6 Black Students Who Will Change The World

Perfect examples of painstaking excellence

by Isabel Calkins

In celebration of Black History Month, NYLON is running a spotlight series called UNAPOLOGETIC. Every day, we’ll celebrate different aspects of black culture through profiles, interviews, roundtables, reviews, videos, and op-eds. #Blacklivesmatter and we hold that truth to be self-evident.

In one of his most famous speeches, Martin Luther King Jr. said, “No work is insignificant. All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence." 

Just as King said all those years ago, students across the globe are making the world a better place in whatever way they can. Especially in today's political climate, it is more important than ever to stand up for what you believe in and to do the work that makes a difference, no matter the age.

We have rounded up six of the most influential black student leaders across the country that are doing just this, and so much more. Whether they are still in high school or aiming for a Ph.D. in politics, these young women are changing the world, even if the full effects of their actions have only begun to be felt. Get to know these ladies in the gallery ahead.

Photo via Destinee Filmore

Destinee Filmore, Class of 2017 at Howard W. Blake High School

Howard W. Blake High School, located in Tampa, Florida, began as a vocational school for the African-American community, but after the 1971 school year, was forced to close due to segregation. When it reopened in 1997 as an integrated magnet school, it prided itself on its rich history of uplifting black students. But, unfortunately, during Destinee Filmore's entire high school career, the school barely had any recognition of Black History Month. Instead of just standing idly by while that happened again this year, Filmore, along with sponsorship and an advisor from the NAACP Youth Council, planned a whole month’s worth of events to educate the student body on all things historically black. The events, which will take place this month, include a Black Symposium, a BHM Movie Night, an Interactive Museum, and many other incredible programs. She hopes that the events that she has planned and will execute, will serve as the model for all of Hillsborough County schools for years to come.

Photo via Wendy A. Koranteng

Wendy A. Koranteng, Class of 2018 at New York University

Wendy A. Koranteng is originally from Ghana but grew up in the Bronx, New York, and currently serves as the president of the Upper Echelon Tau Epsilon Chapter of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc., the first historically black Greek letter organization at NYU and currently the only recognized one on campus. Along with leading the sorority through numerous events and programs, she has taken it upon herself to create her very own NYU lecture titled Daughters of Dual-Identities, which will be a discussion by and for women who, like herself, identify with multiple nationalities. Through this program and more like it, Koranteng hopes to work with other black student leaders to implement new strategies and coordinate events and programs that will allow incoming students of color better experiences than they previously may have had.

Photo via Mpumi Nobiva

Nompumelelo "Mpumi" Nobiva, Graduate Student at High Point University

Nompumelelo "Mpumi" Nobiva grew up in the Rosettenville area in Johannesburg, and, at age nine, lost her mother to HIV/Aids. While being raised by her grandmother, Nobiva had the opportunity to attend Oprah’s South African school for girls before coming to the U.S. to study at Johnson C. Smith University. Through her experience of growing up as an AIDS orphan, Nobiva started a campaign in 2015 called #ShareYourStory: Inspire Courage, through which she travels to different schools sharing stories of hope and encouragement. Today, while getting her master's degree at High Point University, she is working on multiple projects centered around modeling leadership behavior and motivating millennials to live their dreams. She is also the host and producer of a YouTube series, Strategic Personal Growth, that is set to premiere at the end of this month.

Photo via The Crimson

Imelme Umana, Class of 2018 at Harvard Law School

As a 2014 Harvard College graduate, Imelme Umana studied government and African-American studies as well as served as president of the student advisory committee at Harvard’s Institute of Politics. Now, equipped with a joint degree candidate from Harvard Law School and the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, Umana is the first black woman to be elected as the president of the Harvard Law Review, a position that was once held by Barack Obama.

Photo via Chaya Crowder

Chaya Crowder, Ph.D. Candidate at Princeton University

Chaya Crowder is a current Ph.D. student at Princeton University studying race, gender, and inequality with a focus on intersectionality in social movements and interest groups and a 2015 recipient of the American Political Science Association Minority Fellowship. As the first black man or woman to be admitted to the politics department at Princeton University in four years, Crowder's academic interests are fueled by a desire to explore causes surrounding the challenges facing contemporary black Americans and to better understand the multiple, unique ways that African Americans respond to the challenges they face. Now, in order to truly impose change, Crowder currently serves on Princeton University's Black Graduate Student Caucus.

Photo via Aku Acquaye

Aku Acquaye, Class of 2018 at Barnard College of Columbia University

As a current student and the class of 2018 president at Barnard College of Columbia University and one of the leaders of the WomanHOOD Project, an after-school mentorship program for girls of color, Aku Acquaye is extremely passionate about social justice and advocacy. Through leading workshops on media literacy and public speaking, Acquaye is constantly tuned into what is going on with young women around the world. With this knowledge, she advocates for the needs of college women as a National Student Advisory Council member for the American Association of University Women.