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‘Representation matters’: Photo of 14 black, male Cambridge students goes viral

The photo has taken the Internet by storm. Pic: @cambridge.acs

On Monday, Cambridge University’s African Caribbean Society (ACS) posted what most would call an unconventional photo on their Facebook page. That image, and the story that came with it, has since gone viral.

What made the photograph stand out was that it was an image of 14 black, male Cambridge students juxtaposed against the backdrop of the elite English institution, a varsity that has struggled with the diversity of the ethnic and class make-up of its students, or rather the lack of.

In an accompanying message, Dami Adebayo said:

“Young black men don’t grow up thinking they’ll make it here. They should.”

The intention behind the photo is to show despite their lack of representation, it was still possible to get into Cambridge and others should aspire to do so as well.

According to the group, only 15 black, male students were accepted into Cambridge in 2015.

The students involved in the viral photo said they wanted to encourage those of similar ilk to apply to Cambridge, and not be discouraged by their image of a stereotypical Cambridge kid.

English student William Gore, 19, said they “don’t need to change who you are to get here”, as reported by BBC.

“There are people here at Cambridge from different backgrounds, who don’t fit the stereotypical image of what a Cambridge student looks like, doing their thing and killing it.”

The photo is said to be inspired by a similar stint by Yale students last week that was hashtagged #BlackMenOfYaleUniversity. That tweet has since been retweeted 15,395 times and liked by 32,402 users at the time of writing.

The Cambridge boys’ Facebook post now has 4,800 likes on Facebook and has been picked up by news outlets around the globe, such as BBC, Teen Vogue and Business Insider.

Higher learning institutions like Cambridge and Yale have long grappled with their student cohort being traditionally white and upper-class. While more African-Americans are enrolling in American colleges, the same isn’t often said of its top-tier universities. The Atlantic reports the share of black students in elite American institutions has actually fallen since 1994.

According to researchers, one of the reasons for this is because students from minority backgrounds tend to apply to less selective schools (termed “safety schools”) that enroll large numbers of minority students like them.

It is this very trend these Cambridge students wanted to address.

Folajimi Babasola, 20, who appeared in the photo, said he wanted to show others “there are people very much like them here and if we can get here, they can.”

In its Facebook post, ACS, playing on the words of the famous “Black lives matter” movement, signed off with this message: “Representation matters.”

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