Prep for Prep Highlights Alumni for Black History Month

This Black History Month, several alumni shared their stories with us and reflected on what this month means to them.

We congratulate them on their achievements and wish them success in their future endeavors! Meet some of these amazing alumni below.

Tatiana Hyman (P9 XXII)

Meet Tatiana, law student at Fordham University Law School and Editor-in-Chief of the Fordham Law Review! As Editor-in-Chief, she leads the publication of cutting-edge legal scholarship and works with peers on the Board to make the journal more diverse and inclusive. She also serves as a member of the Peer Clerkship Council, and works on creating diversity and inclusion initiatives to support students of color and first-generation students who are interested in pursuing a judicial clerkship. She enjoys talking to prospective law students about her experiences and sharing resources with them.

Currently in her last year at Fordham, one of the highlights of her law school experience has been serving as the Vice President of the Fordham Black Law Students Association (BLSA) during her 2L year. “I was a part of important discussions that led to changes at the law school to combat anti-racism. I also enjoyed the opportunity to mentor 1Ls and connect them with alumni who could be resources for them.” Fordham’s BLSA chapter was recognized as the 2020-2021 National BLSA Chapter of the Year.

Tatiana’s advice to students of color is “to own your uniqueness on all levels. Being in a predominantly white space can be isolating, but you should never forget that your voice, your experiences, and your perspectives matter.” To Tatiana, “Black History Month is a time to acknowledge and reflect on the events that have shaped the experiences of Black people all over the world, and—with this reflection—to take actions that will combat prejudice and racism. It is also a time to showcase and celebrate Black people who have fought for equality and blazed a trail for others to follow.”

Brianna Johnson (XXXVI)

Brianna is double majoring in Sociology and African-American Studies at Wesleyan University. Her interest in pursuing these subjects began in her high school classes. “I think it has to do a lot with the work I did in high school with diversity and activism." After graduation, she wants to work with children, most likely in education.

Over the last few summers, Brianna has worked as a Prep Advisor and was Assistant Head of the Summer Advisory. What keeps her coming back is “obviously the kids. I get to learn a lot from them. I’ve always found a really strong connection with the kids from my bus [to Prep] because we’re all from the same neighborhood (Canarsie).” Brianna also loves to dance and has been dancing since elementary school. Next year, she will be co-director of X-Tacy, a student-led dance group.

Brianna’s understanding of her identity is constantly shifting. "I always grew up with the concept that I was a Black person, but as I got older I developed more of a concept of what kind of Black. So, I am Caribbean-American, Afro-Latina. Most of the stories I’ve learned surrounding Black history have been African-American history. I don’t feel separate from those experiences, even though they might not be my own per se."

She remembers in high school, the Black history assembly would coincide with Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. In her senior year, many Black students at her school wrote a letter to the administration asking if they could run the assembly. “We did a documentary where we interviewed a whole bunch of people from Berkeley Carroll—students, faculty, and staff who identified as Black, multiracial, Afro-Latinx like myself. We interviewed everyone and they got to explain what Black History Month meant to them.” She is learning more about her ancestry from Cuba and Jamaica and recently reconnected with family members in Cuba.

Chris McLeod (X)

Chris began college when he was 4 years old. At least he remembers attending classes at the community college with his mother on days when she couldn't get a babysitter. Now he works with hundreds of community colleges as Executive Director of Marketing and Communications at Achieving the Dream, a non-profit committed to student success at community colleges. He came to Achieving the Dream after years of working in marketing, from Madison Avenue to government agencies in DC. “I guess it’s sort of the Prep in me…. I wanted all the work I do to mean something.”

Chris received his bachelor's at Amherst College and was interested in being an entertainment attorney. Growing up, he loved television to the point that he would note names in the end credits of his favorite tv shows and make connections with other shows he'd seen with the same stage manager or writer. After graduation, he worked in the law departments at  MTV and BET. He enjoyed the business side of his work rather than the legal side. This led him to earning his MBA at Howard University. “What I love about communications and marketing is that it’s all about the truths of people.” 

Chris feels it's important to always live as one's authentic self, which is the message behind his clothing line Black Mammoth Apparel. This month, he wants to focus on Black joy. There has been so much struggle and there still is, but Chris says, “give yourself permission to be happy. It’s important for others to see Black people happy, to see Black men being happy.” In television and film, and even on social media, “it’s hard to see these images of joy when it comes to Black people, and Black men in particular. The show of strength is to show that in light of all that we carry everyday, we can still have joy. And I remind myself of that every day." 

Gentle Ramirez (P9 XXVI)

Gentle is completing a degree at New York University (NYU) in Africana Studies with a double-minor in creative writing–poetry and computer science. For Gentle, each field of study is undeniably linked. Consider, for example, ethical AI or the revolutionary act of self-expression. Over the last few years, Gentle has discovered many avenues in which to excel at NYU, but a highlight has to be being accepted into the master’s level poetry workshop as a first-year and as a sophomore. The opportunity led to working with poet Terrance Hayes, and meeting novelist Zadie Smith and poet Tracy K. Smith. 

Never one to miss an opportunity for growth, Gentle interned at and participated in multiple programs like The School of the New York Times, Twitter Academy, Goldman Sachs, D. E. Shaw, and Prep for Prep/Sotheby's Art Academy. Gentle has also been an Archive and Research Intern at Cohort Film and a Summer Analyst at JPMorgan Chase. Gentle previously worked in the IT department at NYU and served as a Prep Advisor. As an advisor, Gentle reminded students of their worth, stating that “Prep is lucky to have you, you are not lucky to have Prep. Your school is lucky to have you, you are not lucky to have them. Same thing with college. Same thing with your career.” Gentle encouraged their students to decouple their worth from an institution's validation.  

When Gentle thinks of Black History Month, this quote from Assata Shakur comes to mind: “People get used to anything. The less you think about your oppression, the more your tolerance for it grows. After a while, people just think oppression is the normal state of things. But to become free, you have to be acutely aware of being a slave.” This Black History Month, Gentle encourages Black people to “disrupt the way capitalism and society tried to push you to not celebrate yourself. When you disengage to celebrate yourself, that is revolutionary. How I celebrate my identity is by celebrating my birthday and saying my affirmations every day. That is in alignment with Black radical tradition and Black History Month.”

Thompson Uwanomen (P9 XXVIII)
Thompson is a neuroscience major at Yale University. When he isn't studying, Thompson volunteers at the Haven Free Clinic, helping patients address their health and social goals. He also mentors two students at Yale as part of our Near-Peer Mentor Program, which was created this school year by Prep's Undergraduate Affairs team. “They’re both pre-med, awesome, and I never feel disconnected from them.” 

Last summer, Thompson interned at the Summer Health Professions Education Program (SHPEP), where he took courses like biochemistry and physics, attended a seminar series about health policies and laws, and did clinical simulations. Before that, he interned with the Summer Program for Undergraduate Rising Stars (SPURS), a biomedical research program. His favorite part of the program was seeing "other under-represented communities in action in the biomedical field.” Thompson is also passionate about dance. At Yale, he's part of Dzana, an Afrobeat dance group, and Sabrosura, a Latin dance team. “African dance was, and still is, a part of me. It grounds me, and helps me express myself in ways writing can't.” 

To Thompson, Black History Month is “a celebration of the people who came before us, who opened the doors to give us these opportunities in the first place. It’s a moment to be grateful of what we’ve been given and serves as a reminder to not only keep looking toward the future, but to remember the past and how the work of everyone before you led up to where you are right now and what you’re able to do right now. You are building and contributing to the same history that you’re grateful of and remembering during this month.”
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