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New York Institute of Technology Celebrates Black History Month

February 12, 2020

Black History Month, celebrated each February, has its roots in Negro History Week, an initiative founded in 1926 by Carter G. Woodson and the Association for the Study of African-American Life and History, to raise awareness of African Americans’ contributions to society as well as to promote studying black history in schools.

New York Institute of Technology celebrates black members of our community who are doing great things in their academic and professional careers as well as in their communities. The Box sat down with four faculty, staff, and students to learn more about their stories.

Tiffani Blake, M.S., M.Ed., dean of students

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Tiffani Blake believes in empowering students and supporting their academic journey. “I find it imperative to advocate for students from marginalized communities or with personal struggles that impede their ability to succeed in a college setting,” she says. “Being personally familiar with these obstacles allows me to empathize with this student population and encourage them.”

Blake grew up serving her community, from working at local food pantries and nursing homes to teaching children ballet in Harlem. She is also an active member of the North Manhattan Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc. and serves as the commissioner of the Office of Black Ministry, Archdiocese of New York. The organization’s mission is to listen and promote the aspiration of black Catholics and to work towards the eradication of racism and discrimination, and any forms of injustice that may exist within the Church and society. On February 2, Blake was presented with The Bakhita Woman of Faith and Service award during the Annual Archdiocesan Black History Month and Observance of the National Day of Prayer for the African American and African Family at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City. The mass acknowledged and celebrated the important role of women in families, the church, and the community.

Ishmael Ifill
Student majoring in health sciences; treasurer of the Student Government Association (SGA) on the Long Island campus

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Ishmael Ifill credits his passion for serving the New York Tech community to his parents. “For years, my family and I prepared meals for those who spent countless hours preparing for the West Indian Day Parade, which is held yearly in Brooklyn,” he says. His involvement in his cultural community sparked his desire to serve the New York Tech community. “I’ve translated my passion into serving in a leadership role,” he says.

Prior to being the treasurer of the SGA, Ifill was an orientation leader. As treasurer, Ifill says one of his goals is “to create a structure that connects students with clubs and organizations to boost student engagement on campus.”

Ifill is set to graduate in May, and already has plans for life after college: to explore public health with a concentration in epidemiology. “The study of the distribution of diseases has always been of interest to me.”

Ashley Dent
Student veteran majoring in advertising, public relations, and technology

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There is so much that student veteran Ashley Dent loves about black culture. “First, I love how we have and are continuing to persevere and overcome any obstacles and adversities put in our way,” she says.

Inspired by her role model, Oprah Winfrey, Dent created an online show called Melanin Madness to “evoke conversations that are healthy and forward-thinking.” Dent hopes to have the same influence as Winfrey. In addition to her show, Dent is chartering a local chapter for a national collegiate organization called Campus Curlz Inc., a natural hair and service-based organization that aims to enhance, educate and uplift individuals on campus and the black and brown communities.

Her long-term goal is to create a non-profit that provides resources and sisterhood for women veterans. Dent says, “I strive in hopes of changing the lives within the black community.”

Jamel Vanderburg
Adjunct Instructor, interdisciplinary studies

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“Being black means not having to apologize for being who you are and loving the skin you’re in. It’s about embracing your culture and knowing that your ancestors paved the way for you to appreciate the contributions in your families, societies, and the world around you,” says Jamel Vanderburg.

Vanderburg is a graduate of Wilberforce University, the nation’s oldest private, historically Black College and University (HBCU), and is a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc., the first collegiate Black Greek Letter Organization. When he isn’t teaching, Vanderburg is involved with organizations including the National Urban League Young Professionals – Long Island Chapter and actively serves on the council of Young People For. Understanding the importance of community, Vanderburg says, “No person is an island, and it takes a community to create and develop the person you become.”

As a professor, he treats his students like family and hopes that they understand how to be their true, authentic self, and maximize their success in his class.