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Meet the Class of 2024 MLK Scholars

Jania Robinson '24

A young black woman with a big smile looking directly at the camera

Home: Valley Stream, NY

Major: Exercise Science / Medical Science Concentration

Quote: "My hair doesn’t need to be “fixed”. Society’s view of beauty is what is broken. "

About My Resource: Natural hair often serves as a deterrent in corporate America. Often, Black women or those with natural hair are told their hair serves as a burden in the workplace or in the education system. This can lead to a lack of confidence and opportunity for Black women constantly told they look “unprofessional”. How can the hair that grows out of your own scalp make you unprofessional?

My goal is to spread awareness about the daily natural hair struggle. I created a playlist along with a poem to awaken the public eye against the discrimination (and legislation) and to support natural hair wearers transcend by embracing themselves in a healing process.

My voice may quaker, fumble, and appear shaky in my lifelong commitment to social justice but I can assure you, as a growing leader and an individual trying to find their voice in the world of social injustices, I will never remain silent; that’s why I’m an MLK Scholar.

Faid Ahmad '24

A young man stands in front of a waterfall with a blue and white shirt with a closed mouth grin

Home: Ithaca, NY

Major: Politics

Quote: “The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that by the good people” – The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

About My Resource:  "Another Pandemic in America: Islamophobia." My resource includes some of the effects that Islamophobia has on Muslims in the U.S. and provides a few solutions that can help tackle Islamophobia in the country.

My resource answers the question “Where do we go from here?” as I’ve included some ways that help fight against Islamophobia in the U.S. and ways to spread awareness about the negative consequences it has on Muslims.

I’m an MLK scholar because I’m passionate about social change and social justice and I want to help people in my community and beyond

file-outline Another Pandemic: Islamophobia - farid-a_another-pandemic.pdf (5.67 MB)

Fabiola A. Alvarado Berríos '24

A young woman in a black blazer and white top smiles at the camera with a red head wrap

Home: Las Piedras, Puerto Rico

Major: Theater Production and Design

Quote: "I was made of nows, and my feet, flat on the promissory land, could not resist walking backwards they went onwards, and onwards."– Julia de Burgos

About My Resource: My resource is an Instagram carousel with a broad definition of accountability and three specific definitions: personal accountability, social accountability, and governmental accountability. It also has a link to a resource guide the Accountability for All - YouTube Playlist and some tips to practice personal accountability.

Chaos or community moving forwards depends on healing from society, governments, and individuals. One way to address and heal what keeps us from progressing as a society and in chaos is accountability. In a society where there is a constant blame game and fear of retribution when you make mistakes, being accountable is scary. But there has been a shift, this generation is holding society, institutions, and governments accountable and is practicing personal accountability even inadvertently. This resource is a guide to understanding accountability for the person who does not even know where to begin, to the person who has started and craves a bit more clarity. The YouTube playlist is also there to boost the power of this resource and give more tools to practice and understand the three types of accountability. When we start by holding ourselves accountable then we can understand when we need to hold others and bigger organizations accountable. To continue forward as a community, we need to address what threatens chaos; accountability is the key to understanding and eradicating the possibility of chaos.

 I am an MLK scholar because I breathe the toxic breath of injustice and long to find and design a solution to the pollution that plagues the air that we breathe. As a scholar, I wish to find my path and place to help the affected take space and resolve the injustice that each day minority populations face.

file-outline Accountability for All - fabi-a_accountability-for-all.pdf (550.38 KB)

Franchesca Cabrera '24

A young woman in an animal print shirt with brownish red hair takes a selfie, smiling

Home: Carmel, New York

Quote: “Advocacy for others is, in turn, advocacy for the self.”

Major: Documentary Studies and Production

About My Resource: 

“A Mother Is A Mother Is A Mother” - a brief explanation about the disparity of healthcare services and accessibility for women of color.

The questions we’ve asked ourselves on this today are “What’s next? Where do we go from here?” With the urgency of the Black Lives Matter movement within the past year, where the primary focus has been on those lost at the hands of police due to systemic racism, I believe it is our duty as a society to also discuss the institutional racism within our healthcare as well – either directly leading black people to unnecessary death or decreasing their quality of life and making it more difficult until it gets to that point. Health is a topic that is quite sensitive for many people, but I don’t believe it has to me. As someone who has suffered from chronic illness my whole, especially since I was born a woman of color, I have personally seen the disparity in how a doctor treats me versus how they treat my white counterparts - and if I don’t do what I can to speak up now, I only set myself up to become a part of the statistics I’d be avoiding the conversation of.

To quote Confucious, "Education breeds confidence, confidence breeds hope, hope breeds peace.” I am an MLK Scholar for the same reason that I want to be a documentarian: to better our society through non-fiction storytelling, planning where to go by knowing where we've been - and most importantly, to help others.

file-outline A Mother is a Mother - chess-c_a-mother-is-a-mother-is-a-mother.pdf (118.05 KB)

Adriana Ramirez '24

A young woman with a black top and necklace smiles at the camera

Home: New York, New York

Quote: "Never let the fear of striking out, keep you from playing the game" – Babe Ruth

Major: Politics and Legal Studies

About My Resource: "CHNGE NEEDED!’ on Spotify!

This playlist has a variety of artists that find it important to use their platform in a way that speaks out against injustices for the black community. Each tells their own story within the song and their message is different but in the end, all portray the lack of empathy from police officers and other members of the criminal justice system. These songs have an impact on the black community because it is the struggles they face on a daily basis. The playlist shows that we need change in the system specifically for black people since they get the negative end of the spectrum. Once people listen to this playlist, they will hear from black voices and their point of view on the flaws of the system. This will then lead people to join in the fight to fix the flaws of the system and to educate those in power and those with limited knowledge on why there is a need for change.

I am an MLK scholar because I feel like it is very important to have a deeper understanding of the past in order to properly be an advocate for change in the future. I am an aspiring lawyer wanting to create change within the system for the black and brown community.

Beja Birch '24

A young woman with long braided hair and a black top smiles at the camera from behind a tree trunk

Home: Jacksonville, FL

Quote: "Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee." -Muhammad Ali

Major: Television-Radio

About My Resource: "Black Women: Black is Beautiful"- This playlist is a collection of six videos discussing how colorism and hair play a major role in beauty standards forced on black women and how it shapes their everyday lives.

I chose the topic of colorism and hair because as a young black woman, the color of my skin and my hair has played a major role in my identity. I grew up in a predominately white community, attending predominately white institutions, and growing up in that environment I have encountered plenty of ignorant minds that do not view my physical features as beautiful. For example, one day some boys at my high school decided to rate all the girls in class and they put all the girls on a list from hottest to ugliest. It turns out that the boys placed all the girls of color at the very bottom of the list because “we were not white” which according to them also meant we were all ugly. That type of blatant colorism was shocking and I was at a loss for words. I couldn’t believe that they were ranking beauty based on skin color. Another example this time pertaining to my hair was when one day I decided to wear my 4C hair out in an afro and as I was walking down the hallway of my school someone yelled at me from across the hallway “brush your hair girl!” followed by a lot of laughter. I am proud of my blackness, and I love my culture, however, in that moment I’m ashamed to say that I was embarrassed of my hair. Loving my hair was difficult growing up and it’s a struggle that I believe almost every black girl has dealt with; and, growing up in a country that views our physical features as “ugly,” makes the process of learning to love yourself a lot harder.

I chose these topics because I live in an America that idolizes white beauty and Eurocentric features which causes a lot of internalized self-hatred within the black community.  From an early age, black girls are taught to hate themselves and believe that they are not beautiful. This self-hatred needs to be put to an end (now) and the ideal that black is beautiful needs to be normalized and accepted because our blackness makes us who we are, and we don’t need to assimilate to any other beauty standard to please anyone. Our hair and our skin complexions are beautiful and something to be proud of.

Kenji Frazier '24

TBD

Home: Onondaga Nation

Quote: "It is certain, in any case, that ignorance, allied with power, is the most ferocious enemy justice can have." -James Baldwin

Major: Exploratory Studies

About My Resource: "3 Reasons Your Assumptions About Native Americans Might Be Racist"-This Instagram carousel is meant to bring awareness to cultural attitudes and perspectives about Native Americans. Also, to point people to valuable resources and people currently engaged in different forms of activism.

People should be aware that Native Americans are still alive and thriving despite centuries of oppression and genocide. We are culturally diverse, and still fighting for our rights. Bringing more awareness and visibility to our struggle is important when healing the soul of the United States.

I chose to be an MLK Scholar to be in a learning environment that is inclusive and sensitive to my experience as a person of color.

file-outline Reasons Your Assumptions About Native Americans Might Be Racist - kenji-f_3-reasons.pdf (1.98 MB)

Olivia Celenza '24

tbd

Home: Sellersville, Pennsylvania

Quote: “If I can bring happiness to people all around the world, then I will try my best to do so.” – Tom Holland

Major: Exploratory

About My Resource: “Representation in Media” is a resource in which I discuss the importance of representation within the media and provide lists of movies, books, television shows, and musicals to have broadened your understanding and perspective of the world around us!

I believe my resource answers MLK’s question because it allows people of color to use their platform and create. We have fought for our place in society and everything we have done to this point has gotten us to where we are today. Through hard work and dedication, we are able to share our stories, and give others the opportunities to do the same, providing them with the capability to see that a person like them in such a whitewashed industry.

I am an MLK scholar because I believe that there is beauty in every culture around the world. I love to make people happy and believe that every person deserves to be celebrated for the human being they are and the background they represent.

file-outline Representation in Media - olivia-c_representation-in-media.pdf (3.66 MB)

Angela Russell '24

TBD

Home: New Orleans, LA

Quote: “I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change. I am changing the things I cannot accept”, (Angela Davis).

Major: Film, Photography, and Visual Arts

About My Resource: "The Black Experience Then and Now Playlist"- This playlist is songs mostly from the 1960s to the 1970s and the 2010s to 2020. It’s a comparative look at the civil rights movement and modern-day (BLM and End SARS police protests), done by showcasing music by artists of the African diaspora. History, culture, healing, and optimism in one playlist.

This playlist displays the thoughts and attitudes many Black artists had during the civil rights movement while asking the listener to think deeply about how the songs compare to the modern ones. There are similarities and differences that I hope listeners will take note of, and ultimately consider where we as a collective will go from here.

I’m an MLK Scholar because I’m passionate about social justice. I want to continue to serve my community and be a part of the discussions that determine our future.

Amirah Torrence '24

tbd

Home: Harlem, New York

Quote: “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”-Nelson Mandela

Major: Clinical Health Studies/ Physical Therapy

About My Resource: "Segregation Is Still Present In America’s School System"- The resources contain readings and videos that focus on segregation in the school system in (The United States of) America in the 21st century and how it negatively impacts Black and Brown children. They discuss how the segregation in school leads to an education gap, financial gap, and segregation in housing between whites and people of color.

It also brings up ideas about how school segregation continues a cycle of racism, class inequity, and injustices. Included down below are a few resources that give the history of segregation in this country and the supreme court case Brown V. Board of Education to give some background as well. Thinking back to Dr. King’s question “Where do we go from here?” these resources address it because they point out the problems with segregation and also suggest solutions leading to ways to change it and implement integration in schools.

I am an MLK Scholar because I have always had an interest in being a part of social justice and change. Being an MLK scholar has definitely led me to a lot of self-evaluation as an individual, and encourages me to continue being a leader and provide social justice and change in my own community

file-outline Segregation Is Still Present In America’s School System - amirah-t_segregation-is-still-present-in-americas-school-system.pdf (14.14 MB)

Nyilah Moreno '24

TBD

Home: Bronx, New York

Quote: "Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” - Rev. Dr. MLK, Jr.

Major: Exploratory Program

About My Resource: My resource is a presentation about colorism titled “Colorism through Music” It answers the question Where do we go from here? by addressing how colorism affects people and how it is discussed in music. I am an MLK Scholar because I am very passionate about social justice and standing up for what I believe in.

file-outline Colorism - nyilah-m_-colorism.pdf (3.86 MB)

Zawadi Boyce '24

TBD

Home: Brooklyn, New York

Quote: "Every time there is a struggle, it's nothing but a preparation for what's yet to come."- Lisa "Left Eye" Lopez

Major: Television and Radio Major

About My Resource: "Crack the Code"- Code-Switching by definition is “the practice of alternating between two or more languages or varieties of language in conversation.” I chose to create a Youtube playlist to expand on the effects it has on the black community, specifically.

As a Black girl, this was a prominent part of growing up. Being raised by black women I began noticing it in the way my mom and grandma would present themselves in different situations. The “telephone voice” was something that I was not unfamiliar with, my mom being a lawyer wasn’t shy to this concept, and it definitely served her in getting to where she is today.  For people of color, you are taught at a young age to know how to act and talk around certain people.

I grew up in a primarily white school and I danced at a primarily white studio so I grew up speaking, dressing, and acting in ways that reflected the norms of the people around me. It is sad to think about because I didn’t realize that subconsciously I was working overtime to fit in and express myself in ways where I would be accepted by the people I surrounded myself with. In high school, I became involved in my school’s Black Student Union (BSU), a club that received little recognition and wasn’t promoted. Having discussions within the club allowed us to let down the guards we didn’t know we had and just be our true selves. It felt comforting to be able to talk about things we wouldn’t feel comfortable discussing in front of our white peers due to impending judgment. Though code-switching is something everybody does to a certain extent, the role it plays for PoC is much stronger. Directly and indirectly, we are told that we must change the way we are to make the people who don’t look like us feel comfortable. We have to adapt to their way of life because ours isn’t “correct” or acceptable.

This is something that is engrained in the core of our society and needs to change. People of Color shouldn’t have to adapt to white standards to seem worthy of the opportunities that they get by simply existing.