Meet the Student Winners of the EVERFI Black History Month Challenge!

Meet the Student Winners of the EVERFI Black History Month Challenge!

Three exceptional students were awarded a total of $20,000 in college scholarships for their winning capstone essays.

Winner: First Place

Daniel F, North Carolina

Being an African American male, the smells of pork chops on the scolding pan for Sunday dinner, or waking up to get a fresh haircut on Saturday morning at the local barbershop are all part of my culture. Being in this culture I have learned about black history and its importance. Black history is delicate, and it should be celebrated all year long. I believe I have some ways to do that.

To preserve black history, you must first educate. Philosopher George Boas said, “education is learning what you didn’t know you didn’t know.” This goes perfectly with educating others on black figures. This entire month I have learned about African Americans that have affected the world. The most fascinating black person I have learned about is Henrietta Lacks. She was the young, black lady who died young due to cervical cancer. Scientists at Johns Hopkins worked to cultivate her cells for research and were successful. They have now deemed HeLa cells because they were so resilient. The cells were used to test polio vaccines, in vitro fertilization, and chemotherapy. This story fascinates me because it took almost 60 years for her to get reparations for her cells’ use in the scientists’ research.

The next way to conserve black history is to expose it. My father has always told me exposure is key to experiences, and it has stuck with me ever since. I have been to multiple museums that feature black history, and they have resonated with me because they showed me what my ancestors had to go through to get a seat at the table. An exhibit that had almost haunted me is Emmett Till and the lynching exhibit. Emmett Till is a young black male that was lynched because he was accused of whistling at a white woman behind a store counter. The exhibit was very eerie to me because the artwork was graphic, and it made me post the question why? Why punish a young man because he has chemicals that make him darker? Even if he did do what he was accused of, was it worth him losing his life so savagely over?

The last way to conserve black history is to share. Sharing information is vital, because the more you share information you were educated on, the more you can expose others to the greatness of black history. African Americans have great doctors, athletes, business moguls, and many more, so it is important to share the information. Due to the advancement of technology, partly due to the success of African Americans, information can be found at the single tap of a finger. So get out there and educate, expose, and share. Black history is counting on it.

Second Place

Tarrin D, Michigan

“The black experience is not monolithic.” This quote is significant to me because I believed that the black experience (specifically the black woman experience) was defined by the three stereotypes: the Mammy, the Jezebel, and the Sapphire. I felt out of place because I didn’t resonate with any of these stereotypes placed upon black women. I wasn’t the “mammy,” someone who is always taking care of others and putting others’ needs above theirs. I wasn’t the “Jezebel”, someone who is sexually confident and straightforward. And I definitely wasn’t the infamous “Sapphire” who is loud and angry all the time. In contrast, I am someone who enjoys being “quiet” because I like to observe and listen to other people’s stories or perspectives. I am someone who likes to put my emotions on the forefront and be vulnerable with others. Black women and black people in general are often oppressed by racial ideologies placed upon them. The first way we can keep the conversation about Black history around is to share our stories. This course has highlighted that my very own existence is the act of counterstory telling and that sharing my story is powerful because it combats the stereotypes placed upon me. Stories are the beginning of movements and actual change by bringing awareness to issues

After sharing our stories, we should act upon the issues we may face by becoming an advocate of change. This course has shown me that my career can become a way to combat social injustices. For example, in the 1900’s, the beauty industry catered to eurocentric beauty, which caused a lack of natural hair products for black women. In this course I learned that Madame CJ Walker- a black woman who created natural hair care products- took the initiative to diversify the hair industry. Her story highlights that since black women weren’t represented in the beauty industry, she took it upon herself to be the representation they needed. Walker used her natural hair business as a solution to black women’s disparities.

Lastly, we can continue our black history conversation by increasing black representation. Representation is important because it may not only inspire someone who looks like you but it could also bring awareness to issues that people with similar backgrounds as you may face. In this course, I learned that black doctors weren’t supported in the late 1800’s. It’s important to have black doctors because medical issues affect people of color disproportionately. I also realized when I go to the doctor’s office, I often see pictures of white patients. From my own observations I noticed that certain rashes or diseases look different on my melanated skin compared to the white skin shown in the pictures. If we had more representation, maybe I would see more pictures that show what diseases look like on my skin. With more representation, people of color would be able to recognize certain medical issues earlier which could potentially save their lives.

Third Place

Kylie M, Massachusetts

There was so much that I had thought that I knew about racial equity but this program had opened my eyes to realize that discrimination is rooted deeper into our society than I had thought. I didn’t realize that Black people may not receive the same type of medical care as white people do and I did not realize how many stories and experiences of Black people have been silenced. However, through this program, I also saw how hopeful we are as a society to progress forward and leave racial injustice as a fragment of the past. There was so much that I have learned and I should use my knowledge to try to learn more about being an ally and about racial inequality as well as use what I know to make a difference in my community.

I have always been an avid reader and my knowledge and perspectives have been widened by reading the stories and experiences of other authors. I want to go beyond my perspective and read more books by Black authors. There is so much I can learn from books and this does not only amplify Black voices through literature but also allows me to share the books I read with the people in my community also. We can not allow ourselves to focus on just a “single story” and we should not build a tunnel vision inside our minds where the stories we read only offer one perspective, this will only push away the many other stories of Black people that deserved to be shared just as equally. I want to broaden my point of view by reading books written by Black authors and sharing them with my friends, family, and people within my community.

It wasn’t until recently that I had heard of being an ally to the Black Lives Matter movement but I was curious to search for what it means to be an ally and how to be one. Another way that I want to contribute towards my community and towards the Black Lives Matter movement is by becoming an ally and educating myself on the inequalities that Black people face and what I can do to advocate for action and change. I want to have discussions with my friends and family about the inequalities that are happening within our communities because achieving racial equity that can lead to a society that promotes equality requires everybody to address the problems regarding race and to participate in the call to action. To continue to educate myself and to discuss racial inequality, I also plan to join my high school’s Racial and Social Justice student group.

Additionally, I want to make an effort to support Black-owned businesses. The pandemic has affected our local businesses significantly and there has been a recent emphasis on shopping and eating locally but I want to expand that further and contribute towards local Black-owned businesses as a way to support representation in our local economy as well as help small Black-owned businesses prosper and be able to create more jobs for others. Closing the racial wealth gap is undeniably important and it doesn’t help that there are many large corporations to compete with. My contributions towards these businesses will not only help my local economy but also the Black-owned businesses that make a difference in our communities.

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