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“We saw a need to establish a community where students felt safe to have tough conversations.”

From conception, the world put its own restrictions on me. During my mother’s pregnancy, the doctor announced that I was to be born with cleft foot, and mental disabilities. My mother chose not to believe in that report but to have faith for the best. She invested so much in this that she named me Imani:

Imani /e•mon•e/ (noun) Kiswahili origin 1. Faith.

Anytime I’ve faced adversity in my life my mother always reminds me to have faith. I learned very quickly that the standards of the world were not built for me. If I wanted something, I had to work 10 times harder for it. Doing whatever was in my power to make my dreams obtainable.

My life and Brandcenter has continued to be a test of that faith. This program is not easy and I often describe it to others as being in the ring with heavyweight boxing champion Muhammed Ali. I’ve been knocked out a few times, but one thing is for sure: I kept my faith and didn’t give up. My story is not unlike any other Black girl climbing the professional ranks of an industry. We balance being Black (but not too Black), trying to speak for up for the unheard, gradually breaking stereotypes and doing so with grace and dignity. I’ve fortunately been blessed to always have a support system along the way.

Part of my journey has always been to make sure the next generation of Black girls feels heard and doesn’t have it as hard as me. Combine this with a village of like-minded classmates and thus BC Collective was born. We saw a need to establish a community where students felt safe to have tough conversations to shape the culture and future of advertising. The industry has acknowledged its flaws, and it was time for us as students to be able to bridge the gap and become advocates for those who aren’t represented. Monthly cultural convos, community service, and a week of cultural activities do not solve everything, but they are a start. With this as my legacy, I have faith that our industry will begin to look more like the people we represent, and other Black girls will believe all their dreams are obtainable.

– Imani Lee, strategy track, class of 2019