FFRF is proud to announce it has awarded three $1,000 scholarships to students from Historically Black Colleges and Universities. The scholarships are part of FFRF’s Cliff Richards Student Activist Awards program and in partnership with the Secular Student Alliance.
Below are bios of the three awardees. (Two of the three did not want their last names used.)
Attending Spelman College was a lifelong dream for Kourtney, a health sciences major. Her desire to learn more about herself through education led her to pursue a career as a medical examiner. In high school, she naturally gravitated to and excelled in STEM-related courses.
Kourtney and her mother, who is a Christian, have had many talks about her spiritual journey outside of Christianity and religion. Kourtney has explored her own morals with a larger worldview and respects those with different beliefs.
During her sophomore year, Kourtney chose to further her education in the International Baccalaureate Diploma Program, which lacks representation of Black students. She also joined the Student Organization for Anti-Racism to advocate increased representation of African-American students in international classes. During this election year, Kourtney has been focused on increasing the turnout of young voters. Kourtney feels that the Secular Student Alliance provides a safe space for nonreligious and religious students to connect with each other and discuss differing viewpoints with civility and respect.
Majoring in aerospace engineering, Timothy is a first-year student at Tuskegee University. Raised in an Independent Fundamental Baptist home, he went to a private Christian school from first to eighth grade, but then attended public school due to issues with bullying.
As the first in his family to go to college, Timothy is a role model for his younger brothers. Timothy’s secular identity is relatively new, as his interest in science began to challenge his religious beliefs. At age 17, he left the church, which disappointed his parents, who then disabled his phone, tried to take his car, and threatened to kick him out of the house.
Timothy is involved with the Black Lives Matter movement and encouraged voting on campus. He also works with local organizations to combat institutionalized racism. As someone who had his thoughts and ideals hijacked from an early age, Timothy says: “It is very important to me that I do my best to encourage freethought among my peers. For when we have the ability to truly express our thoughts, then we may know who we really are and what we want.”
Marie Chantal is a junior at Howard University, majoring in chemical engineering with a concentration in biotechnology and biomedicine. She plans to attend medical school to become a doctor specializing in contagious diseases. She hopes to provide aid in the refugee crises and build Africa’s medical infrastructure.
Marie was born in a Rwandese refugee camp, so she and her family know the impact of war. “I do not have a name for my secular identity. I just know that I have seen Catholicism imported by colonizers stop my people from seeking justice for themselves because they believed in a savior falling from the sky. I have seen religion hurt my people.” While respecting her Rwandese and Black family, Marie says she cannot follow religious practices that have been used for centuries and that continue to oppress her people.
Marie is a member of the Youth United Nations Association, Black Action Movement and Planned Parenthood. She organized fundraisers and panel discussions for Freedom House Detroit, which helps asylum seekers. She presented at conferences on cultural competency and preventative methods against sexual harassment in higher education. She also produced a documentary promoting Black mental health, in an attempt to disrupt the stigma surrounding mental health in the black community.