Brandon Ekweonu '20, a special major in Black Studies at Swarthmore College, has demonstrated a profound commitment to building bridges among the academy and communities beyond it. Brandon stands out as a sterling example to his peers and the young people he served as a volunteer mentor and tutor of the Blueprints Program, a federally-funded youth development program which focuses on the academic and cultural enrichment of young people who reside in communities off campus and are challenged by poverty, violence, and under-resourced schools. Through bridging his coursework and co-curricular interests, Brandon has shown himself to be a blossoming scholar-practitioner in the realm of social entrepreneurship. For instance, Brandon serves as an advisory team member to Love Now Media of Culture Trust where he has applied tools and techniques that he learned in a Social Entrepreneurship class at Swarthmore College. Despite his dedication to off-campus communities, Brandon has also managed to build bridges on campus as an active and engaged student at Swarthmore College. As a member of the Swarthmore Intercultural Center (IC)/Black Cultural Center Coalition (BCC), Brandon organized communication, interaction, and collaboration between students and student groups based in and between the BCC and the IC.
The first time I was able to engage with the realities of institutionalized oppression in a classroom setting (as part of my course material) was in a Race and Power class I took at Bard High School Early College Queens in Spring 2015. Since then, I have been making conscious efforts to focus on social inequity in the majority of the work I do in the classroom. While seizing the opportunity to bring my own personal experiences into academia, I make sure to look for ways to translate what I experience and what I study into the communities I belong to.
To me, this translation work lies in bringing together different communities to advocate for each other as well as themselves, and it takes a willingness to expose ourselves not only to our own realities but to the realities of our neighbors. I am an intern at the Black Cultural Center and an involved member of different student-led efforts to translate this work into positive change for our communities on the Swarthmore College campus. Off-campus, I am involved with a Philly-based, non-profit social enterprise that tells stories that lean toward justice, wellness, and equity.