This spring we announced Google’s annual Black History Month “Pay It Forward” Challenge as a way to recognize individuals who are making a positive impact in the Black community, while also remembering those who have paved the way in the past. We received many inspiring applications filled with personal stories and determination — a reminder that there’s always time to make a difference (even as a busy college student!). We’re excited to share the work of our three winners, and hope that you feel inspired too. On to the winners!
Meet Calvary Rogers
Calvary believes that “we let injustice win the day when we conclude that there is nothing we can do about it.” When confronted with an incident of on-campus threats targeting Black freshmen students, he knew that his only choice was to take action. As Co-Chair of UMOJA, an umbrella group that serves to unite all students that identify with the African Diaspora at the University of Pennsylvania, Calvary planned a university-wide town hall where Black students voiced their concerns with administration, each other, and the nation as a whole. While documenting the administrative actions students wanted to see (and starting the conversation about what change would look like), Calvary and his peers realized that what they needed most was to learn from the past.
Through UMOJA and the Africana Department, Calvary is developing a database that will function to individually archive student activism initiatives and institutional/administrative feedback across universities in America in order to maximize social progress and institutional breakthroughs. By archiving Black history at universities and their surrounding communities across America, he believes that we can better learn how to ameliorate both the experiences of Black students and citizens across the world (and how they respond to them).
“When we step aside and hear the voices and stories of underrepresented groups to understand their circumstances on a human level, we dramatically shift the dynamics of our community… in doing so, we unify, gain courage, and learn new ways to advance our fundamental humanity in ways that work for everyone.”
Meet Kielah Harbert and Wilglory Tanjong
|L-R: Wilglory Tanjong; Kielah Harbert
Co-winners Kielah and Wilglory are also familiar with the importance of sharing and disseminating information as a way to empower marginalized students. After submitting their college applications, they realized that without the help of the Leadership Enterprise for a Diverse America (LEDA), they may not have been able to successfully apply to universities around the country. This led them to wonder: do students who do not have the help of LEDA (but were just as qualified and worthy) have the resources that they needed to prepare and apply to college?
#Admitted, Kielah and Wilglory’s new book, provides those resources. It offers information that is largely unavailable to socio-economically disadvantaged Black youth by serving as a guide that empowers, gives positive representation, and inspires readers to reach higher by providing them with the guidance they need to succeed. Additionally, the guide teaches students how to self-advocate, think critically, and navigate the many obstacles they will face as low-income students who care about education.
“In a world where Black youth are depicted as gangsters and thugs in mass media, and forgotten communities have little or no positive role models in positions of influence, #Admitted shifts the narrative. We show them, through positive representation, that they can be successful through education — we tell them, they can.” -- Kielah Harbert
How can you help?
Calvary encourages you to join the conversation by sharing your stories and experiences with activism and how they have tapped into untouched areas of social justice by utilizing people and/or organizations who have walked their paths before them. If you’d like more information on helping UMOJA, head to the request form. Wilglory and Kielah urge you to buy copies of #Admitted for youth in your community, spread the word to others, have the duo speak to students, and lastly, support their summer "I Can Too" project.
Together with Calvary, Kielah and Wilglory, we can give voices and resources to all students both now and in the future.