Young, Black, and Educated
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Junior Anthony Ferguson initially came to the University of Iowa in the fall of 2011 to play for the Hawkeye football team. However, after one season, the Baltimore, Md., native felt that he had a greater purpose on campus.
“I felt a calling to create something for the African American community, and decided to leave the team,” Ferguson says.
About a month before leaving the team, he created the Young, Black, and Educated organization. What started off as a personal blog combining his knowledge as an African American Studies and history double major in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, gained steam from a faithful following of friends and family, and is now a community project.
“I think I was definitely meant to leave the team,” Ferguson says. “So many great experiences came from being on the team, but it kept me in a bubble. Creating this organization has allowed me to meet with students and go work in the community.”
The mission of Young, Black, and Educated is to serve, promote, and educate the African American community through educational and social programming.
Discussing difficult topics
The group discusses articles linking to African American historical events or movements, such as the Civil Rights movement. Many of the articles look at slavery, and how it is affecting African Americans today.
“Knowing our history and engaging in conversations that sometimes may be difficult is not only educational, but it can help us navigate the future,” Ferguson says.
The target population for the group is UI students, although it is not affiliated with the university. Community members are encouraged to participate in the monthly events as well. With a large influx of African Americans coming from Chicago to Iowa City, Ferguson and others saw a need for a community organization that would educate and support this population.
While Young, Black, and Educated is sponsored by various other organizations in the community, the leadership team is the glue that holds the group together.
“What we are trying to do is offer the community a place to learn and engage with others, and bring it together,” Ferguson says.
He adds, “We have about 12 people on our executive leadership team, and each individual works on their own. You pick what you’re passionate about and run with it."
The leadership team meets every Monday night at the Iowa Memorial Union. There are three teams within leadership, including merchandise, promotions and awareness, fine arts, and the website.
"Young, Black, and Educated provides a bridge between UI students and the community we live in, so we are able to educate and serve Iowa City," says UI senior Tevin Robbins, a member of the executive leadership team.
The merchandise team sells Young, Black and Educated products, such as shirts and hats, so that the organization can support other organizations, donate to worthwhile projects, or use the funds for the programs the group operates.
The promotions and awareness team holds monthly video discussions about various issues concerning the African American community featuring students, faculty, and other community members.
Mentors make all the difference
At the moment, Young, Black, and Educated consists of a blog with community contributors in addition to a few regularly featured writers that can be read at the website at youngblackeducated.com. The website also features a video series. This fall, Ferguson says he and other members also hope to start a high school mentoring program.
The mentoring program will be designed for children who grew up in homes with no fathers or positive role models.
“I believe I have been called to fill that void in children’s lives, and raise up other leaders to serve in that position as well,” Ferguson says.
Anthony Ferguson travelled to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia with Intervarsity on a mission trip.
In addition to Ferguson’s leadership within Young, Black, and Educated, he is also involved with several student organizations including the Black Student Union and Intervarsity.
Anthony Ferguson took a social justice course through Student Legal Services that allowed him to work with community children in Bangalor, India.
His involvement with Intervarsity, a Christian fellowship group, has allowed him to travel to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and Georgetown, Guyana on mission trips. He has also traveled to Bangalor, India to take a social justice course.
“Studying abroad was eye-opening,” Ferguson says. “I was able to see levels of poverty I have never seen in the U.S., but it made me want to do more work in the communities back home so we never reach that level.”
Ferguson plans on getting his doctorate in African American Studies, and envisions working with children in some capacity in the future.
“Having professors, faculty, and staff on campus who have taken an interest in not only my academic development, but also my personal and spiritual development has shown me that I want to be that mentor for someone else," Ferguson says.