Recently, the Los Angeles Times spotlighted the heartbreaking outrage of a 17 year-old young man who was gunned down walking home in his South L.A. neighborhood just weeks before his high school graduation. The young man was a poet who often wrote about overcoming the negative conditions in his community. Even though he didn’t have any concrete plans, he wanted to be the first in his family to go to college and was supported by a loving mother who worked around the clock to provide for him. The young man’s story and untimely death was reminiscent of that of many brilliant young people of color who are never given a chance to pursue their ambitions due to violence, criminalization, racism, sexism and/or the low expectations of teachers, administrators and other adult “role models”.
When I met Ramiro Salas a few months ago while doing a workshop at Duke Ellington Continuation High School on Black Skeptics Los Angeles’ first in the family scholarship I was impressed by his reflective attitude and his critical consciousness about being a young man of color who mainstream society expected little of. He expressed interest in the medical field and we discussed how there were few media representations of Latino scientists or physicians in the dominant culture. Ramiro is a 2013 graduate of Duke and the recipient of BSLA’s A. Philip Randolph scholarship, in honor of the pioneering freethinker, labor activist, publisher and socialist intellectual (and founder of the March on Washington movement). While at Duke, Ramiro was enrolled in the Occupational Therapy Training Program which serves economically challenged youth in Los Angeles. This exceptional program provided the guidance Ramiro needed to develop clear goals for his future, and express his leadership abilities. Through the mentoring of Duke principal Cecil McLinn and resource provider Natalie Sartin, Ramiro will attend Lassen Community College in the fall with plans to transfer to a 4-year college.
Ramiro is already thinking of solutions to address the problem of youth violence and overall unhealthy eating in his community. He writes, “I would offer safe places such as [affordable] gyms and recreational centers so that people can escape [the] violence.” He also states, “building gyms and recreational centers will help residents maintain a healthy lifestyle”, to fight against the abundance of cheap fast food restaurants that contribute to, Ramiro writes, “diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity”. Ramiro believes that his ideas honor Humanism by treating every person with equal respect.
Ramiro’s scholarship was made possible by generous matching donations from Richard Carrier and Eyvonne Hurt. Congratulations Ramiro!