Killing it at Cambridge: photos of black male students go viral
Photos of black male students at Yale University and the University of Cambridge have gone viral on social media. The men want to encourage more black students to apply to top-ranked universities: “Young black men don’t grow up thinking that they’ll make it here. They should.”
Using the hashtag #BlackMenofYaleUniversity, a group of Yale students has gone viral on Twitter. The post shows a powerful photo of 21-year-old sociology student Akintunde Ahmad and eight of his friends, posing on Yale’s famous – and mostly white – campus.
— Tunde (@akintundeahmad) 24 april 2017
Positive role models
By posting photos and videos of everyday life for a black Ivy Leage student, the group wishes to serve as an example for aspiring students in America. They want to encourage talented black youth to stop wondering whether an Ivy Leage school is the right place for them. “I think the biggest stereotype about black men on Yale’s campus is that people perceive us as being very ‘proper’ or ‘elitist’ or ‘conventional’. While we are very studious and focused on our academics, I don’t think a single one of us is any different than your average 21-year-old black male in America”, Ahmad told Essence.
Inspired by the black men of Yale, fourteen black Cambridge University students have posted a group picture of their own on Facebook earlier this week. “In 2015, only 15 black, male undergraduates were accepted into Cambridge”, the Facebook post reads. And it goes on to say: “Young black men don’t grow up thinking that they’ll make it here. They should.”
The students behind the hashtag #BlackMenofCambridgeUniversity agree that it’s time to tackle the stereotype of black men studying at top-rated universities. Engineering student Folajimi Babasola (20), one of the men in the Cambridge photo, told BBC: “The aim of the picture was really to encourage more black students to apply here because many people get discouraged by a particular image or stereotype of a Cambridge student that they have in their mind, thinking that they won’t fit in or be accepted.”
Babasola added: “There are people here at Cambridge from different backgrounds, who don’t fit the stereotypical image of what a Cambridge student looks like, doing their thing and killing it.”
The internet is excited about the images of young black men thriving at the world’s leading universities. Ahmad’s tweet received over 30,000 likes and was re-tweeted more than 15,000 times. The Facebook post of black men at Cambridge has received over 3,000 likes in two days.
Not a criticism
Despite existing diversity and inclusion programs at both Yale and Cambridge, the number of black applicants at top-ranked universities is relatively low. According to 19-year-old Bez Adeosun, who is one of the students appearing in the Cambridge photo, the photos should not be perceived as a criticism of the university. “That overlooks the hard work and efforts of the access officers, schools liaison officers and other initiatives the university has put in place to tackle this issue”, Adeosun told Buzzfeed.
Instead, the students seem to raise an important question: how can young black males rise to the top if they believe they don’t belong there? The photos show that young black men don’t have to change in order to fit in at a top-ranked university; what needs to be changed is the representation of those men. Ahmad: “The hope is that aspiring young students can look at these images and picture themselves in our shoes. Positive imagery goes a long way.”