By Any Media Necessary: Mapping Youth and Participatory Politics

I, Too, Am Harvard


Part of a larger movement seeking to raise awareness and change institutional practices and policies regarding racism on college campuses, the "I, Too, Am Harvard" photo campaign features over 60 portraits of black and mixed race students at Harvard College holding up handwritten message boards with examples of racist comments, talk-back messages and quotes, or other difficult interpersonal and institutional interactions students experienced at Harvard College.

The messages touch on a range of issues related to race relations, including tokenismassumption of lack of intelligence, the myth of meritocracycolor blindnessdevalued and dismissed perspectivesstereotypical exchanges, and other problematic interactions. Through the powerful images of students holding the racist comments or provocative response statements in their hands, with “#itooamharvard” boldly printed next to their faces, the campaign challenges stereotypic public imaginings of who attends and belongs at universities. The sharing of students’ personal experiences also increases visibility of a racially diverse group of students on Harvard campus and powerfully sheds light on the kinds of institutionalized and interpersonal racism students of color face on a daily basis.

The visually impactful campaign resonated with many people and rapidly spread across the Internet, including inspiring minority students on other campuses to create and share similar projects on Tumblr and Facebook sites, including
I, Too, Am BerkeleyI, Too, Am CambridgeI, Too, Am IowaI, Too, Am NYUI, Too, Am OSUI, Too, Am OxfordI, Too, Am Notre DameI, Too, Am SD StateI, Too, Am SkidmoreI, Too, Am SOASI, Too, Am SydneyI, Too, Am UWMadisonI, Too, Am Wellesley
I, Too, Am Harvard is an example of young people anchored in supportive peer groups and communities, coming together to take a stand both on and offline against institutionalized, systemic, and interpersonal racism. Like the genesis of so many other powerful movements, the organizers came up with the idea for the campaign rooted in their own experiences and in conversation with friends and community members. Sophomore Kimiko Matsuda-Lawrence wrote a play called, I, Too, Am Harvard, based off of 40 interviews she conducted with black and mixed race students, and fellow student Carol Powell photographed the Tumblr photo project participants. Class of 2015 student Ahsante Bean created an informative promotional video for the campaign. Together, these students came together to explore and affirm the experiences of black and mixed race students on Harvard campus. As their website’s description states,

“Our voices often go unheard on this campus, our experiences are devalued, our presence is questioned – this project is our way of speaking back, of claiming this campus, of standing up to say: We are here. This place is ours. We, TOO, are Harvard.”

In June 2014, the I, Too, Am Harvard campaign garnered the attention of the White House and was invited to join President Obama in a Q&A about access to and cost of education in the United States.

For more information about this campaign, visit the I, Too, Am Harvard website.

Contributed by Diana Lee on 7/16/14 
Parts of this text has previously appeared in “I, Too, Am USC.”

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