Brittani Hunt still keeps a photo of Anthony on her laptop.
He’s in a blue baseball cap, and his beard flecked with gray makes him look distinguished. In the photo, he’s eating Chinese food at Hunt’s desk when she worked as a bank manager five years ago in her hometown of Cincinnati, Ohio.
That was a lifetime ago for Hunt.
She moved to North Carolina to study religion and become a minister. She got a master’s degree in divinity from Wake Forest University as a Wait Scholar, the first person of color to receive the full-ride scholarship.
She later got married to Bradley Hunt, a fellow divinity student, had a little girl named Harlem and got involved in a local church. In July 2015, she arrived at High Point University as its manager of chapel programs. This summer, she became HPU’s director of multicultural affairs.
Hunt says her life shaped her for her new job. It’s because of people like Anthony.
She always bought him lunch from the Chinese restaurant next door. She worked for Key Bank on a busy corner where her customers represented every class, race and religion in Cincinnati.
There, she met Anthony. He was homeless.
Back then, Hunt was Key Bank’s youngest branch manager ever, scaling the ladder of success three years after graduating from Tennessee State University with a degree in business administration.
Then, Anthony and others at the bank helped her see what route she should take in her life.
Follow her faith. And follow her heartfelt mission to help the forgotten and the vulnerable, both young and old, find meaning and purpose in their lives.
That’s why she came to North Carolina, a state where she had never been.
“Sometimes, life has a way of calling you,” Hunt says. “You just have to be willing to listen.”
The Roots of Connection, The Subtlety of Presence
As HPU’s manager of chapel services, Hunt did much.
She organized faith-based trips, acted as a choir mentor, created the chapel’s online promotions and helped edit and design HPU’s first student journal of faith known as “Infinite Space.”
And she preached. Twice.
Last spring, during HPU’s weekly Wednesday sermon at Hayworth Chapel, Hunt asked everyone to pull out their iPhones.
“Take a selfie, and I want you to look at it,” she told the students and staff seated in front of her. “Don’t you love that person?”
She wanted to implore everyone to think about the right kind of self-love, straight from the New Testament pages of Matthew. She wanted everyone to love their neighbors like they do themselves.
This ministry is what Hunt brings to her new job — helping students connect with people different from them in class, race, religion, region, disability and sexual orientation.
Ask her about that, and Hunt will recall instances that helped enrich her.
Like the time with a transgender student. When she was a divinity student at Wake Forest University, they both sat at a table together and talked about life and struggle.
Or the time with the Muslim father. He was the dad of one of her best friends growing up, and he asked Hunt and his daughter to keep it down on a sleepover during his prayers.
Then, there is Anthony. And her school.
From kindergarten through eighth grade, Hunt attended Cincinnati’s Marva Collins Preparatory School, an all-black school named after the legendary education activist. Students wore uniforms, practiced etiquette and read Shakespeare, Plato and Tolstoy.
Hunt became one of the most recognizable faces at the school.
In a sailor dress and a red tie, she stood beside two of her best friends, and together, they recited the famous “I Have A Dream” speech from Martin Luther King Jr.
Hunt began at age 6 and performed every year beside Dana Austin and Sadiqa Cash, the little girl with the Muslim father.
Hunt can still recall some of King’s words today, particularly the kicker to the section she recited: “Let us not wallow in the valley of despair.”
The Marvin Collins school gave Hunt confidence and a sense of pride. It also instilled in her a presence.
That’s what Gail Tuttle, HPU’s senior vice president for student life, sees today.
“She has such a calm demeanor, an empathetic presence, and we need someone who is diplomatic and level-headed who can talk to both parties involved and help educate them and help them understand,” Tuttle says. “That is Brittani.
“She is all about being a teacher. She is phenomenal.”
The Cultural Muscle Coach
The white board in Hunt’s office in the Slane Student Center is full of ideas and words like “empathy” and “awareness.” Those ideas include holding eight cultural awareness weeks and having a monthly dialogue she calls (Un) Common Grounds.
Her first, Latino Heritage Week, was held in September, and this month, Hunt will hold a session for faculty to help them understand how to teach students with disabilities.
Like a teacher in a classroom, Hunt wants to educate and inform on a college campus. She has a story that explains why.
After eight years at Marva Collins, Hunt went to a predominantly white high school where she didn’t know a soul. During her first days there, she sat down at a lunch table with other white girls when one of them asked a question.
“Do you go to church like on “Big Momma’s House?” one of them asked.
“I go to a black church,” Hunt responded.
She didn’t get angry. She became resilient. Even then, she knew she wanted to educate and inform. She was elected president of her high school’s Multicultural Club, and she took to heart what her mom told her.
“Brit, be a blessing to others,” her mom told her. “It’s not about you.”
Hunt brings that same sensibility to her new job.
“My favorite movie is ‘Crash,’ and its concept is that we don’t see each other until we crash into one another,” she says. “So, it’s our civic duty to help our students exercise their cultural muscles and connect with the souls of others and see them for who they are and the values they bring.
“We all want to make the world a better place. That’s the crux of it.”