Harvard University undergrad Noah Harris arrived at a Black Lives Matter protest in June in his home state of Mississippi bearing sunglasses, a bandana mask and a “say their names” sign. By summer’s end, he led his classmates in raising $300,000 for Black advocacy and civil rights organizations, NBC News reports.
His work grabbed the attention of his fellow Harvard undergrads, who elected him as their first Black male student body president last month. Harris, 20, is a part of a wave of Black student body presidents recently elected at top-tier academic institutions where Black students have been historically underrepresented.
The uptick coincides with the racial and political interlockings of Covid-19, the Black Lives Matter movement and a surge of political polarization on and off college campuses, the Black student presidents said. They added that these issues either influenced how they campaigned or reprioritized their goals once elected.
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Harris said he knew that he and his vice president, Jenny Gan, would have to meet this “unprecedented time.” They ran on “building tomorrow’s Harvard” with an emphasis on “diversity, inclusion, health, wellness and student life” aimed at holding “Harvard accountable to its commitment to anti-racism” work and making the most of remote learning.
When they first put together their platform, they planned to advocate for “normal, in-person stuff,” Harris said. But now, getting Harvard to use its influence has become the priority: “When Harvard gets involved, they normally get the outcome they want,” he said, which would include pushing to eradicate chokeholds by police or holding police officers accountable for lethal actions.
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