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This Recent Grad Launched A #BlackMenOfYaleUniversity Photo Series To Spotlight Black Men At Ivy League Schools

This Recent Grad Launched A #BlackMenOfYaleUniversity Photo Series To Spotlight Black Men At Ivy League Schools

Photo credit: Vivian Dang

You may remember Akintunde Ahmad as the Oakland, California scholar who made headlines in 2014 for graduating with a 5.0 GPA, a 2100 SAT score and acceptance letters to Yale, Brown and Columbia University. Today, that same scholar is a recent graduate of Yale University who has created a photo series that he hopes will inspire the next generation of Black men to see themselves at Ivy League institutions. 

"I think for me growing up, I didn't have anybody who looked like me. Or anyone from Oakland back home who went to an Ivy League school,” he tells Because of Them We Can. "So I started the hashtag to put it into perspective with the bold statement of #BlackMenofYaleUniversity."

Ahmad says he launched the photo series last spring after realizing that he and his friends rarely took pictures that showcased what campus life was like.

"A lot of my friends are athletes," he explains. "All of our pictures dealt with football or basketball, but there were no pictures of us just being students."

Photo credit: Vivian Dang

He recruited one of his photographer friends to take the pictures and gathered roughly 10 of his schoolmates to be in it. Shortly after posting the images on social media with the hashtag, Ahmad and his friends received hundreds of retweets and likes.

"It did start raising awareness that there are people who look like myself who are at these institutions doing well," he says. “I know following up there was a #BlackMenAtCambridgeUniversity and some people at Harvard have done it too."

Growing up, Ahmad says he always had his sights on attending a Historically Black College or University because he thought that is where he would be most comfortable. He credits his counselor with convincing him to apply to Ivy League schools because they often provide good financial aid packages.

Photo credit: Vivian Dang

"That was the biggest appeal to me because I didn’t want to take out any student loans,” he says. "Then, after I got in and visited the school, I saw more Black people there than I thought I would."

As always, he says, there is still more work to be done to increase representation at these predominantly white institutions. But, he hopes that his #BlackMenOfYaleUniversity photo series will be the start of showing other young Black men that there are people who look like them at these prestigious schools.

This past May, Ahmad graduated from Yale University with a degree in sociology. Next year, he plans to attend Columbia University where he will work on earning his masters in journalism and documentary film. He says he hopes that his educational journey will encourage Black students to expand their options when it comes to applying to college.

"When I go home to Oakland, a lot of my friends come from similar urban backgrounds where they are the first to go to college or the first to go to an Ivy League school," he says. "I just want to change the perspective for other people and that is really the whole purpose behind it."