On campus, he is the dauntless, approachable guy who has long locks with hints of gray in them sporting shades that resembleglasses of the former Beatle John Lennon. Students eagerly stop him to either share or to just say hello. After being in his presence for only five minutes, it is evident that there is somethingextraordinary about him.
“Dr. Dennard is such an awesome person,” said Kewasha Peterkin, 22, fromAtlanta. “Everyone needs a Dr. Dennard in their life.”
Named after the late film actor Dana Andrews, Dana Dennard was born in St. Petersburg, in Mercy Hospital; although Dennard made it known thathis roots lie in his mother.
“My mama, her name is Kha…that’s where I’m from,” said Dennard.”If we remind ourselves and our children where we come from, really of ahuman being, God won’t be so elusive, and spirituality won’t be such an intellectual commentary. Spirituality would be more real, alive and close-up.”
Aside from being co-owner of the Aakhet Center, also known as the Amen-Ra’s bookstore, he is also an adjunct professor of Psychology and holds other titles. Dennard is a licensed psychologist, owner and director of a private practice and the Aakhet Film Studio. He and his wife are co-founders and co-directors. He and his wife also perform educational work sometimes assisting agencies, and they had a school for children.
The Sakkara Youth Institute taught students in the surrounding community for over 17 years before closing this summer. Dennard and his wife’s objective for opening the school was to create an environment and curriculum they felt would enhance the whole development of the black child, not just academically.
“The public school system is a miserable failure,” Dennard said.
Dennard cites the system’s failure as evident, since almost half of ninth graders in the nation do not pass to enter tenth grade. Many parents did not understand the importance of what he and his wife were providing at their school.
They were ambivalent because it was not like most public schools.
Dennard chuckled because he knew too well what he was experiencing being an adjunct professor of psychology himself.
“I have the chance of influencing some small group of young blackpeople who may make a difference tomorrow,” Dennard said, alluding to challenges with his department, large workload and inadequate pay. “And that’s what keeps me here.”
He said that he really makes progress if he reaches five students out of 80.
Occupational Therapist and FAMU alumnus, Aaron Epps, is one of the students who Dennard reached.
“He always says I’m one of the people who thought he was crazy at first,” Epps said. “He’s intriguing [and] a cool down to earth kind of guy that says some obscure things.”
The obscure things that come from Dennard’s mind may be a reflection of all the experiences he has had that shaped him. He received his bachelor’s of science,master’s of science, and doctorate of psychology from Florida State University, while independently studying African culture, so he could discover ways to aid the black community.
Dennard spent a stint in a group therapy drug program in Miami, battling drug addiction during his first year at the University of Miami. His interaction with over 800 people also going though the program helped shape his career goals as a mentor and educator.
While working on his degrees, Dennard found a mentor in Na’im Akbar, a former professor who supervised Dennard’s doctoral clinic, was best man at his wedding and played a major influence in his present teaching style.
Dennard considers himself a Renaissance man, using his talents and to express himself through music, film and, most importantly, mentoring others.
“Mentoring is what I’m passionate about,” Dennard said. “It’s ridiculous if I’m a scientist and don’t know how to help my family, my own people.”