Reflect and Empower Student Submission Collection



Contact Information

Beth Frankel Merenstein
Associate Vice President for Community Engagement and Experiential Learning
Davidson Hall, 212.0201


Reflect & Empower: What Black Lives Matter Means to Me

Student Submission Collection

During the Spring 2021 Semester, the Center for Public Policy and Social Research conducted a writing and multimedia contest, Reflect & Empower: What Black Lives Matter Means to Me. The Center accepted submissions from February 1st to March 1st, which were then evaluated by panels of judges based on an assessment rubric developed by our staff and planning committee. Student participants were awarded scholarships ranging from $250 to $1000, totaling $15,750 for 39 individual awards.

Our project idea came from a prior collaboration with Awilda Reasco, director of Pre-collegiate Access Services (which includes EOP). For the 2020 Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) class summer learning program, the Writing class instructors gave their students an assignment to write an essay about Covid-19 and the current racial justice events and issues sweeping the nation, and how they are impacted by it.

CPPSR has not espoused a position on BLM. As part of an academic undertaking to better understand and document the depth and breadth of the movement and its impact on CCSU students, we invited all matriculated undergraduate students to participate in an exercise to express their personal connection with the Black Lives Matter Movement and the issues it has brought to the forefront. We invited and encouraged all students of different backgrounds and walks of life to participate in this contest, as this movement is one that exposes issues affecting every community within the larger society. We asked students to consider one or more of these questions: What do these issues and your experiences related to this movement mean to you? How has this movement affected you and those you hold close, as well as your perspective on American society and your expectations for the future? Where do you envision this movement will take us as a country? This is an inquiry/examination of how these issues impact our students, and their views on American society in the future. We looked forward to receiving submissions that included a broad range of views, experiences and insights that span the social/political spectrum.

We would like to thank everyone who participated in coordinating this project, including our planning committee composed of CCSU Faculty, Administrators and Students:

Joanne Leon – Chair, Social Work Department
Fiona Pearson – Chair, Sociology Department
Evelyn Phillips – Chair, Anthropology Department
Awilda Reasco – Director, Educational Opportunity Program (EOP)
Robbin Smith – Chair, Political Science Department
Rebecca Agyei – Political Science Major
Janay Wynter – Sociology Major, Writing and Publishing Minor

We would also like to thank all the judges who evaluated the submissions – your hard work was invaluable to the success of this project:

James Buxton – Professor, Art Department
Jacqueline Cobbina-Boivin – Director, Ruth Boyea Women’s Center
Monique Daley – CCSU Alum; first Diversity Officer at Wheeler Clinic
Heather De Savage – Professor, Music Department
Eric Dlugolenski – Assistant Professor, Criminal Justice Department
Sheri Fafunwa-Ndibe – Professor, Art Department
Wangari Gichiru – Co-director, Center for Africana Studies
Kyle Greene-Pendelton – Speech Pathologist, DiLoreto Magnet School; fmr. Track Coach at CCSU
DeShawn Hawkins – Supervisor, New Britain DCF Office
Peggy Lampkin – Health Executive, NAACP New Britain
Kaylah J. Milligan – CCSU Alum; Director of Development and Community Response, Community Foundation of Greater New Britain
Courtney McDavid – Special Project Administrator, CCSU President’s Office
Omar McDew – CCSU Alum; Youth Advocate, City of New Britain Mayor’s Office
Julio Muniz – CCSU Alum; Assistant Director of Upward Bound Math and Science, Office of TRiO Programs at CCSU
Yvonne Patterson – Assistant Professor, Social Work Department
Luz Gisela Perez-Ramos – CCSU Alum; Spanish/ESL Teacher, DiLoreto Magnet School
Karen Ritzenhoff – Film Studies/Video Production, Communications Department
Sandy Cruz-Serrano – Deputy Executive Director, Capitol Region Education Council
Mei Zongxiang – International Education Coordinator, Center for International Education at CCSU

Most of all, we would like to thank CCSU’s students for this collection of compelling and impassioned submissions. Click the links below to view each of our student participants’ submissions. NOTE: Some students preferred to not have their work displayed. Some students allowed for their work to be displayed but preferred to remain anonymous.


Video Submissions

Guidelines allowed students to submit videos between 3 to 5 minutes, accompanied by a written component of 100 to 300 words. The written component will be included in the description section under the video in Mediaspace.

Smarter, Harder, Faster – Mia Dorantes

Pray My Soul – Julian Mein

Raising Fearless Black Boys in America – Mya Saree’ Gray

Visual Submissions

Guidelines allowed students to submit a visual component (drawing, artwork, photos, etc.), accompanied by a written component of 100 to 300 words.

Her roots and her flowers – Hershelle Bailey

Empowerment: My Calling – Samantha Curtis

BLM: The Staining Acronym – Alexandria Evans

Written Submissions

Guidelines allowed students to submit fully written submissions in the format of their choosing (essays, personal stories, poems, etc.) between 500 and 750 words.

Being Seen, or Rather, a Lack Thereof – Maamle Adjoka-Nartey

"Black Lives Matter" it's more than a movement. – Azmi Alam Mou

Open Your Mind and Soul – Haneen Alkabasi

Black Lives Matter Saved Me from Hating The Color Brown – Luke Betsey

Catcher in the Rye – Brandon Bober

Why Black Lives Matter – Jason Chavez

Reflect & Empower: What BLM Means to Me – Alfred Cotto

The Diamond – Byron Dickens

Black Lives Matter: #BeyondTheHashtag – Anonymous

BLM Paper – Matthew Hughes

What Black Lives Matter Means to Me – Emily Hunnewell

What The Black Lives Matter Movement Means to Me – Destiny Johnson

Why Society Needs the 'Black Lives Matter' Movement to Help Evolve Consciousness – Lauren Jones

Indomitable, Not Invisible – Zhané Kelly

It's time to change! – Emijada Kruci

A Dirt Folklore – Kassion Lewis-Little

Seeing Color – Maura McCormick

Reflect and Empower Essay – Julie McLeod

What Black Lives Matter Means to Me – Matthew Nieves

What Black Lives Matter Means to Me – Madison Rogers

A Groundbreaking Movement – Jonathan Smith

Ain't It Funny – Olawunmi Sodipo

Reflect & Empower: What BLM Means to Me – Jacqueline Thomas

What Black Lives Matter Means to Me – Dezrene Thompson

What Black Lives Matter Means to Me – Erica Ugbo

A Revolution is on the Horizon – Liliana Villar

The Indoctrination of an Epidemic – Anonymous