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Ashari James

4545

Bold Points

10x

Nominee

2x

Finalist

Bio

Hi! I am a proud Afro-Puerto Rican and African American woman. My ethnicities center me, before anything else I am proud of my identity as a Black woman. Outside of that, I am a youth activist passionate about Gun violence prevention and voting equity surrounding BIPOC communities. I have volunteered with March for our Lives DC, among others, and I am currently the Activist outreach director and Podcast host at Votez: a youth-led organization dedicated to engaging generation- Z with voting and all the issues that encompass it. I am committed to using my voice because I believe that when you have more, you should do more. I have always been the youngest Black woman in the room fighting for my beliefs. Beyond my advocacy, I am very family-oriented, and the activists I look up to, such as Angela Davis and James Baldwin, feel like family to me. These are a few of the reasons I am super big on recognizing the power of representation. Seeing someone who looks like you positively impacts your peers and younger people. It is difficult for black women and BIWOC to imagine themselves in roles they have only seen catered only to people of specific racial backgrounds. While so many doors have been opened by the black women who came before me: Sojourner truth, Kathleen cleaver, Angela Davis, Marsha P Johnson, to name a few; I want to be able to help knock down the rest of the doors for younger generations so that there are no more doors to have to be opened. My dream job is one of passion where I can make substantial advances for the communities I am from.

Education

Howard University

Bachelor's degree program
2022 - 2026
  • Majors:
    • Political Science and Government
  • Minors:
    • Teacher Education and Professional Development, Specific Levels and Methods

Basis Washington Dc

High School
2013 - 2022

Miscellaneous

  • Desired degree level:

    Doctoral degree program (PhD, MD, JD, etc.)

  • Graduate schools of interest:

  • Transfer schools of interest:

  • Majors of interest:

    • Political Science and Government
    • Education, General
    • Business, Management, Marketing, and Related Support Services, Other
  • Not planning to go to medical school
  • Career

    • Dream career field:

      Civic & Social Organization

    • Dream career goals:

      Company Founder and Non-profit Leader

    • Sales Associate, Cashier, Visual Merchandiser, Inventory

      Paradyce
      2020 – Present4 years

    Sports

    Track & Field

    Club
    2019 – 2019

    Dancing

    Club
    2010 – 20111 year

    Track & Field

    Club
    2011 – 20132 years

    Cheerleading

    Club
    2013 – 20141 year

    Public services

    • Volunteering

      Vote 16 Dc — Youth advocate and lobbyist
      2018 – 2018
    • Advocacy

      Team Enough x March For Our Lives DC Youth Lobbying Collective — Youth lobbyist
      2018 – 2020

    Future Interests

    Advocacy

    Politics

    Volunteering

    Philanthropy

    Entrepreneurship

    Elevate Mental Health Awareness Scholarship
    My whole life, I had felt an overwhelming sense of grief and anxiety before I had the words to convey those emotions appropriately. It wasn't until my pediatrician pulled my mother aside and said she was concerned about me that we began making strides, but they weren't enough. I did everything: sports, advocacy, clubs, and committees ferociously during middle and high school because outside of my journal, no one knew that it was not that I didn't dream of life past eighteen; I never thought I'd make it there to bring any real dreams to fruition. Depression and anxiety felt like the tide rolling in, rendering me immobile. Every waking moment, I felt like I was drowning and no one was watching; or even worse, they were and did not care enough to extend a hand. I couldn't breathe; leaving my room felt like stepping into a void of uncertainty. The mirror became my enemy—I couldn't bear to face my reflection. Despite the encouragement of those around me, I dismissed their belief in my capabilities. Everyone asked me, "Why not you?" I begged myself to resonate with their words, but it never happened. Instead, I echoed the cruel whispers within: "You're not enough.". The voices within my head that I faintly remembered regarded me in high esteem were replaced by intense doubt and the feeling of unrequited love. Isolation became my default, and I sidestepped my dreams, convinced I lacked worth. But slowly, I learned that my perceived incapability was merely an illusion—a distortion my mind created. When I thought I was coming out of my blueness, beginning to believe that it could be me, during the pandemic, anxiety and depression wrapped me in a bubble—a bubble that shielded me from the outside world. I was now past drowning; I had drowned and sat while the world passed me by. All the expectations people held me to, I let drift away. Isolation intensified my struggles exceedingly as I mourned the loss of loved ones. In this self-imposed confinement, I lost sight of myself. My coping mechanism became binge eating, a desperate attempt to find fleeting happiness. Everything I did from this point on intensified my fears that life past eighteen was not in my cards. I thought the universe was showing me that I did what I needed during my time. I convinced myself that my life was not what everyone had said it was and what it could be. At the bottom of the sea, I dug deeper and darker holes, wondering why no one seemed to care. Emerging from what felt like the end of me has not been an easy feat. I had to recognize that self-care was essential before I could positively impact my community. The aspiration I had did not have to end at eighteen because after I reached that surprise of a birthday, I realized even the most beloved artists and activists of the world were placed on this earth to experience what they did, even if it only impacted one person who went on to impact thousands. Each day, I grappled with grief and anxiety, but I learned that it wasn't about magically curing these emotions. Instead, I focused on healthier coping strategies. My perceived weaknesses—my mental health—became the foundation upon which I built empathy. I found the strength to connect with others and offer solace through understanding my pain.  I am not where I was before, but I am not where I could be. I am no longer putting my relationships and aspirations on hold to be saved by a mysterious prince. I am my prince and princess. I dug myself out of the hole at the bottom of the sea, and I swam to the top. I must be my wildest dreams before I am my ancestor's wildest dreams. There is a life for me past eighteen despite what my mind had been training me to believe. I am fighting for what I want and am willing to swim any distance necessary.
    Bold Wisdom Scholarship
    “I began by saying that one of the paradoxes of education was that precisely at the point when you begin to develop a conscience, you must find yourself at war with your society. It is your responsibility to change society if you think of yourself as an educated person.”- James Baldwin. Without reading this quote directly until middle school, I lived my life by it. My parents raised my brother and me to fight against the machine, even at their cost. They were the black history teachers we needed, and while I grew up quiet and shy, where the only times I spoke up was when my brother communicated for me, I slowly began to come into my own. When my teacher assigned us to read “A Talk to Teacher,” my stomach fluttered because a quote written in the ’60s is still more prevalent today. It solidified my advocation in classrooms speaking up and asking questions where I felt my history was skipped over and rationalized by white teachers teaching from outdated books. I had classes where they asked why the enslavement of Africans and the genocide of Native Americans in the Caribbean was necessary to promote the Americas. While from day one, I understood society wouldn’t always have my back, I never realized school was where I’d begin to be at war with the community I lived in. I fell in love with Baldwin’s work because he made me feel seen the way no teacher had ever by solidifying my parents’ teachings and making my reservations towards society valid. Realizing the juxtaposition of American values now, I found my consciousness. The only thing I had to figure out was how to turn my consciousness into effective long-term social change.
    Bold Confidence Matters Scholarship
    I've never felt seen outside of my home until my tenth-grade African American Studies class. I grew up proud to be Black. When I stepped out of my house, my identity was always being dissected and disrespected. When my afrolatinidad wasn't being challenged, I regularly faced the struggle of being Black in America—such as feeling othered in predominantly white spaces. While I never limited my identity to conform to the comfortability of a white world, I felt lost because, truthfully, I couldn't see myself. The moment I stepped into my classroom, I felt something I thought I couldn't. I looked into a room filled with the Black diaspora; Black folk from all corners of the world. We spoke, dressed, and thought unapologetically. Each of us came from different lifestyles. Being seen isn't about comfortability or the absence of diverging views. In those fleeting moments, being seen was the absence of being treated as unworthy. That everyday experience birthed fruitful conversations as if we'd known each other our whole lives. I didn't have to justify my identity, who I was, or why; I could just be unapologetically me. I stepped into a space that constantly allowed me to expand. I saw another side of me, the Ashari I could be if all the racial and social restraints of the world were lifted. The Ashari that left that room learned more about her identity as a black woman and what it means to be proud of her heritage. The obstacle of my life is finding who I am in every space. Not just at home or in my tenth-grade classroom. I haven't fully conquered this yet, but I've grown because now I have met the woman I've always wanted to be, and I will fight until I meet her again.
    Bold Make Your Mark Scholarship
    Before I became politically active, I was shy. After my first protest, I was able to volunteer for, Vote16Dc. As the youngest person in the room, I sat in front of the council and testified for locally lowering the voting age to sixteen. We took days to research the cause and prepare our one sheeters. My heart was pounding, and my breath was nowhere to be found. With three panelists sitting next to me and five minutes to speak, my mind told me to remember that "these people are here to serve you, so don't allow their positions of power to intimidate you." I introduced myself proudly as a black resident of ward eight. The last thing I said was, "when I'm sixteen, I'm going to drive my car and say to myself today is the day that I am going to change the world every time I have something to vote for." I left the hearing empowered and braver than ever. I was stopped by another student telling me how great I did and that it would look so amazing on future applications; my friend and I looked at each other, laughed, and kept walking. I thought to myself; I didn't do it for college applications; I did it because I had never been more passionate about anything else in my life; voting is a life or death issue that I had the privilege to speak about; because even at thirteen I knew the future depended on me. At seventeen, about to begin a brand new experience, the passion and leadership skills I've learned are stronger now than the day I testified. I plan to bring everything I've learned on what it means to advocate in spaces where we need more leaders of color to support people of color.
    Bold Turnaround Story Scholarship
    I've never felt seen outside of my home until my tenth-grade African American Studies class. I grew up proud to be Black. When I stepped out of my house, my identity was always being dissected and disrespected. When my afrolatinidad wasn't being challenged, I regularly faced the struggle of being Black in America—such as feeling othered in predominantly white spaces. While I never limited my identity to conform to the comfortability of a white world, I felt lost because, truthfully, I couldn't see myself. The moment I stepped into my classroom, I felt something I thought I couldn't. I looked into a room filled with the Black diaspora; Black folk from all corners of the world. We spoke, dressed, and thought unapologetically. Each of us came from different lifestyles. Being seen isn't about comfortability or the absence of diverging views. In those fleeting moments, being seen was the absence of being treated as unworthy. That everyday experience birthed fruitful conversations as if we'd known each other our whole lives. I didn't have to justify my identity, who I was, or why; I could just be unapologetically me. I stepped into a space that constantly allowed me to expand. I saw another side of me, the Ashari I could be if all the racial and social restraints of the world were lifted. The Ashari that left that room learned more about her identity as a black woman and what it means to be proud of her heritage. The obstacle of my life is finding who I am in every space. Not just at home or in my tenth-grade classroom. I haven't fully conquered this yet, but I've grown because now I have met the woman I've always wanted to be, and I will fight until I meet her again.
    Bold Persistence Scholarship
    I've never felt seen outside of my home until my tenth-grade African American Studies class. I grew up proud to be Black. When I stepped out of my house, my identity was always being dissected and disrespected. When my afrolatinidad wasn't being challenged, I regularly faced the struggle of being Black in America—such as feeling othered in predominantly white spaces. While I never limited my identity to conform to the comfortability of a white world, I felt lost because, truthfully, I couldn't see myself. The moment I stepped into my classroom, I felt something I thought I couldn't. I looked into a room filled with the Black diaspora; Black folk from all corners of the world. We spoke, dressed, and thought unapologetically. Each of us came from different lifestyles. Being seen isn't about comfortability or the absence of diverging views. In those fleeting moments, being seen was the absence of being treated as unworthy. That everyday experience birthed fruitful conversations as if we'd known each other our whole lives. I didn't have to justify my identity, who I was, or why; I could just be unapologetically me. I stepped into a space that constantly allowed me to expand. I saw another side of me, the Ashari I could be if all the racial and social restraints of the world were lifted. The Ashari that left that room learned more about her identity as a black woman and what it means to be proud of her heritage. The obstacle of my life is finding who I am in every space. Not just at home or in my tenth-grade classroom. I haven't fully conquered this yet, but I've grown because now I have met the woman I've always wanted to be, and I will fight until I meet her again.
    Next Young Leaders Program Scholarship
    Before I became politically active, I was a shy student. The word 'leader' would have never been a term I used to describe myself. While my first protest of the Trump administration took a lot of bravery, it didn't require leadership. I followed the crowds, their chants, and their movements. I stood in the back to be as far away from the front as possible. I was eventually able to work with my first organization, Vote16Dc. This was the first time I did something without the intention of being solely a follower. After lobbying the Dc council, we were asked to testify in front of them, and I quickly wrote my name down while the other students in the group followed suit. As a rising ninth-grader and the youngest person in the room, I sat in front of the Dc council and testified for lowering the voting age to 16 locally in Washington DC. We took days to research the cause and prepare our one sheeters. I was in one of the last panels, and my anxiety was through the roof before I knew what to call it. My heart was pounding, and my breath was nowhere to be found. I had prepared my entire speech and was ready for any question they asked. With three other people sitting next to me and only having a couple of minutes to speak each, I looked directly at council member Charles Allen. The advice that kept running through my mind told me to remember that "these people are here to serve you, so don't allow their positions of power to intimidate you." When my time to speak came on, I stood proud and made my point. Not only did I take charge to advocate without help, but I was also the first student to speak. I introduced myself as a proud Afro-Puerto Rican and resident of ward 8. The last thing I remember I said was, "when I'm sixteen, I'm going to drive my car and say to myself today is the day that I am going to change the world every time I have something to vote for." I left the hearing empowered and braver than ever. My friend and I were stopped in the hall by another student telling us how great we did and that it would look so amazing on our future applications; we looked at each other, laughed, and kept walking. I thought to myself; I didn't do it for college applications; at that time, I didn't even know what a college resume was, I did it because I had never been more passionate about anything else in my life; I did it because voting is a life or death issue that I had a privilege to speak to my council members about; I did it because even at 13 I knew the future depended on me. Now at 17, getting responses to colleges and about to begin a brand new adventure, the braveness, and leadership skills I showed at 13 are now more prevalent than ever. I used those tools when advocating for gun safety with March For Our Lives. I use those skills today when working with young kids and at VoteZ, where our goal is to change the culture around voting rights for generation z as the Activist Outreach Director. I plan to continue to bring everything I've learned over the last few years on what it means to lead and advocate to the spaces where we need more leaders of color to support people of color.
    Bold Wise Words Scholarship
    The wisest words said to me were read by my history teacher in class; he said: “One of the paradoxes of education was that precisely at the point when you begin to develop a conscience, you must find yourself at war with your society. It is your responsibility to change society if you think of yourself as an educated person.”. My teacher read this from the last passage of “A Talk To Teachers” By James Baldwin. He asked what the text meant to us and why as he finished reading. I grew up quiet and shy the only time I spoke up was when I would ask my brother to speak up for me. There were so many things I believed I didn’t have the power to say. In classrooms, teachers happily perpetuated stereotypes, silencing those who spoke out against them. Then in the “outside” world, black people continued to be pushed into a negative cycle of oppression. I felt as if my voice shouldn’t and couldn’t be valued because I was too young and too overtly proud of my blackness. Years later, the next time I read that passage, I gasped because that quote solidified my advocation in classrooms and slowly into my daily life without even knowing. Realizing the juxtaposition of American culture and values now and then was astounding because I recognized that I had always been conscious for a very long time. I just needed the platform to speak. If an openly queer black man in the 1960s could, why couldn’t I? Once I became aware of my consciousness, I never went back. Change doesn’t just come; you seek it, you fight for it, and you keep fighting for it until you get it, then you fight for it to be maintained.
    Deborah's Grace Scholarship
    On a quiet day in June, I find myself wrapped up in my aunt’s arms, protecting myself from the Buffalo breeze. Lenova's pizza in the distance, we begin to cross the street but never make it. A crazed driver strikes us, sending me flying out her arms protection. As we lay, listening to the sirens, the breeze became the least of my worries. I constantly relived my near-death experience, becoming quieter every time. It enveloped and overwhelmed my subconscious, subduing me for what I thought was the rest of my life. My father would have my brother and I recite affirmations then force us to answer critical questions on our way to school. It was unacceptable in my household not to have an opinion, and it took years for me to explain why I wanted something in-depth more than "because I do." It was as if my father could hear my subconscious begging to be freed from the terror that kept me silent. During the 2016 elections, the world and my parents had many opinions. Unbeknownst to everyone, so did I. As a black woman in a white-dominated society, I understood my identity would generate obstacles. However, I did not actively do anything to remedy the situation. At the end of eighth grade, there was a protest at the Trump Hotel. Most kids used it as an excuse to leave early. Although my intense anxiety was telling me to do the same, I felt an unusual flutter in my stomach to do more. Ignoring my anxiety, I listened to my gut and called my parents, pleading my case. To my surprise, they said I could go and that my mom would meet me there. Chanting and marching, I felt at home. I found my voice— the one I kept dormant under the falsehood of protection— in a sea of other people where I could not even hear my screams. I ended middle school a completely new person because the realization of why my dad stressed the importance of our car ride interactions finally clicked. There is power in advocating for your beliefs, not despite your complex identity but because of it. My opinions and feelings mattered everywhere, not only inside the car on our way to school. After the protest, I found power in answering questions, asking them, challenging them, and taking risks. Then met people who led me to spaces where my voice could be turned into a tool for impactful change. I began viewing the world like James Baldwin predicted, developing a conscience and becoming at war with my society. I fought by being the youngest girl to testify in front of the DC Council alongside Vote16DC, learned how to become a lobbyist at fourteen with March for Our Lives DC, dedicating the rest of my high school career to developing a comprehensive understanding of gun violence, including its legislative solutions, and had that pivotal moment at the Trump Hotel inspire the first question I ask on my podcast "Creating Good Trouble": "What was your first political action and why?" The accident no longer made me fear my fragility but living a life without having anything to die for. I became something I presumed was only for the Sojourner Truths, James Baldwins, Angela Davis's, and Martin Luther King's of the world: an advocate.
    Community Service is Key Scholarship
    Before I became politically active, I was a shy student. After my first protest of the Trump administration, I was able to work with my first organization, Vote16DC. An organization dedicated to extending voting rights to 16 and 17 year old in Washington, DC. We took days to research the cause and prepare our one sheeters. We rallied behind this cause for three reasons: creating lifelong voters, strengthening civic literacy, and ensuring that diverse youth voices are heard. After lobby council members and many strategic meetings, the time came. As a rising ninth-grader and the youngest person in the room, I sat in front of the Dc council and testified for lowering the voting age to 16 locally in Washington DC. I was in one of the last panels, and my anxiety was through the roof before I knew what to call it. My heart was pounding, my breath was nowhere to be found, and I felt like the whole weight of the world was sitting in my chest. I had prepared my entire speech and was ready for any question they asked. With three other people sitting next to me and only having a couple of minutes to speak each; I sat in front of council member Charles Allen; while the advice that kept running through my mind told me to remember that “these people are here to serve you so don’t allow their positions of power to intimidate you.” When my time to speak came on, I stood proud and made my point. I introduced myself as a proud Black Puerto Rican woman and resident of ward 8. The last thing I said was that “when I’m sixteen, I’m going to drive my car and say to myself today is the day that I am going to change the world every time I have something to vote for.” I left the hearing empowered and braver than ever. All my hard work paid off— I conquered my shyness in a way I had never done before while advocating for something I believed in. My friend and I were stopped in the hall by another student telling us how great we did and that it would look so amazing on our future applications; we looked at each other, laughed, and kept walking. I thought to myself; I didn’t do it for college applications; at that time, I didn’t even know what a college resume was, I did it because I had never been more passionate about anything else in my life; I did it because voting is a life or death issue that I had a privilege to speak to my council members about; I did it because even at 13 I knew the future depended on me.
    Bold Acts of Service Scholarship
    Before I became politically active, I was shy. After my first protest of the Trump administration, I worked with my first organization, Vote16Dc. As a rising ninth-grader and the youngest person in the room, I sat in front of the Dc council testifying for locally lowering the voting age to 16. My heart was pounding, and my breath was nowhere to be found. With three other people sitting next to me and only having a couple of minutes to speak each; I sat in front of council member Charles Allen; while the advice that kept running through my mind told me to remember that “these people are here to serve you so don’t allow their positions of power to intimidate you.” I stood proud and made my point. Introducing myself as a proud Afro-Puerto Rican and resident of ward 8. The last thing I said was that “when I’m sixteen, I’m going to drive my car and say to myself today is the day that I am going to change the world every time I have something to vote for.” My friend and I were stopped in the hall by another student telling us how great we did and that it would look so amazing on our future applications; we looked at each other, laughed, and kept walking. I thought to myself; I didn’t do it for college applications; at that time, I didn’t even know what a college resume was, I did it because I had never been more passionate about anything else in my life; I did it because voting is a life or death issue that I had a privilege to speak to my council members about; I did it because even at 13 I knew the future depended on me.
    "Wise Words" Scholarship
    James Baldwin once said in his 1963 “A talk to Teachers”: “I began by saying that one of the paradoxes of education was that precisely at the point when you begin to develop a conscience, you must find yourself at war with your society. It is your responsibility to change society if you think of yourself as an educated person.” Without reading this quote directly until middle school, I lived my life by it. My parents raised my brother and me to fight against the machine, even at their cost. They were the black history teachers we needed, and while I grew up quiet and shy, where the only times I spoke up was when my brother communicated for me, I slowly began to come into my own. James Baldwin wrote the quote when racism in education was more than overt and in society as a whole. The curriculum in America stereotyped and excluded. While teachers happily perpetuated them, silencing those who spoke out against it. When my teacher assigned us to read “A Talk to Teacher,” my stomach fluttered, not only because I’d heard something similar all my life but because a quote written in the ’60s is still more than prevalent today. That quote solidified my advocation in classrooms speaking up and asking questions where I felt my history as a black woman was skipped over and rationalized by white history teachers teaching from a white-washed and outdated book. I had classes where they asked us why the enslavement of Africans was okay and why the genocide of Native Americans in the Caribbean was necessary to promote the good deed that we know as colonization by the Europeans. While from day one, as a young black woman in America, I understood society wouldn’t always have my back, I never realized school was where I’d begun to be at war with the community I lived in. I fell in love with Baldwin’s work because he made me feel seen the way no teacher had ever by solidifying my parents’ teachings, making my reservations towards society valid, and using that fire to produce solutions. Realizing the juxtaposition of American culture and values now and then was astounding because I realized that I had always been conscious for a very long time. The only thing I had to figure out was how to turn my consciousness into effective long-term social change.