Life After Becoming a Frankel-Adair Scholar

By D’Angelo Cameron, 2015 Frankel-Adair Scholarship Winner

D'Angelo Cameron

D’Angelo Cameron

On June 15th, 2015, I received the wonderful news that I was chosen to be one of two recipients of the Frankel-Adair Scholarship from the ACLU of Pennsylvania. The scholarship, awarded to LGBTQ youth who are pursuing post-secondary education in the greater Philadelphia area, is highly competitive, and the financial assistance provided by the award allowed me to pay for my last semester without worry. However, unbeknownst to me at the time, being awarded this scholarship would be the start of my most active year as a young leader living in Philadelphia, and eventually New York City.

I first learned about the Frankel-Adair Scholarship from the HRC’s LGBTQ School Scholarship Database. This was not my first time hearing about the ACLU, and specifically the Pennsylvania affiliate. I was familiar with the ACLU of Pennsylvania being present at Philadelphia’s LGBTQ centered events, like Pride and Outfest. It was during these moments I would take stacks of the ACLU’s Know Your Rights wallet cards for LGBTQ youth and distribute them to my peers who were interested in knowing their rights as students.

Shortly after receiving the award, I became vice president of Philadelphia Black Pride, one of the few organizations that create space and opportunity for social and economic equity for the city’s Black LGBTQ community. In this role, I organized one of the most successful convenings of healthcare providers in the city of Philadelphia to discuss access to Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis, or PrEP, a once-a-day pill that has been proven to be extremely effective in preventing HIV infection. Organizing this summit came from my dedication to addressing health disparities that disproportionately affect young Black LGBTQ young people.

My work for social change outside of the classroom did not stop there. While in the first few weeks of my final semester of senior year, I received another opportunity to serve on the organizing committee of the Young Black Gay Men’s Leadership Initiative or YBGLI, a national group of young Black Gay, Bi-sexual, and Same Gender Loving (SGL) men who organize at the regional and federal level around issues that impact their peers such as HIV infection rates, HIV criminalization, homelessness, police violence, and others.

As a recipient of the Frankel-Adair scholarship I became more connected to the ACLU and therefore was alerted to opportunities that existed in the organization to become more involved. My invitation to the ACLU of Pennsylvania’s annual Bill Of Rights dinner was one such amazing opportunity that allowed me to connect with other young professionals in the region, as well as some nationally recognized personalities like New York Times op-ed columnist Charles Blow. Another was to be a Communications Assistant at the ACLU Foundation offices in New York City. Although it required moving from my home city of twenty-two years, I embraced the chance to work at the National office and learn from some of the best lawyers, communications professionals, and advocates for civil liberties.

It has been eight months since I moved to New York to work for the ACLU Foundation. Despite having to leave the board of Philadelphia Black Pride and other projects centered in Philadelphia, I’m quite confident that other young Black LGBTQ leaders will continue to drive the progressive and much needed work in the city. I’m still on the organizing committee of Young Black Gay Men’s Leadership Initiative, and we are quite busy with planning new projects for 2017. I could not have been more proud of how much I have accomplished and I give my heartfelt thanks and appreciation to the Frankel-Adair Scholarship committee at the ACLU of Pennsylvania for helping me achieve my academic and leadership goals.

“One of the Most Transformative Years of My Life”

By Michael Kokozos, 2015 Frankel-Adair Scholarship Winner

Michael Kokozos

Michael Kokozos

I have learned this past year that classroom walls are not magical barriers to the harsh, painful, and at times tragic realities taking place in our society particularly as a facilitator this summer through LEDA (Leadership Enterprise for a Diverse America) at Princeton University. The student scholars remind me, however, that paralysis is not an option. We can ignore problems or choose to tackle them. If we attempt to tackle them, we have so much to learn from each other to raise awareness and foster critical reflection preparing the groundwork towards action.

Their unceasing energy and wisdom transport me to the annual ACLU Bill of Rights Dinner — a much-needed jolt in the life of a doctoral student who can easily forget modern-day heroes do exist tirelessly fighting on behalf of all of us for better tomorrows. I recall the Q&A with New York Times Op-Ed columnist, Charles M. Blow, and my awe of his willingness to even take on his political allies for their complicity in persisting inequalities causing undue harm especially to people of color. Truly, we must be willing to see far beyond the fog of fairness and with keen eyes.

These days I also live in the library writing my dissertation, reading and analyzing texts. I examine school textbooks in hopes that the representation of so many missing LGBTQ voices will finally find a heading. I peruse legislative documents in hopes that American policy will focus more on how we can include rather than exclude when it comes to national belonging. I reflect upon my journal entries looking forward to the life I imagined in my head as a boy still yet to come. History, I have learned, takes time to catch up to matters of the heart.

Thus, I see my pursuit of an Education, Culture, & Society degree enhanced by the Frankel-Adair scholarship as symbolic of a lifelong commitment to social justice. One of my favorite quotes is when the scientist and mathematician Archimedes would awe listeners by exclaiming: “Give me a place to stand, and I will move the earth.” Harnessing a seriousness of purpose and collaborating with others to move this world with all our might — this is what it means to me to be a part of something bigger than the self, and this is what it means to me to be a member of the ACLU.

This award has made a lot of things possible for me. For example, I will continue teaching my passions to educators across the country from elementary school students and teachers to college students and professors. I will continue to develop my research and leadership acumen to interrogate curriculum, assessing its effectiveness including and integrating diverse LGBTQ voices and perspectives, and securing the rights and liberties of my community and anyone else hurt by a system that can transcend its fears by committing to love. I will continue to bridge gaps between theory and practice by listening to and supporting the voices tied to a past that launched this movement in the first place.

So, thank you ACLU of Pennsylvania family. Thank you, Peggy Curchack, for your support and kindness. Thank you, Alli Harper, for your passionate dedication to the Young Leaders Outreach Team (YLOT). Thank you, Ben Weimer, for advocating for an ACLU presence at the University of Pennsylvania. And thank you to my co-scholar, D’Angelo Cameron, for your activism — past, present, and future. This year has been one of the most transformative years of my life. Your spirits and that of teaching and learning are imbued within this award and now within me.

Thank you.