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Sy Stokes: One Student’s Story And How Making A Difference Is Not As Far Out Of Reach As We Think

Almost everyone in our generation wants to be famous or well known for his or her ideas. From Instafame to YouTube sensations, we’re low-key doing the most to have people like our fashion senses, our awesome arrangements and vocals to a cover of a song, or our writings on Internet magazines.

In the midst of our generation, an individual at UCLA has gotten a lot more recognition than he had ever imagined receiving in such a short amount of time.

Sy Stokes, a third-year, African American studies major at UCLA, has always had a passion for poetry and spoken word, currently serving as Director of The Word division of UCLA’s Cultural Affairs Commission.

Stokes is the cousin of Arthur Ashe, who is an NCAA singles title winner for UCLA’s tennis team, an American World No. 1 professional player, and a well known name on the UCLA campus, as the Student Health and Wellness center is named after him. With all of these factors in Stokes’ life coming together, he released a YouTube video regarding the Black Bruin Voice or, in this case, lack thereof.

Within a week, the video is creeping at almost 300,000 views and has sparked responses, ranging from accordance to harsh criticisms. So what is this video about?

Stokes summarizes his points, telling me that this isn’t just about affirmative action. It’s emphasizing that UCLA has the money, resources, and its prestigious reputation to do much more for the greater Los Angeles community, made up of nearly 50% Black and/or Latino individuals.

He wants UCLA to start putting students first, including local high school students, rather than worrying about its reputation. He points out that UCLA is the only UC that does not have a diversity requirement, meaning that at every other UC, it is required to take an ethnic studies course as part of the general education curriculum.

Since UCLA does not have this, he feels that it is a huge slap in the face, and it also leaves many students unaware and uneducated on important issues involving race, including things that have happened in our history as well as things happening today.

Stokes reiterates that there are no perfect solutions, but UCLA has the political power and socioeconomic power to make change. The black community voice was not being heard, and it was about time someone said something.

Sure, Sy Stokes has now gone viral, his video growing more than he would have ever imagined. Whether he likes it or not, he is becoming a rising advocate and voice for minorities at UCLA, and his passion shines through his words. He stays humble and attentive, reminding people that he is just a poet, not a politician.

An interesting and incredible thing to point out is the type of responses he has received. Stokes has gotten support alongside criticism, but the responses are endless. There are educated and civil conversations on YouTube comments; articles and responses on The Huffington Post; an interview on MSNBC; and viewings in Communication Studies, World Arts and Cultures, and other upper-division lectures at UCLA.

College is meant to be a time when you find yourself and find your passion, as well as a time to have fun and make lifelong friends. While we are hashtagging OOTD on our Instagrams, there are people doing the most and trying to make a difference. If Sy Stokes can combine his passions and make a simple YouTube video to make his mark, maybe making a difference is not as far out of our reach as we think.

Top Photo Courtesy: Facebook

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Christina Kim

Contributor

Christina is a contributor based in Palm Springs, LA, and Starbucks. She graduated from UCLA in English and Film studies, and she hopes to be the next Carrie Bradshaw with better hair. You can see her writings at www.kimtinachris.carbonmade.com
Christina is a contributor based in Palm Springs, LA, and Starbucks. She graduated from UCLA in English and Film studies, and she hopes to be the next Carrie Bradshaw with better hair. You can see her writings at www.kimtinachris.carbonmade.com

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