Sherell Farmer, a junior at Cornell University, is dedicated to addressing labor issues, systemic racism, and mass incarceration. Sherell majors in industrial and labor relations, with triple minors in inequality studies, law and society, and history, but she knows that meaningful change requires more than academic study – it requires direct engagement with communities. Through Cornell’s High Road Fellowship, Sherell worked with the Center for Employment Opportunities in Buffalo, New York, where she analyzed barriers that keep formerly incarcerated individuals from completing job readiness programs and created workshop materials to better serve them. She also interned with two Ithaca public defense attorneys, helping to provide free legal advice to low-income residents at a local soup kitchen. An activist and advocate, Sherell co-founded Cornell Students 4 Black Lives and led a campaign to raise over $100,000 in support of national, state, and local anti-racist social justice organizations.
My desire to address systemic racism and poverty stems from my experiences as a Black woman in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, a predominantly Black and overpoliced neighborhood. Hearing and witnessing the experiences of my neighbors, I came to Cornell committed to fighting these ills. Taking classes on various social issues, I have learned that no issue truly exists in a vacuum. This knowledge has grounded me in my belief that relationship building is the true work of social change. As a result, I have made efforts to immerse myself in the Ithaca community. Recently, I did this by spending a summer interning for two Ithaca public defense attorneys to maximize their capacities to provide effective counsel for our most marginalized community members. I also as the undergraduate coordinator for a weekly free legal clinic at a local soup kitchen. Outside of these pursuits, I co-created a fundraiser and student organization, known as Cornell Students 4 Black Lives (C4BL) to raise money in support of Black Lives. C4BL raised over $110,000. In leading, C4BL I engage the Cornell community in using their skill set and network to address systemic inequalities.