Akintunde Ahmad has established some great friendships on campus as a student at Yale University, and he wanted to bring together some of his closest peers to capture the beauty of their bond.
So he hired professional photographer Vivian Dang to take images of him and eight of his black male friends. He then posted the pictures to Twitter earlier this week with the hashtag #BlackMenOfYaleUniversity. The tweet, which included four group photos, immediately went viral:
Black students make up just 10 percent of the student population at Yale, and Ahmad, who is a 21-year-old junior majoring in sociology, said he intentionally included the hashtag to make a bold statement about their presence on campus.
“By no means do we represent all the black men at Yale (there are hundreds of us), but we hoped to just give a glimpse as to what OUR daily lives look like,” Ahmad told HuffPost in a email. “We hope that these photos serve to dispel some of the negative stereotypes surrounding black men, but also act as a positive, uplifting and inspiring image of black men on college campuses.”
Ahmad’s personal story is quite inspiring itself. He grew up in Oakland, California, and graduated from high school with a 5.0 GPA, 2100 SAT score and acceptances into almost every Ivy League school in the nation. But his success did not come without him overcoming much adversity ― growing up, his brother followed a different path and fell victim to gun violence and street crime before he was incarcerated for several years in 2013.
Ahmad says his studies are focused on social inequalities in America, and that he plans to pursue a doctoral degree in sociology and create a new field of research that focuses on the effects of gun violence and trauma in urban education. He also hopes to teach one day and perhaps become a consultant for government and education agencies.
“For me, being a black man on Yale is something that I embrace with pride,” he said, noting how he and the men in the picture all come from different communities and how grateful they are to have each other for support.
“I try to live every day to its fullest potential,” he added, “because I know how so many other black men in America haven’t been afforded the same opportunities that I have.”