The four subjects of the 2024 series of Where it Starts stories, Adriad Davis, Hermela Solomon, Anthony Williams, and Yusra Hassan

Where it starts

Lives and identities are shaped by decades and centuries. They can be forever altered in minutes or seconds. For the individuals and communities who continue to make Black history at the University of Minnesota and beyond, change starts wherever the powers of creativity, vision, and joy meet.

Yusra Hassan in front of Coffman Union

Finding her place

Yusra Hassan is a first-generation student preparing for a career where she’ll have the skills to advocate for those who cannot advocate for themselves.

Adrian Davis with grand piano in background

Let's sing!

Adrian Davis is a music educator who brought back the University of Minnesota Gospel Choir and with it, a powerful message of peace and joy.

More stories from Black History Month

Ayanna Rakhu

Mother may I swim?

U of M PhD candidate Ayanna Rakhu is working to understand the reasons why many African American parents and their children don’t swim through her dissertation, titled “Mother May I Swim?”

Hilaria Ponce standing outisde next to pine trees with snow on them

Realizing her dream

Hilariia Ponce has just one semester of college under her belt, and while she doesn’t have all the answers, she’s certainly not afraid to go looking for them. She credits her experiences in the National FFA Organization as key to her development, and her mother—for always being there.

Chino Nwakama sitting with children in a classroom

Sharing his love of science

Chino Nwakama (’23, Neuroscience, College of Biological Sciences) is creating opportunities for historically marginalized and low-income students to connect with science.

Bryant Jones wearing face mask in greenhouse with seedlings on wooden table

From planted seeds

While cooking for 20-hour days to feed the thousands who gathered after George Floyd’s killing, Bryant Jones was struck by an idea that grew into a garden ... and a community.

J'Mag Karbeah in a medical examination office

A shift in the conversation

Doctoral candidate and 2017 Master of Public Health (MPH) graduate J'Mag Karbeah has been involved with numerous high-profile research efforts at the University of Minnesota centering around reproductive health and justice in the African American community.

Abygail Andebrhan standing next to a microscope wearing a white coat

Determination and education prove unstoppable

Abygail Andebrhan graduated in 2022 from the College of Biological Sciences with a degree in genetics, cell biology and development. Originally from Eritrea, her story speaks to the power of education and the opportunity she found at the University of Minnesota.

Junita Flowers smiling inside of a commercial kitchen

Finding sweet success

Alumna Junita Flowers is building a cookie business that sparks dialogue and empowers women by normalizing the conversation around abusive relationships. Flowers founded Junita’s Jar, which recently launched in 320 Target stores nationwide.

Tomme Beevas

Focusing on the issues

After winning the Food Network’s “Food Court Wars” in 2013 at Pimento Jamaican Kitchen’s Burnsville Center location, Tomme Beevas opened a second location: Pimento Jamaican Kitchen on Eat Street in South Minneapolis.

Governess Simpson

Defeat turns to growth

In the heartbreak of rejection by her desired major, Governess Simpson found a new capacity to help others.

Kyle Skye in the studio

Developing our next generation of leaders

While Kyle Skye grew up in a football family—his grandfather was the first African American athlete for Valparaiso University—music has also always been an important part of his life.

Manyi Ayuk poses for photo with her family

So much pain, so much joy

Manyi Ayuk reflects on the dualities she’s experienced as a Cameroonian American and as an activist for social change.

Lulete Mola wearing leather skirt and dark suit jacket in front of dark blue cloudy background

Who SHE is

Lulete Mola’s purpose is to build power with individuals, families, and communities for real change.