When 21-year-old Yale University junior Akintunde Ahmad tweeted a photo of him and his friends on the school’s famous campus, he knew the internet would get excited.
The sociology major joined nine other men to be shot by Vivian Dang around campus in what they call #BlackMenofYaleUniversity photos. Looking dapper as ever, the men — who hail from New Orleans, Los Angeles, Charlotte and more cities — are all budding students at the Ivy League.
“I definitely can’t speak for all black men at Yale. But for myself, I’ve found my experience to be fairly comfortable, as many of the issues I dealt with on a daily basis surrounding gun violence and trauma in high school just don’t exist on my college campus” Ahmad told ESSENCE. “Originally, we all had our struggles with adjusting to a college atmosphere that was not representative to the environments we grew up in. But we embraced the change and turned to each other for support to make sure that we all continued to thrive, rather in academics, on our sports teams, or in our social lives.”
The photos were conceptualized by the group of friends, who initially just wanted professional images taken. But they soon realized these photos could serve as PSA that Black men are thriving at institutions of higher learning.
“I think the biggest stereotype about Black men on Yale’s campus is that people perceive us as being very ‘proper’ or ‘elitist’ or ‘conventional.’ While we are very studious and focused on our academics, I don’t think a single one of us is any different than your average 21-year-old Black male in America,” Ahmad said.
“The greater message behind these photos is that we are Black men first, and Ivy League students second. Our school doesn’t define us, but we did want to showcase what our Ivy League experience looks like. The hope is that aspiring young students can look at these images and picture themselves in our shows. Positive imagery goes a long way.”
The gentlemen plan to make this an ongoing project to highlight their school and the Black students who are a part of its rich history.