What's your home and family background?
I’m originally from Chicago, but I’ve grown up in Washington, D.C. since I was three years old. I’ve lived in three-quarters of the quadrants of D.C., so the city is definitely home for me. Having my sophomore year cut in half because of COVID-19 was disappointing at first, but in these last few months, I’ve gotten a chance to spend more time with my three sisters than I ever have before. I have a twin sister, Nasirah, who attends Oberlin College, and we have been using this time to catch up and enjoy each other’s presence since our breaks during the school year rarely line up. I also have 11-year-old and 5-year-old sisters, and we have been having fun going to the park, row boating, and of course learning all of the new Tik Tok dances. It has also been nice being home with my mom and dad since I’m usually away for most of the year.
What are you doing for your summer internship?
I’m a strategy intern for Forum One. The company is a digital agency that does website building, branding, marketing, and strategy for clients that are mission-driven. I applied to the internship because of their mission-driven work, with a multitude of clients sparking my attention such as Alliance for Justice, the EPA, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, and the Brady Campaign to End Gun Violence.
As an intern on the strategy team, I work with clients to define their vision and then map out actionable steps to make this vision come to fruition. Strategy includes defining short- and long-term goals, budgeting, research, and working with other teams to create content.
How is it going?
So far my internship is going great! Everybody at the company has been a pleasure to work with and very eager to help me learn as much as I can. I have been tasked with a variety of small projects, from comparator research to help design a new logo for a client to video editing to an independent study on how brands can market to Generation Z. By dipping my toes into all of these aspects of digital strategy, I’m discovering new pathways to take my interests and skills.
How did you get this opportunity? Why is it important to you?
I got this opportunity through the Posse Foundation. I mostly applied to film internships because that is my major, but I decided to apply to Forum One because I do some similar strategy and marketing work for clubs I am in on campus. I was super nervous in the interview because I really had no experience with any formal strategic or marketing planning or research, and was honest about just figuring it out as I go with my on-campus positions. I’m super grateful to have been accepted to this position with little experience because it has given me a chance to try something new and a bit out of the ballpark of what I study at Lafayette. I have also met some very intelligent and creative people to add to my network and keep in touch with once the internship ends.
How else are you spending your time this summer?
I’ve mostly been spending time with family and friends. I love spending time with my sisters so we do a lot of things together, from Zumba with Bri Braswell, who works in admissions, to learning fun Tik Tok dances!
I’ve also spent a good amount of time educating myself and others and doing as much as I can to support the Black Lives Matter movement. I helped plan the Lafayette for Racial Justice fundraiser, which was spearheaded by my best friend, Lidya Abebe ’22, as well as other Black women on campus. That in itself was a lot of work, but I was very pleased that we were able to fundraise so much money for an important cause. I have gone to a few protests to support the movement, with a march against gun violence in D.C. being the one that I felt the most connected to. I was able to take some videos at the protest and hope to turn it into a longer documentary project on how gun violence has impacted D.C. youth such as myself within the next year or so.
Lastly, I’ve been trying to read more. I’m currently finishing Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson, but since it takes me so long to read books I’ve also been taking time to just read short articles about topics that I’m interested in. Academia is so much more fun to read when it’s not for school!
What sort of experience have you had in filmmaking?
I have really just taught myself most things I know. I have always had an eye for editing, so when I was about 12 I began editing videos for school on iMovie. I then transitioned to using Final Cut Pro in high school, and when I got to college I began using Adobe Premiere because it is considered the industry standard. So to say the least, I love editing! I mostly use my skills for documentary projects or educational videos.
Last summer, I interned for the organization Voto Latino and directed and edited a handful of videos for their social media channels. I was flown to Detroit and Chicago along with my supervisor to interview Latinx activists and make videos about what different chapters of the organization are working on. I have also made short travel vlogs and montage edited videos about issues that I care about such as gun violence.
I think a project that I am most proud of is the 15-minute mini-doc I made my senior year of high school as a final project. Looking back on it, I often cringe at the camera quality, but I do think my execution and vision for the project were researched and executed very well. The project was centered on how schools discriminate against pregnant and parenting teens, so I interviewed a handful of teen parents in D.C. schools, social workers, and experts in the topic. The video was presented as evidence to the D.C. Council when they attempted to defund a public school program that supports teen parents through daycare, parenting education, and other monetary incentives. Seeing how my work was able to help fight for justice and give many of these young women a voice still makes me very proud.
What are you trying to accomplish as a filmmaker? How has the film and media studies program helped you with this?
I hope to use film to make documentaries or social media content for issues that are important to me, as well as amplify marginalized voices. My minor is environmental studies, and my ultimate goal is to make content for National Geographic that highlights the intersection between environmental and racial justice. Many public health crises such as COVID-19 and gun violence affect communities of color disproportionately as a result of environmental inequities. I would really like to educate people on those issues because they are rarely discussed.
The FAMS department has exposed me to a lot of theoretical knowledge about film that I would have likely never learned about on my own. From watching a handful of foreign, experimental, and silent films with Professor [Katherine] Groo, my plethora of films that I refer back to for inspiration has extended tremendously. In addition, working with Professor [Nandini] Sikand, I have become a lot more keen to stylistic choices in documentary filmmaking as well as the social implications of media.
Although I wish we had more focused classes in the FAMS department (such as a class specifically for editing or cinematography), the free range has also allowed me to experiment and figure out what areas of film I gravitate towards.
What are your goals as vice president of Association of Black Collegians?
I am honored and beyond excited to have been elected as the VP for ABC this upcoming year. Last year, I was the creative marketing and outreach strategist and did a lot of work revamping our social media page as well as making connections with other organizations on campus such as the Office of Sustainability. As vice president of ABC in a time of heightened unrest because of racial injustice, as well as with election season approaching, I think my role will be essential in fostering a supportive and safe community for Black students on campus. I hope to work with Student Government as well as other organizations to voice the concerns of our members and create some change on campus. ABC has always been a safe space for Black students on campus, and as much as COVID-19 permits, I hope to still plan some events that allow Black students to connect with each other, whether that is through virtual or in-person events. Lastly, I hope to host some more educational and mentorship opportunities for our members, an initiative we thought about last semester but never got the chance to fully execute.
What's the importance of Posse to you?
Posse Love is real! I love my Posse, and my cohort’s mentor, [Professor] Chris Phillips, has been one of the most important people throughout my college experience. My best friends are in Posse, and I know I can lean on and ask for help from most other Posse scholars as well. These students are some of the most ambitious, smart, and kind people I know on campus. My transition to Lafayette has been much easier and robust because of Posse, and knowing that a handful of students and faculty members are there to support me has been an essential part of my time at Lafayette, which otherwise may have felt ostracizing.
What was your favorite class or two last school year?
My favorite classes were Voices of Environmental Justice with Professor [Sarah] Dimick (who works at Harvard now) and Mass Media and Incarceration with Professor [Nandini] Sikand. I loved the Environmental Justice class because it exposed me to the environmental movement from the perspective of scholars of color, queer scholars, and women. By reading and watching films from these perspectives, my scope of what the environmental movement is and can encompass is much wider than what is in the media and what is taught in schools. It was because of this class that I got published in the Washington Post for an op-ed that I wrote that connected gun violence in D.C. to the larger-scale issue of environmental injustice.
The Mass Media & Incarceration class with Professor Sikand was also super interesting because it was taught in the Northhampton County Prison. We took the class in a men’s ward of the facility, and although the class was cut short because of COVID-19, I not only learned so much about the prison industrial complex and the role of media in portraying this, but from talking to the men in the ward I was able to hear real experiences of how the penal system has affected them. My goal with my films is to amplify voices, and this class showed me how I can do that in a mindful way that still allows incarcerated people to share their stories.
Who are a couple of professors who have made a big impact on you?
Professor [Randi] Gill-Sadler has been like a mentor to me since I set foot on Lafayette’s campus, and we got close last year because she was our faculty adviser for ABC. She is very knowledgeable, and it was a pleasure being able to work closely with her because of ABC and through taking her Black Writers class. She always makes me feel comfortable in whatever space I’m in with her, which is hard to come by at a predominantly white institution such as Lafayette.
Professor [Sarah] Dimick, who sadly does not work at Lafayette anymore, also made a profound impact on my studies and career goals. I took two classes with her last school year, and she is the reason I made environmental studies my minor. She encouraged me to think critically about intersections of race and environmental activism and is the reason I am so passionate and articulate about these issues now. We still keep in touch, and I always ask her for readings about topics I am interested in, in which she gladly gives me a handful of suggestions.
Who's a staff member who's made a big impact on you?
Briana Braswell, who works in admissions, is a true gem! I often tried to attend her Zumba classes in person on campus as well as when the Recreation Center went virtual. She is one of the brightest personalities I know and has always been a smiling face on campus. Although Lafayette can be difficult to navigate as a student of color, people like Bri have always helped me feel like Lafayette is a home.
What was the highlight of the school year for you?
ABC’s trip to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, for which our board won a Hoff Award for Program of the Year!
Also meeting Yusef Salaam, a member of the Exonerated Five when he came to campus for Black History Month. Hearing his story after watching the Netflix series When They See Us directed by Ava Duvernay provided a lot of insight and to me a very important discussion to be having regarding the penal system and injustice in this country. I was disappointed that this event was not widely publicized or attended as much as other speakers on campus, and hope that in the future my Lafayette peers recognize the value and relevance of speakers such as Dr. Salaam.
What are you looking forward to most about the upcoming school year?
I’m looking forward to hopefully studying abroad! I had to defer my fall semester trip because of COVID, but I am hopeful that I will be able to go on my trip with the School for Field Studies to Turks & Caicos for marine research studies.
Who is the most interesting person you've met at Lafayette?
Jonathan Arrington ’21. He is one of my best friends, and we often bounce ideas off each other because he is a film major as well. He is one of the most ambitious people I know and always wants to learn a new skill to improve his craft, a trait that I really admire. My freshman year, he wrote and directed a play and put it on in the Black Box Theater down the hill. It was inspiring to hear him come up with the idea and then bring it to life. We are currently working on some ideas for a short film series, and I’m excited to work with someone who is so passionate about his vision and learning more.
What did I miss about you?
I am an open water-certified scuba diver! I love the beach and traveling, and hope to have a career that allows me to travel the world. I also love concerts, with my favorite acts I’ve seen being Beyonce and Drake. Since I love concerts, it has been cool being a member of the Lafayette Activities Forum and having the opportunity to plan Spring Concert, one of the biggest events of the year.
I’m an Instagram ambassador, meaning that I get to test out new app features, give suggestions for improvement, and connect their team with teen creators that I know of. I have had the opportunity to meet the COO and CEO of the company as well as fly to California twice for Instragam events. Overall it has been a very cool experience, and I’ve met so many amazing teens who are using social media for creative and activism work!