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CONTRIBUTORS Editing and Design: Christine Olagun-Samuel and Hadja Diallo Photography: Harold Milton-Gorvie and Biruktawit Tibebe Instagram: @Pennbsl Email : pennbsl@gmail.com Website: Pennbsl.com



A LETTER FROM THE EDITORS Dear Reader, As President and Marketing Chair of the Black Student League, it is with great pleasure that we share with you the first volume of Faces of Black Penn. During spring semester of 2019, we reflected on how to better engage and celebrate the Black community at Penn. After much time spent on finding not only a unique, but also an impactful idea, we ultimately decided to develop a campaign to showcase the diversity within Penn’s Black community. Faces of Black Penn then emerged as a campaign to celebrate and highlight Black students across all years and schools. The original idea was to create a social media campaign, through which we rolled out images of participants along with a brief narrative. It evolved, however, into so much more. We’d like to thank our incredible participants for bearing with the long process and being open to vulnerability. We’d also like to thank Harold Milton-Gorvie and Biruktawit Tibebe for capturing these images for this campaign. Special thanks to our board members for their support. After grueling hours spent behind the scenes putting together the magazine and planning a launch party, we are thrilled to deliver our finished product. We hope to see this project grow in the future. Enjoy!

Best Regards, Christine Olagun-Samuel and Hadja Diallo FALL 2019


WHAT'S INSIDE Pages 06-10

01. ABOUT BSL A brief history of the Black Student League and its mission.

Pages 11-47

02. FEATURED STUDENTS Featured students and their stories



Pages 48-49

03. BLACK PAGES A short database of services provided by Black students on campus

Pages 50-51

05. ADDITIONAL RESOURCES & SPECIAL THANKS Contact information and resources from BSL and a special thanks to all of our sponsors & supporters

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ABOUT THE BLACK STUDENT LEAGUE The Black Student League is an organization built around fostering a familial environment that serves as a home for students of the African Diaspora at the University of Pennsylvania. Through academic support, social mixers, programming, and relevant discussion, we aid in facilitating a strong sense of community and a successful and meaningful undergraduate journey for those who identify as Black.








Connecting students Connecting students Connecting students to students. to faculty and alum- to the community. ni.

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OUR HISTORY THROUGH THE YEARS A Brief History of the Black student League at The University of Pennsylvania


EARLY BEGINNINGS During the era of the Civili Rights Movement, Sam Cooper (Class of ’69) helped form the Society of Afro-American Students, also known as SAAS. According to Sam, the group came together from the need to confront white privilege at the University. SAAS became one of Penn’s first black “movement organizations”. This organization strived to combat racial inequalities while also providing a sense of community and support for blacks on campus. SAAS pushed for the validation of the Black community by making a proposal for a Black Studies program and creating the House of the Family, which later became the group's headquarters.



In 1971 the organization changed its name to the Black Student League (BSL). The BSL served to uphold the integrity of the Black community while also fighting for their equality. Throughout the seventies, the BSL organized and participated in several protests. One of their most notable protests was the Franklin Building Sit-In of 1978 where Sheryl George (Class of '80), the acting president, helped form the United Minorities Council (UMC).



1980s SHIFTING PRIORITIES During the eighties and nineties, the BSL continued to strive for visibility, community engagement, and unity on Penn’s campus. However, the frequent process of board turnover often led to the constant shift in perspectives about how to approach the concerns of black students, whether it be radically or passively. Along with new leadership, the diversification of Penn’s Black community caused the Black Student League to restructure. The BSL could not adequately meet the needs of all of the black students matriculating to Penn.


OUR TRANSITION In 1998 UMOJA, an umbrella organization for all of the school’s Black undergraduate groups, was formed. With the formation of this new organization, the Black Student League relinquished all political responsibilities, and began to shift its focus to the cultural and social issues that faced the Black Penn community.

2019 A NEW AGE

Now BSL ultimately serves as the hub for the Black experience at Penn. By providing programming, mentoring, and service opportunities, BSL aims to galvanize black students to engage with the campus and local community.

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BSL 2019-2020 THEME


This year, BSL's theme is ROOTS: Understand the Past to Shape the Future. Our goal this year is to host events and create programming and discussion spaces geared towards evaluating the state of the Black community, our history and our future.





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FEATURED STUDENTS After opening up applications for black students from all backgrounds across all 4 schools, our editors selected a diverse group of students to illustrate the diversity within the black community.





From the Freshman to the Senior Class, to

All of our students represent all four schools

students submatirculating in one of Penn's

of the University fo Pennsylvania. Including

graduate institutions, our featured students

The Wharton School of Business, The School of

represent all four classes at all different stages

Nursing, the School of Engineering and Applied

during their time at Penn.

Sciences and the School of Arts and Sciences.





Our featured students have a variety of aca-

From interests in fashion, to mental health,

demic interests including Sociology, Psycholo-

and education reform, our featured students

gy and computer engineering.

have a plethora of both academic and extracurricular interests.



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TAMIA HARVEY-MARTIN COLLEGE OF ARTS & SCIENCES '23 Album/Soundtrack: Love Yourself: Her by BTS “This is the first step in my journey in loving myself. I think this is really important because you’re with yourself forever all the time 24/7. So it’s important you take care of yourself in all of the levels of health."

Tamia is a freshman, though undeclared, is interested in studying Sociology, Anthropology and/or linguistics, and hails from Bensalem PA, just outside of Philadelphia. In high school she actively played a role in dealing with local public health issues. As a part of a coalition against substance abuse she encouraged her local municipality to change policies and laws in regard to public smoking, juuling and vaping. She worked to promote an initiative called “Young lungs at play” with the Pennsylvania Department of Health. “We would put up signs around playgrounds and parks and baseball field and sports fields specifically so we can say that this area is 100% smoke free”. Her passion for spreading awareness of how vaping and juuling is equivalent to smoking came from one of her experiences observing a child smoking. “When I was little, I saw this little kid...and they picked up a butt from a cigarette and they put it in their mouth,” she explains, “I guess they were trying to look like someone...That’s when I was thrown back. That’s what pushed me towards substance abuse prevention.” “In high school my passions were kind of different,” she says, “I was more into public health, specifically towards preventing substance abuse in adolescents. Her primary passions

have evolved since her time in high school. Tamia’s greatest passion as of now is her own mental health and mental health awareness. “Optimism and positivity inspire me the most,” she notes “I do have a history of self-esteem issues, depression and negative thoughts. For the past few years I’ve been learning to love myself. I’m seeing myself in a more positive light and then I have confidence in myself as who I am.” “Optimism” she says, “is another method of learning to love yourself and your situation and making the most out of what you have”. In her free time, Tamia enjoys watching anime and Chinese drama. “I’m learning [Mandarin] and find this a pretty cool way of learning the language,'' she points out. She also really enjoys exploring Chinatown and hanging out with her friends from home on their campuses. “Everyone from where I’m from goes to school in Philly” she adds “I have really close friends at Drexel and Temple”. At Penn, she enjoys the large number of diverse events on campus. “If I wanted to find something to do on campus, I can do so everyday...If you ever want a free dinner, you can have a free meal, everyday it’s crazy.” She believes that one campus could be improved by allowing more opportunities FALL 2019

for open discussion. “From my experience,” she explains, “it can feel really isolating on campus and it’s because we aren’t really open to talking to each other about personal things. I feel like there’s an invisible barrier between everyone, at least now because this is a new environment for me.” If she could change anything about Penn, she would want it to be a more welcoming community and an open space where everyone can feel safe. In a recent article she read she found out that that “84% of [the international community] didn’t have an American friend, which is crazy. I hope that the reason why it’s like this at Penn is not because we’re unwelcoming or an isolating environment.” Despite these experiences she’s found that “a lot of people are just really friendly in the black community”. “When I walk down locust walk...and I see a fellow peer of the same color, I smile, and they smile back. I wave and they wave back, and that’s never happened before...I’m glad that the black community at Penn is so friendly.” She hopes to have more conversations about the diversity that exists within the black community. “I wish that we knew more about how diverse the black community is. We don’t really


really have those conversations. I think that the black community as a whole ...could try learning more about the diaspora and people’s individual experiences,” she notes. For Tamia, her blackness is something she has spent a lot of time reflecting on. “Last year for my senior year, I spent 10 months in China. When I was there people started asking me what part Africa I was from and when I’d have to answer I would tell me that I was American”. In her experience, people were often surprised that there were black people in the U.S., despite Obama’s presidency. “After a few months of discovering what my blackness means to me, I was able to figure out that my blackness to me is just another layer of who I am. It kind of changes my experience,” she explains “It’s kind of hard for me, when I was thinking about blackness, [its] so diverse. The black community is so diverse. Rather than it being something internal when you ask someone to revel in her blackness what I think of another layer of my identity.” “I don’t think me being a person of color is a barrier,” she continues, “I think it’s just another part of me. It’s hard to put this into words. I take my blackness with pride.”



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AISSATU DIOP HUNTSMAN PROGRAM' '22 Album/Soundtrack: Golden by Jill Scott “I’m always trying to live my life knowing that I’m blessed and always keep God there. I hope that I’m making God proud.” Aissatu is a sophomore in the Huntsman Dual Degree program thinking about concentrating in Social Impact and Policy or Management at Wharton and majoring in International Relations in the College of Arts and Sciences. She was born and raised in Washington D.C. by Senegalese parents. Her mother, who was born and raised in a village in Senegal inspires her the most. “She managed to get her education and graduate from university and come to the U.S”, Aissatu notes, “[and] she's managed to get me and my brother to where we are today”. Her mother’s resilience and ability to “push through any obstacle that comes to her” has made her “the rock of [their family]” and “someone [they] [always] can rely on”. Aissatu’s mother has set an example for her own personal goals. Aissatu’s passions lie in the issues of colorism and skin-lightening that plague many communities of color. She began pursuing her passions early on in high school, where her senior capstone focused on this topic. “Colorism pushes women to skin lightening, [which has] dangers....and long-term impacts.'' Since then, she’s been able to continue to address this issue through her “Skin I’m In” social media campaign on Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube. Last semester, she had the opportunity to do a Wharton

Wharton passion project through which she was able to receive funding to design some shirts for campaign. During the following summer, she was able to engage with women in Senegal through a workshop and an education program. It is evident that Aissatu appreciates globality in every sense of the term. Her favorite parts about her Penn experience are being able to “meet people from different countries around the world”. “I hope to be able to stay in touch with these people and have a network of friends all over the world. Hopefully I get to visit people in their countries,” she notes, “I love social media. I love Instagram. I love doing photoshoots and stuff like this and hanging out with friends. I also love travelling but that requires money…” To Aissatu, Blackness extends beyond the tone of her skin, rather, it serves as evidence of her “powerful ancestry”. “I come from amazing strong people,” she notes “and this means that I have an amazing strong culture.” Her Blackness symbolizes the community behind her and supporting her, but it also “means [having to] work twice as hard to achieve things]” because evidently Blackness also “does come with obstacles”. To her, the most important things that should be provided to Black students at FACES OF BLACK PENN

Penn and the overall community alike, are more extensive transition programs for Penn undergrads. “I was lucky enough to be part of Wharton and do the STEP program...right before NSO[.] They brought us in and talked to us about a lot of things and showed us all the resources on campus. It was targeted towards minority and FGLI students but that is something that should be available to all students at Penn because it’s something that’s really crucial.” Her experiences with STEP were incredibly helpful because of the manner in which it helped to address imposter syndrome, amongst other things that affect incoming minority students. “I think that it’s really important to make people aware of [programs like this] because people get here and don’t know the resources they have and that’s really important,'' she adds. Overall, she’s enjoyed several things about her experience at Penn. “There are so many different groups and here and everyone can find a group of people here. For example, in classes, it’s really nice to be able to connect with Black people and study with Black people. It’s nice to see people who look like you and know that they have your back.”







YASMINE CARTER-MCTAVISH NURSING '23 Album/Soundtrack: How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful by Florence and The Machine “[Blackness] means a lot of things to me, but if I had to reduce it to three words, I would say beauty, strength and culture.” Yasmine is a freshman in the School of Nursing and originally from Lodi, New Jersey. On campus, she’s incredibly passionate about spreading awareness about eating disorders and fundraising for treatment through Project Heal. “Growing up, I really struggled with body image and confidence. It’s a cause that’s really close to my heart,” she explains. She also enjoys fashion, as well as buying and selling products on Poshmark. “As I came into a place of body acceptance, I started to like fashion more” she explains. At Penn, she appreciates the amount of opportunities on campus.” There are so many clubs, there are always speakers and events on campus," she notes. She particularly likes the performing arts opportunities on campus. “I feel like you’ll never run out of things to do,” she adds, “and I like keeping busy.” She hopes to see more opportunities on campus to get to know upperclassmen. Specifically, she would like to see an increase in “dialogue and connection between Black upperclassmen and Black freshmen students.” In her free time, she enjoys singing. “I sing a lot. I love to sing. It’s one of my favorite things to do. I pretty much sing anywhere... I’m in an acapella group at Penn called Quaker Notes. I did choir in high school, but it was a lot different. So, getting to do acapella here is really fun and

has gotten me out of my comfort zone,” Yasmine explains. To Yasmine, Blackness “means a lot of things”. “If I had to reduce it to three words,” she says, “I would say beauty, strength and culture. When I think of my Blackness, I think of who gave me my Blackness, so like my parents.” Yasmine comes from a rich culture. “My mom is Guyanese, and my dad is Jamaican, so I think of my Caribbean culture and where I came from. I also think about what connects me to other Black people because we’re not all from the same place by any means, but we all share that common factor of being Black.” Yasmine’s mother is her biggest inspiration. “When I was deciding between colleges, she was the one that gave me that final push to go to Penn. She was just like, ‘I just see you there, you deserve this.’ She’s a nurse too, so she provides me guidance as we will be sharing the same career. I look up to her a lot. I want to be just like her,” Yasmine explains. Her mother’s career and experience also played a key role in helping shape her career aspirations. “I always knew that I wanted to be in a healthcare field because I like science and I like interacting with people. I just wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, did I want to be a dentist or a doctor? My mom’s a nurse, as I mentioned FALL 2019

before, and a lot of my aunts are nurses, but I wanted to pave my own path, I didn’t want to do what they do” she begins to explain. “Then one time I went to work with my mom. She doesn’t actually work in the hospital like many nurses do. I got to see what she does, which is home care. She works in the office sometimes, and then she goes out to visitations and what ultimately made me choose nursing was just the diversity of the field. I don’t have to work in hospitals if I don’t want to, I could work in the clinic, I could be a travel nurse. Just the amount of options was why I chose nursing.”


MCKAYLA WARWICK COLLEGE OF ARTS & SCIENCES '20 Album/Soundtrack: Butterfly by Mariah Carey "I’m Mariah Carey’s biggest fan. Butterfly came out the year I was born and it just kind of followed me through life and aged with me." Mckayla is a senior majoring in sociology and minoring in Africana Studies and Urban Education. She’s particularly passionate about education both in her coursework and in her involvement off-campus. “I get to research the different aspects of education for my work and it’s really opened my eyes to macro and micro problems within education,'' she explains. “It's really shaped what I want to do with the rest of my life”. On campus, she’s incredibly involved with ASE Academy. Since her first semester at Penn, she has been mentoring students through ASE and went from being a mentor to shaping programming since her sophomore year. “I was taking a class called Education 240 with Brian Peterson and someone asked if I wanted to be an ASE mentor. I just kind of popped in and fell in love with it instantly,” she continues. “I really love it”. In her free time, she really enjoys taking walks and exploring different elements of the spaces she occupies. “In Philly, for example, if I can get off campus, I get off campus,'' she notes. Whether it’s a walk downtown or to a local coffee shop in West Philly, Mckayla loves exploring. Her greatest inspiration is her grandmother. “My grandmother inspires me the most. She is the most personal inspiration that I have,” she explains. “She’s always calling me and checking on me and I really don’t know any other

human who has that much care and compassion in their hearts.” Hopefully one day I can have that same level for my family, but also for people in general. She’s truly incredible.” At Penn, McKayla most enjoys the different types of people that she has been able to encounter during her experience here. “Organic conversation with someone can literally turn into ‘do you know about this research opportunity?’ and then being able to do something that shapes the rest of your life,” she explains. “It’s truly a great place to be in that it provides you with an excellent outlet into the world.” One thing she would change about the Penn community is the number of Black people on campus. “There are not enough Black students on this campus for the amount of work we need to get done,” she explains. “Meaning, every Black person that I know on this campus is involved in so much. They are involved in things that revolve around trying to make institutional changes … It’s so much work and pressure that we are putting on ourselves so that by the time we become seniors, so many of us are burnt out. We’ve been doing so much work, to be honest, that shouldn’t even be expected of a student. If we were more than 7% of the undergraduate population, I feel we FACES OF BLACK PENN

we wouldn’t be as burnt out and we could take more joy in the work that we do.” For Mckayla, her Blackness serves as a “framework to be able to look at the world and recognize things that need to change and to be able to already have steps ahead to figure out how those changes need to happen.” Her Blackness has made her think about structural inequality in a way that many people don’t have to. “The lens that we have on this world is something that most people don’t have,'' she notes. As a sociology major, she recalls “sitting in class, and knowing this stuff already and everybody in the classroom thinking that this was mind-blowing. It was just interesting. Being a Black person who grew up in this country, knowing that the system exists to oppress you is something inherent to our experience.” In addition, her Blackness represents “a sense of connection” between her and other Black people. “it’s truly a blessing to be able to meet more Black people all the time and have a sense of a shared experience just based on that.”



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DELANEY HOLDER WHARTON '23 Album/Soundtrack: No One by Alicia Keys “I don’t know any other way to put it…except that it is a motivation in everything I do.” Delaney is a Freshman from New Rochelle, New York in Wharton. As a Civic Scholar her greatest interests concern social justice. “I found purpose and passion through service to my community and social justice work in high school,” she explains. She is excited about her volunteer work at an Immigration Resettlement Organization off campus known as HIAS Pennsylvania and looks forward to the opportunity to serve others. Through HIAS, Delaney is able to help people who’ve recently immigrated to the United States create resumes, apply for jobs, and manage their finances.” I think this embodies what I want to do with my career” she notes “which is to lead a non-profit.” She is also interested in providing sustainable solutions to social issues, through “policy reform surrounding issues such as poverty and criminal justice.'' In her free time Delaney enjoys dancing and exploring different types of cuisines. She recently has continued her love for West African dance by joining African Rhythms this semester on campus. She truly enjoys the vast opportunities available on campus. “Even though Penn can be stressful with all the work, there are so many opportunities to explore. All the things I’m doing I feel really excited about and that’s really empowering to me.” The support available on campus is something that she values about Penn.

. “There are always great people and professors that are willing to pour into you and support you in your aspirations academically or personally,” she explains. During her time at Penn she hopes to see the Black community grow and become more inclusive. “I hope to see more of a family because there are only so many of us.” Delaney’s Blackness is her motivation in a lot of ways. Delaney believes that her Blackness is “a reminder of how far Black people have come and who she has to make proud.” “I don’t know any other way to put it,” she continues, “except that it is a motivation in everything I do. Black people, as a whole, have overcome and continue to face immeasurable challenges and keeping that in mind motivates me…I know that people sacrificed a lot for me to be where I am today...and I’m really blessed to be in a space such as Penn.” Her motivation also comes from her Dad, who is her biggest source of inspiration. “My dad is a pastor and has committed himself to creating equality and social justice in the world,'' she explains, “I have definitely gotten some of that passion from him.” His achievements, hunger for knowledge, and care for others motivate me to go forward because I know he worked hard to be in the position he is now.”

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NIKO SIMPKINS ENGINEERING & APPLIED SCIENCE '22 Album/Soundtrack: " My own unreleased album. It’s the story to my life." Niko is a sophomore in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. He’s particularly passionate about the personal connections he’s had the opportunity to form while he’s been on campus. “That’s something that I love. I’ve met so many cool people,” he explains “who have really original personalities and authentic ideas and sincere passion, which is something you don’t really come across,” he notes, “Penn does a good job of gathering these people.” He is also incredibly passionate about music. “Off campus I pursue music very actively. I love all sorts of music. I play 3 instruments, [the] Viola, Violin, and Piano. I play it, I listen to it, I make it, I write it, I produce it”. “I fell in love with it because of the business side of it,'' he adds, “I fell in love with it because of the business side of it. And so, a lot of people don’t really know because a lot of people who want to become artists don’t realize, especially [in] rap [this] hanging fruit. People think about the image and the attention people can possibly get and they skip the business and work ethic that goes into like even building a brand because essentially that’s what it’s all about.” Niko began his journey writing and producing music by initially freestyling. “Like someone could play a beat and I’d freestyle on anything...I’d do it in the car. I would always freestyle, as a party trick,” Niko explains. He decided

decided to pursue rapping more formally during his senior year of high school. “I was going through a rough patch in basketball, due to a combination overuse issues with my knees and late growing pains, which made me begin to consider other possible avenues since my knees started to randomly stop working” he explains “That was really frustrating because the very thing that deterring me from getting what I worked so hard to achieve was how hard I worked to achieve it.” People who’d heard him freestyle had suggested that he pursue music more seriously. “One or two kids kept saying that and I was like, no, I’m not going to do it because… majority of the people I knew making music were doing it for attention. One day I finally caved and recorded my first song in a dorm room called 208. I freestyled most of it and to my surprise, I really enjoyed it. I released a few songs that summer going into junior year. I put out...about 8 songs in 4 or 5 days,” he continues to explain “People were like you gotta slow down, you’re releasing music faster than we can keep up. I went on to drop one song almost every Friday up until I got my first single on the regional radio station later that school year”. Since then, Niko has had the opportunity to perform at a handful of shows and festivals including Penn’s very own Spring Fling FACES OF BLACK PENN

and Skimmerfest. Outside of his passions for music Niko enjoys watching videos and cooking. At Penn, he enjoys the plethora of opportunities to meet people, and his academic focus, programming and mechanical engineering. He notes that he wants the black community to prioritize embracing individuality. “It should be more so about encouraging people,'' he adds. He is inspired by multiple people, career-wise by Jay-Z, and every day by his parents in the way they support him.



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STEPHANIE HASFORD COLLEGE OF ARTS & SCIENCES '22 Album/Soundtrack: Shea Butter Baby by Ari Lennox "It's a mix of awkward, confident, quirky, and a little aggressive. And that is who I am summed up." Stephanie is a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences, majoring in Psychology from The Bronx, NY. Her greatest passion on campus is her work with the CAPS Advisory board. “[The] CAPS Advisory board is the board of students that oversees and communicates with the directors of the counseling services on campus.” Her work on the CAPS Advisory board allows her to integrate her on-campus work with her academic interest in psychology. “It has given me a lot of knowledge on how to speak to people in situations related to psychology,'' she explains, “My greater life goal is to make sure that access to mental health resources is equal across different zip codes because we know in inner cities there’s less access to prestigious mental health support,” she continues. The CAPS advisory board has provided her with the opportunity to address these issues within the Philadelphian community as well.” In her free time, Stephanie enjoys reading psychology databases, especially those relating to areas like her hometown, the Bronx, because they align were her passions concerning mental health in urban areas. Aside from this, she enjoys exploring her creative side through poetry, journaling and painting. Her favorite parts about Penn are the impactful professors she’s had the opportunity to engage with. They are always ready to “disclose their network with you,” she explains,

,“Every resource they have they are willing to share with you, even if you’re on different paths.” For Stephanie, her Blackness is heavily connected to her being a Ghanaian woman. “I was born there, but I came to America when I was very little, so I didn’t get a chance to really get in touch with the culture. Growing up in the public-school system, most of the time I kind of fit my Blackness with everybody else's,” she notes. However, as she got older and throughout high school, she was able to “tie [her] Blackness very much to [her] African identity”. She hopes that on campus, people become more open to the diversity that exists within the Black community. “A lot of the time we try to validate one Black identity, but we come from different communities and different cultures,” she says. Stephanie’s greatest inspiration is her Aunt. “She came to America when she was around 30 because she really wanted to pursue nursing,'' she says, “She’s so passionate about my education and that helps me focus my life around helping people”. Stephanie’s aunt was able to become a nurse despite the language barrier present during her transition to the U.S., and this perseverance was particularly inspiring to Stephanie because it paved the way for her mother to also move to the U.S. In a sense, her aunt also shaped her own journey.

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SIA-LINDA LEBBIE COLLEGE OF ARTS & SCIENCES '21 Album/Soundtrack: Shake It Off by Florence and The Machine "Black people are the origin of culture and we should never let anyone tell us otherwise" Sia-Linda is a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences, majoring in Communications and minoring in both Psychology and Hispanic studies. Her biggest passion on campus is her podcast, The Trillest, which is available both on the Daily Pennsylvanian’s website and on streaming platforms such as Spotify, iTunes, and Google Podcast amongst other major podcast publications. The idea originated the summer before her sophomore year. As someone interested in the entertainment industry, she wanted to begin building her portfolio. She was inspired by the path set before her by other Black women in the entertainment industry. She noted that women like Wendy Williams and Oprah Winfrey had their starts in college. Williams was on the radio while she was studying at Northeastern and Oprah also majored in communications. Her friend from Massachusetts, who is also at Penn, had worked on another podcast at the DP and told her she should do a podcast because at first, she was thinking about doing a radio station. So, he connected her to the executive producer of the DP podcast department, and she emailed her. Before she approached them, she had everything planned out. She had the guests, the topics, questions, etc. all laid out and ready to go. When she got back to campus, she was ready to record at the Kelly Writers House. To her,

The Trillest is so unique because each season is different. She records three episodes every other Saturday. It is exciting to her when people she doesn’t know how to tell her that they’re interested in and listen to The Trillest. For her, working on The Trillest was less about the podcast’s success and more about building her own skill set. It hit her when her friend texted her spring semester last year that he was at United by Blue and that the table next to him was talking about how she was the next Wendy Williams. Sia-Linda believes that the people at Penn are what have made her experience so enjoyable. At Penn, she notes, there are a variety of people who are excellent in the field. She found her best friends in the Annenberg School for Communication. On campus, she’s quite involved in a number of student groups including the Nominations and Elections Committee (NEC), which is one of the branches of Penn Student Government. She describes this group as her first family at Penn, seeing that she joined early in her freshman year with a cohort of nine other people. She is also part of MUSE Marketing’s Internal Committee. For Sia-Linda, her Blackness represents her pride. She has never questioned her Blackness, despite growing up in an FACES OF BLACK PENN

extremely white town. As someone of Sierra Leonean, Guinean, and Nigerian descent, she comes from a culturally diverse background. Her greatest inspiration, career-wise, is Oprah because of her accomplishments.




NIKKI THOMAS COLLEGE OF ARTS & SCIENCES '20 Album/Soundtrack: KIRK by DaBaby ”I'm a Taurus. People have opinions, but they can have them”

Nikki is both a senior majoring in Africana Studies and a first-year master’s Student in the Graduate School of Education. Though she hails from Southern Jersey, where her family and five older siblings are from, she’s found family amongst her friends at Penn whose successes continue to inspire her. “My friends are doing huge things in their fields. [They] are really pushing themselves and, in turn, pushing me,” she says, “It’s really awesome to see that we are coming up together.” Seeing her friends grow during her college years and building such strong relationships during her time at Penn, has been inspiring. “[My friends] are good people so they lift as they climb as well, which is the most important part of it,” she continues, “Me and my community are going to grow from these experiences that we are having”. On campus she is most passionate about the high school students she mentors through her job at Makuu, the Black cultural center on campus. She had the opportunity to work with these students closely during the summer months and help them in their transition to college as they apply for schools. “It’s a lot to hold because there are certain things that they are depending on me [for] and I have to come through

through on [those],'' she says, but “It’s good to have people like that because they are always pushing me, always encouraging me, teaching me how to celebrate myself which is really awesome.” Nikki is also part of CAMRA, the Collective for Advancing Multimodal Research Arts. As a 2019-2020 CAMRA Fellow, Nikki has the unique opportunity to create documentaries with the School District of Philadelphia and engage with multimodality as scholarship. She is also a member of Carriage Senior Honor Society, an honor society, named after Penn’s LGBT Center, for leaders around campus who are members of the LGBTQ+ community. Her greatest academic experiences at Penn have been her opportunities to directly engage with the West Philadelphia community. A strong advocate of the Academically-Based Community Services courses at Penn, Nicki discovered her passion for civic engagement and service early on during her time at Penn. “Education...is grounded in social justice,'' she notes. Outside of her passions for education reform, Nikki is often calmed by watching Bob Ross painting videos. “[They’re] so gentle,'' she says. She also enjoys hanging out with her


cat and her friends. Within the Black community at Penn, she has found a great space for fellowship. “There’s so much to do in Black Penn, there’s also the capacity to do too much,” she points out. This is the greatest concern she has for Black students at Penn, and for the Penn community as a whole. “We flex too much,” she points out “and I’m guilty of it too...Pretending we have everything [and that everything] is okay is not helping our cause. Honesty is the best policy.” She believes that this can be best changed by asking people to talk more openly about what they are feeling. “If you just communicated with people around you, you would find that we are all struggling in some way and we are trying to find ways to cope...We would be better off if we did those things together”. However, she points out that the most amazing part of her experience at Penn is being able to “find bits and pieces of [herself] in pockets all over the university’”. What she loves about her Blackness at Penn is that she is able to “find friendship in places [she] [didn’t] expect because Black people are so loving”. To her, Blackness is a complicated



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thing, “an epistemic frame of life, livelihood and being”. “Even now, I’m nuancing my understanding of Blackness because I’m learning about the Caribbean and learning more about The Continent [and understanding] what purpose...Blackness serve[s] in those contexts,” she explains. To Nikki, Blackness is too ethereal and simply can’t be described as a “plane of existence” but remains something so much more.



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AUTUMN LEAK COLLEGE OF ARTS & SCIENCES '23 Album/Soundtrack: Coloring Book by Chance the Rapper “I feel like there’s so many layers to that word and feel like I wouldn’t be who I am without my Blackness, because it’s integral to my identity” Autumn is a freshman in the College and a student Athlete. “Right now, I’m on the volleyball team. I’m super passionate about volleyball. I’ve played it almost all my life and I’m so blessed that I have the opportunity to play it here.” Aside from her passion for volleyball, since high school Autumn has been particularly involved in a number of social justice efforts. “I hope to continue that same work here,” she explains, “but with school and athletics I haven’t really had time to balance it out.'' She hopes to explore these passions more in depth in the coming Spring semester. Autumn is a huge movie buff and enjoys watching films in her free time. At Penn, she particularly enjoys “the people so far.” “I think everyone’s pretty down to earth here, at least the group of people that I’ve surrounded myself with,” she explains. In addition, she finds the city-feel of Penn and its campus exciting. “Being in Philly there’s so much to do and I never get bored,'' she says. Autumn’s Blackness is a huge part of her identity. “When I think of that term I think of strength, intelligence, resilience, beauty, magic,” she explains, “I feel like there’s so many layers to that word and feel like I wouldn’t be who I am without my Blackness, because it’s integral to my identity”.

Though she’s only been at Penn for a couple months, one of her favorite parts of the Black community has been her experiences through the Robeson Cooper Scholars Program. “It’s a group of Black underclassmen and we have meetings and we’re provided all the resources that we need and that’s really great.” She notes, however, that is incredibly important that more spaces like Robeson and more events hosted by Black student groups would be beneficial for Black students in establishing a sense of community. “I feel like there’s so many Black people on campus and we all have our little sections and I feel like we should have more events bringing the community together and also asking the Black students here what they need. This is because I know Robeson Cooper is only a small group of Black people,” she continues, “but I feel like all the Black students here can benefit from it. I think we need to have events for Black students where all the four Schools can come and get the resources that they need.” Autumn is most inspired by her mother. “She’s one of the strongest people I know,” she explains. “She’s been such a great role model to me and just how she carries herself, her attitude, and what she’s taught me is something I’m super grateful for.”

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JULIA JONES COLLEGE OF ARTS & SCIENCES '23 Album/Soundtrack: Love Yourz by J. Cole Movie: Shaft because I've always seen myself as a action-oriented person “You have to understand the system before you can take down the system”

Julia is a freshman in the College of Arts and Sciences and is originally from West Philadelphia. Though she is currently undecided, she has a current interest in sociology. She hopes to be able to use sociology as a means of understanding structural issues, and to better frame her efforts in giving back to the community. “You have to understand the system before you can take down the system,” she notes. Aside from her interests in servicing the community, she is also interested in business because its mechanics intrigue her. She hopes to explore this more by potentially taking a course in economics. In her free time, Julia enjoys sewing and creating her own fashion designs. Initially she got into fashion design because of her sister’s influences. Often, she would upcycle clothing she reserved and design and create clothing for people around her. During her senior year of high school, for example, she has made and sold prom dresses. What she enjoys most about Penn is the diversity of it all and being able to see people from all different walks of life. She would, however, like to see more unity on Penn’s campus as a whole, but also within its Black community.

For Julia, her “Blackness is such a beautiful thing and a powerful thing. It’s the lineage of resilience, honestly. Just the ability to be able to exist. It speaks volumes.” Young, Black entrepreneurs specifically inspired her because of their ability to do great things through their own lens, with their own perspective on life. Young, Black entrepreneurs specifically inspired her because of their ability to do great things through their own lens, with their own perspective on life.







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01. Janice Akufo

02. Celine Finley

Service: Hair

Service: Hair

Description: Box Braids and Twists of any length

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Email: janicea06@gmail.com IG: @janiceakufo Phone: 773-941-9526

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03. Kaliya Greenridge

04. Julia Jones

Service: Hair

Service: Fashion Design/Tailoring

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Description: Custom clothingand special-occasion wear. Email:jujones@sas.upenn.edu IG: @angelistic.apparel




05. Alyssa Mann

06. Misha McDaniel

Service: Hair Description: Box Braids and Twists

Service: Makeup and Hair

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Description: Marley Wigs, Soft Glam


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Service: Hair

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Description:Natural hair styles, box braids, wigs

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Profile for Penn BSL

Faces of Black Penn Fall 2019  

Faces of Black Penn is a campaign highlighting a number of students within the Black community at The University of Pennsylvania.

Faces of Black Penn Fall 2019  

Faces of Black Penn is a campaign highlighting a number of students within the Black community at The University of Pennsylvania.

Profile for pennbsl