Students create organization to provide a platform for discussing cultural diversity

Founder%2C+Maiya+Angelou+%28left%29%2C+and+Director+of+Outreach+Jeyashri+Rameshbabu+%28right%29.

Submitted by Jeyashri Rameshbabu

Founder, Maiya Angelou (left), and Director of Outreach Jeyashri Rameshbabu (right).

Abby Lincks, Staff Reporter

Even though middle school friends, Maiya Angelou and Jey Rameshbabu, moved states away from each other, Jey to Texas and Maiya to New York, the two managed to keep in touch and share a special bond. 

The duo has paired up in starting non profit organization, Voices Amplified, where students can have the chance to form special bonds like theirs. Syosset High School senior and founder Maiya Angelou and Vandegrift senior and director of outreach, Jey Rameshbabu, have brought their second chapter of Voices Amplified to Vandegrift. 

“We recently founded our first chapter of Voices Amplified, which is at my high school, Syosset High School [New York], and that’s going to probably be a lot of spins because the way that it’s structured for us is it’s a committee, so it actually reaches all grades and incorporates to all other clubs and curriculum,” Angelou said. 

The Vandegrift chapter’s meetings take place on the first Friday of every month at 4:00. Students can join the Google classroom by typing in the code wx7afej. Flyers have also been spread around campus with the club meeting time and message behind Voices Amplified. The flyer is also on the organization’s Instagram, @voices.amplified. 

“We want to actually hear how we can better organize ourselves to get more people involved because that’s our ultimate goal is just to have everyone participate,”  Rameshbabu said. 

As a student led organization, Voices Amplified, strives to do just that. Voices Amplified provides an outlet for students and/or individuals to educate themselves in others cultures, learn more about their own, and highlight their own point of view.

“[Voices Amplified is] just a great opportunity to help bring to light other cultures, not only just foster inclusiveness, which is always something good, but also have people become aware of other perspectives around the world just because race and ethnicity itself does pose a lot of different kinds of cultural values that people can become aware of,” Angelou said.

When the Black Lives Matter movement gained national momentum in May after George Floyd’s murder, Maiya Angelou, decided it was time to start doing something about it. 

“Voices Amplified was founded to also help spur these types of movements by creating a positive narrative for BIPOC [Black, Indigenous, People of Color] through good communication, faith in others, and just collaborative actions that we can all take to do our part,” Angelou said.

With an initiative in mind, the organization needed an outlet, a way of communicating their goals. Voices Amplified needed people to understand the importance of such an initiative as well as know specifically ways that people may be interested in involving themselves. One of the ways an individual can become involved and interested in being a part of Voices Amplified is from looking on the website where different cultures like Hawaiian culture and information about countries located around the globe such as Guyana, Lebanon, India and the Philippines is provided on the highlights page. 

“What we do is showcase the positive things, the good things, that’s going on in the BIPOC community, like highlights,” Rameshbabu said. “We have held a panel where people have talked about what makes them proud of their Black heritage.” 

Coming from a student point of view and student led, Voices Amplified focuses on the student perspective. Compared to other non-profit organizations, Voices Amplified focuses mainly on educating others. While the organization can oppose opinions and beliefs not agreed upon by another, the organization mainly helps others by allowing all students to spread their own experiences, struggles and culture.

“Simply understanding it [respecting and uplifting others cultures] can help us prevent certain bias going forward, especially since we are like the next upcoming generation, we almost have a social responsibility to ensure that we leave the world a better place than we found it and our organization is working specifically in terms of racial justice,” Angelou said. 

Whether it’s an individual that’s a part of the BIPOC community speaking about their personal experience, or simply hearing other people’s struggles that students may be able to relate to, Voices Amplified creates and encourages a community of positivity, tenacity and importance.

“So activism has always been something in the back of my head to kind of uplift other people who don’t see others that look too much like them, especially in my schools and just leadership roles that I did help hold,” Angelou said. 

Like Angelou and many others, Voices Amplified has not only been a lifelong passion but a way of educating themselves as well. The organization offers a path for students to improve their personal beliefs as well as their attitude towards activism in general.

“It’s a commitment, like you’re committed to this not because you have to, but because you want to,” Rameshbabu said. “It’s improved my thinking. It’s made me so much more open minded.”

From a GoFundMe for the NAACP with the goal of raising $1,000, a blog, art submissions, political cartoons, a get involved page, a highlights page, an Instagram and much more, Voices Amplified has many options for students to express their thoughts and aspirations. 

“This is a very nice way to highlight achievements of people, celebrate a community, celebrate the people in that community,” Rameshbabu said.  

Social Media Handles:

Voices Amplified Website

Voices Amplified Instagram

Voices Amplified GoFundMe