When Ziad Ahmed arrived at the "What matters to you, and why?" section of his Stanford University application, the first thing that came to mind was the Black Lives Matter movement. But, instead of writing an essay about the topic, Ahmed wrote #BlackLivesMatter exactly 100 times — and he received his acceptance letter on Friday.
"My unapologetic progressivism is a central part of my identity, and I wanted that to be represented adequately in my application," he explained. Ahmed’s decision to not elaborate on his #BlackLivesMatter statement is meaningful — the movement should not require a justification in order to explain its importance.
"The insistence on an explanation is inherently dehumanizing," Ahmed said. "Black lives have been explicitly and implicitly told they don't matter for centuries, and as a society — it is our responsibility to scream that Black lives matter because it is not to say that all lives do not matter, but it is to say that Black lives have been attacked for so long, and that we must empower through language, perspective, and action."
Although Ahmed didn’t expect to be accepted to Stanford, he says it’s encouraging that the university views his unapologetic activism as “an asset rather than a liability.”
Ahmed’s Islamic faith is intertwined with his commitment to activism, and both are central to his identity. “To me, to be Muslim is to be a BLM ally,” he explains — but he’s quick to point out that being an ally and activist doesn’t mean he’s entitled to speak on behalf of the Black community. Instead, his role as an ally is to speak up about the injustices faced by Black Americans.
Of course, Ahmed’s essay is hardly the only reason he was accepted to Stanford. The 18-year-old Bangladeshi-American puts his beliefs into action in a seriously impressive way. Amidst juggling academics and extracurriculars, he found the time to lead Martin O’Malley’s youth presidential campaign, intern for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign, and give a TedxTalk in Panama City about the impact of stereotypes on Muslim teens. Oh, and Obama invited him to the White House Iftar dinner to recognize Ahmed an a Muslim-American changemaker — but NBD.
Ahmed has also been accepted to Yale and Princeton, but he hasn’t yet decided on which school to attend.