The series uncovers valuable experiences, skills, and lessons that former alumni acquired during their time at Hooks.
Flatez Dyson is an alumnus of the Hooks African American Male Initiative (HAAMI) at the Benjamin L. Hooks Institute for Social Change. HAAMI seeks to enrich the collegiate experience for its members as well as improve graduation rates for African American male undergraduate students at the University of Memphis. Dyson first got involved with HAAMI in 2015 and was a member of the program’s first cohort. He states, “I thought it was a great opportunity to get involved with a program that was greater than myself and be involved with other like-minded individuals.”
During his time with HAAMI, Dyson attended multiple special events where he was able to speak and network with people of various professions. Public speaking is a skill Dyson has integrated into his professional life as a supply chain analyst at Monogram Foods. “Those experiences through HAAMI built up my confidence level in public speaking to where I could speak to individuals at different levels within an organization. At my current job, I report directly to the Chief of Supply Chain, so I have daily conversations with upper management. It [HAAMI] has definitely benefited me and my career in being able to speak boldly and proudly about the things I stand by.”
Hear from Flatez Dyson
In 2016, the Hooks Institute’s annual “Join Hands for Change” gala honored the accomplishments of University of Memphis alumnus Marvin Ellison, who was CEO of JCPenny at the time. As a member of HAAMI, Dyson was able to speak at the gala and have one-on-one conversations with Ellison. Ellison was impressed by HAAMI and invited its members to Dallas, Texas, where they were able to participate in workshops and tour JCPenny’s headquarters. Dyson states, “For me, that trip had a lot of firsts in my career: it was my first time going to Dallas, it was my first time being on a plane, and it was the first time I met someone in a professional role of his caliber that looked like me. That was a very inspirational moment for me.”
HAAMI supports its students towards graduation through academic achievement, career development, and personal development. “HAAMI is a great organization to be a part of if you’re looking to be a part of an organization that really believes in its students, that puts its students first, and really pushes its students to thrive. I feel like it’s very family oriented. The staff and faculty members give you a nudge whenever you need that nudge, but they also give you career advice and parental advice and teach you life lessons. It’s a wonderful program to be a part of.”
About the Author
Anjali Claire Gahlaut graduated from White Station High School in Memphis, Tennessee and is now a rising sophomore and prospective History major at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York. Anjali spent the summer of 2022 as an intern at Hooks and joined the team to gain a deeper understanding of Memphis’ history and its impact on marginalized groups.