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Rhiana Gunn-Wright – From Chicago’s Englewood to a Prestigious Rhodes Scholar

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Article Source: Black Teen Magazine

Rhiana Gunn-Wright – From Chicago’s Englewood to a Prestigious Rhodes Scholar
Rhiana Gunn-Wright – From Chicago’s Englewood to a Prestigious Rhodes Scholar

On Saturday, November 17, 2012, the American Rhodes Scholar organization announced its Class of 2013. They were selected from a pool of 838 candidates who had been nominated by their colleges and universities. The 32 outstanding students will study at Oxford in October 2013.

Until 1963, Alain LeRoy Locke was the first and only black to become a Rhodes Scholar. Locke who graduated from Harvard in 1907 is best known as a theorist, critic, and interpreter of African-American literature and art.

Chocolate City is very proud of Rhiana Gunn-Wright's on her accomplishment of receiving the oldest and one of the most celebrated international fellowship awards in the world. Gunn-Wright's, 23-year-old, ambitions stem from her childhood in the impoverished Englewood neighborhood on Chicago's South Side.

Gunn-Wright who now lives in Oak Lawn, Illinois graduated from Yale in 2011 with majors in African American studies and women’s gender and sexuality studies. According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research’s website, she is employed with that agency and researches poverty's effects on people's access to a college education and hopes to one day help reform social welfare policy. Her senior thesis won prizes from both of her departments. Her interests focus on the complex causes of inequality, poverty, and disadvantage. She has been extremely active in community service, working for the Yale Women’s Center, New Haven school children, grandmothers caring for children orphaned by HIV-AIDS in Uganda. In Chicago, she worked with wards of the state – adult or child whose guardianship is determined by a judge. In Washington, she works as a health outreach volunteer with sex workers. She plans to obtain a degree in MPhil in Comparative Social Policy at Oxford University.

On winning the award, Gunn-Wright said, "I've seen the way that poverty robs people of their opportunity to explore their capabilities."

About the Rhodes Scholarships

According to the Rhodes Trust Foundation website:

The Rhodes Scholarships are the oldest and most celebrated international fellowship awards in the world. Each year 32 young Americans are selected as Rhodes Scholars, through a decentralized process representing the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Applicants from more than 300 American colleges and universities have been selected as Rhodes Scholars. In most years, even after a century of competition, a Rhodes Scholar is selected from an institution which has not formerly supplied a successful applicant.

Rhodes Scholars are chosen not only for their outstanding scholarly achievements, but for their character, commitment to others and to the common good, and for their potential for leadership in whatever domains their careers may lead. The Rhodes Trust, a British charity established to honor the will and bequest of Cecil J. Rhodes, provides full financial support for Rhodes Scholars to pursue a degree or degrees at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom. The first American Rhodes Scholars entered Oxford in 1904. The scholarships are worth about $50,000 each for two years. 

Who was Cecil J. Rhodes?

To some Africans the late Cecil Rhodes was a racist, egotistical "cult of personality", imperialist and land grabbing colonialist. Referring to Rhodes, Mark Twain sarcastically once said, "I admire him, I frankly confess it; and when his time comes I shall buy a piece of the rope for a keepsake."

The imprints of Rhodes' egotistical cult of personality can be seen on every aspect of the country. He named the country, parks, buildings and university after himself. In 1980, when the blacks took over the country, they changed the name of Rhodes' to the Republic of Zimbabwe, wiping his name from the world’s maps.

Rhodes scholarship is funded by his estate.  In his last will and testament, he provided for the establishment of the Rhodes scholarship, the world's first international study program. The scholarship purpose is to enable students from territories under British rule, formerly under British rule, and from Germany, to study at the University of Oxford. In Rhodes' last will and testament, he said of the British, "I contend that we are the finest race in the world and that the more of the world we inhabit the better it is for the human race."

Rhodes forcible ordered black Africans to work as cheap laborers in his gold and diamond mines – land he had taken by force from the same Africans. In 1887, Rhodes told the House of Assembly in Cape Town, "Either you have to receive them on an equal footing as citizens or you call them a subject race. I have made up my mind that there must be class legislation, that there must be pass laws."

The land grabbing problems which were blamed on President Robert Mugabe were created by Rhodes. Rhodes used his army to forces to forcibly grab land from blacks and give to white settlers. Rhodes originated the racist “land grabs” to which Zimbabwe’s current miseries can ultimately be traced.

In 1980, after the blacks took over the country, they changed the name for Rhodes' to the Republic of Zimbabwe.

Let the Bones of Cecil Rhodes Rot Somewhere Else

In 2010, Bulawayo governor Cain Mathema demanded that the body of Rhodes be exhumed and sent back to Britain as it is an insult to the country's citizens. Mathema said it was offensive that the Oxford-educated former mining magnate was still buried on Zimbabwean soil three decades after the country was granted independence from Britain. In 2012, Zimbabwean war veterans who had been pushing for the grave, in the Matopos Hills National Park south of Bulawayo, to be dug up and Rhodes' remains to be returned to the UK, blaming them for a lack of rain in the area. Robert Mugabe's administration blocked the exhumation. 

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