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At 3 Top Universities, Black Student Body Presidents Make History

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

So 2020 was a year of racial unrest and racial change, and as Black organizers are working to ensure those transformations last, Black students are doing the same.

NOEL KING, HOST:

We talked to three of them, all making history as the newest leaders of the student bodies at their top-tier schools. Jason Carroll is a senior at Brown University.

JASON CARROLL: There is such a heavy renewed interest in civil rights and Black lives in old, often very white institutions. There is a lot more room for talking about race, talking about what it means to be a Black student at an institution like Brown.

KING: Carroll was elected this year as the school's first Black man to be student body president.

CARROLL: And so I think that opportunity has served really well for myself and other activists at Brown who wouldn't necessarily have had as easy of a go of it if there weren't the environment that we're in right now.

GREENE: Carroll and his team have been advocating to defund the police on campus. He wants to allocate those resources towards experts who can address students' mental health.

KING: And then there's Noah Harris, who's the first Black man to be student body president at Harvard. He's been fighting for inclusion, especially economic inclusion, all year.

NOAH HARRIS: We raised over $45,000 as a council for Black solidarity charities. And that's something that we've never done - raising money for people that aren't Harvard students. But it really allows us to have an impact beyond Harvard's gates.

GREENE: And that is also important to Danielle Geathers. She is the first Black woman to be student body president at MIT.

DANIELLE GEATHERS: The one thing I started looking at was from a financial component, speaking with MIT about potentially using a Black-owned bank or figuring out how to support the Black community in these times, especially because of the disproportionate impact of COVID.

KING: Jason Carroll at Brown is really proud of this new wave of Black student leaders, but he says we shouldn't overlook those who paved the way at historically Black colleges and universities.

CARROLL: Black students and Black student leaders and organizers have been on the forefront of leading HBCUs for decades and centuries.

GREENE: The voices of Jason Carroll, Danielle Geathers and Noah Harris, all elected as student body presidents this year.

(SOUNDBITE OF SINITUS TEMPO'S "A STROLE THROUGH SAIGON") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.