Fourteen Black men at the University of Cambridge recently posed for photos together to send an important message about diversity.
The photos were posted on Facebook earlier this week by the Cambridge African Caribbean Society. “In 2015, only 15 black, male undergraduates were accepted into Cambridge,” the post reads. The Huffington Post cites further admission statistics to clarify that 98 Black, male students applied for admission that year, with 18 being offered places to study, and 15 choosing to attend. Additionally, only 29 Black women were offered admission that year, with 23 accepting.
Needless to say, many on social media were angered by these numbers.
However, the ACS’s photo shoot was about more than just highlighting the problem. It was also about setting a positive example to hopefully change those numbers in the future. As the Facebook post emphasizes, “it is important that despite their underrepresentation, we let young black people know that this is something that they can aspire to.”
Student Dami Adebayo of Cambridge’s Robinson College is quoted in the post as saying, “Young black men don’t grow up thinking they’ll make it here. They should.”
A spokesperson from the ACS said in a statement that not all of the men in the photos were admitted in 2015, but “they are intended to serve as a microcosm for the population of black males in the university.”
The photos challenge what many hold as the prevailing image of the typical Cambridge student.
“The aim of the picture was really to encourage more black students to apply to [Cambridge],” Folajimi Babasola, an international student from Nigeria, told Buzzfeed News. “Many people get discouraged by a particular image or stereotype of a Cambridge student that they have in their mind, thinking that they won’t fit in or be accepted.”
The photos were inspired by a similar initiative from across the pond at Yale University. Sociology major Akintunde Ahmad shared images of 10 Black, male students at Yale with the hashtag #BlackMenofYaleUniversity. The post went viral last month.
“The greater message behind these photos is that we are Black men first, and Ivy League students second,” Ahmad told Essence. “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 [shoes]. Positive imagery goes a long way.”
As the Cambridge post states in closing, “Representation matters.”