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Filling a Need

Filling a NeedMembers of Tufts Emerging Black Leaders group continue to bring issues affecting the black population to the forefront with their fourth annual symposium.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [03.10.08] See a need, fill a need. That is exactly what a group of Tufts students thought when they decided to form the Emerging Black Leaders group, according to current president Jennifer Bailey (A'09).

The group, formed in 2004 around the idea of holding a yearly symposium, has since added a range of community service projects to its activities.

"A couple of members of the class of 2005 saw a void in campus programming based around African Diaspora issues in more of an intellectual setting," says Bailey, a political science major. "The first symposium was held in March of 2005, and ever since then we have grown and expanded. We now have a community outreach program that works with students at Medford High School, consisting of a college prep workshop for them and a one-on-one peer mentoring program held here on Saturdays."

The executive board for Emerging Black Leaders is made up of seven students, with 40 active members, of varying races, participating in their community outreach program.

Bailey says the symposium, now in its fourth year, has grown, both in terms of the topics that are discussed and the audience it reaches.

"Traditionally the symposium has been more community-based, but over the past few years more and more high school and college students are attending, which is great," she says.

Proceeds from the symposium go to the Emerging Black Leaders' scholarship fund for high school students. Those interested in the scholarship must have attended a past symposium.

Bailey says in the past, one-on-one contacts and networking were used to get speakers for their panel discussions, with their first speaker being Kwame Jackson, a contestant in the first season of the television series The Apprentice. Recently they have teamed up with Speak Out, a non-profit organization focusing on helping young people become activists for social justice. This helped them recruit some of the speakers for this year's symposium, held on March 8.

"This year's keynote speaker was Rev. C.T. Vivian, who is a living civil rights legend," Bailey says. "He sat on Martin Luther King's executive board throughout the '60s and founded Vision, an organization that would later become what we now know as Upward Bound."

Vivian wasjoined by several panelists from the business, non-profit and educational arenas, includingTufts Assistant Professor of Urban Education Sabina Vaught, who studies critical race theory.

"The symposium was a tremendous success and is representative of the powerhouse students who collaborated to organize it," Vaught said. "I was honored to participate in the afternoon panel with such wonderful co-panelists, an incredible moderator and a terrific audience."

"There were two panels, the first of which looked at black women in under-represented fields," Bailey says. "March 8 is International Women's Day and we thought it would be a great opportunity to bring in black women who are in fields that are not traditionally held by women or minorities to tell their stories of what inspires them and how they've really overcome the obstacles put in front of them because of their gender or their race."

Bailey adds, "The second panel asked, 'Do you have to be black to be a leader in the black community?' This discussed alliance building versus community self-empowerment. As we move forward into the 21st century, what is black leadership going to look like and how is it going to encompass other cultures as we become a more multicultural world?"

Bailey feels that her life is different because of her participation in Emerging Black Leaders.

"I think wouldn't be person I am today without the experiences I have gained with Emerging Black Leaders in terms of developing leadership skills and serving a place for me to grow," she says. "What is great about EBL is that it is a model that can be used not only at Tufts, but at other universities or in other groups of students.

"I would love in the future to see a group of Emerging Latino Leaders or Emerging Asian Leaders," says Bailey. "I think the core ideals we hold are something that can translate beyond racial boundaries"

 Profile written by Kaitlin Melanson, Web Communications 

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