National essay scholarships awarded to young minority freethinkers

FFRF is pleased to announce that it has awarded $10,000 in scholarship awards in money of Catherine Fahringer to four students chosen by the Black Skeptics of Los Angeles, an African-American atheist community-based group.

This year’s winners are Kola Heyward-Rotimi (Amherst College), Makeda Scott (University of Iowa), Jorge Banuelos (Carleton College) and Sabria Harper (UC Berkeley).

Fahringer was a San Antonio feminist and freethinking activist who ran a long-lived FFRF chapter and served on the executive board for many years. She was especially interested in nurturing the next generation of freethinkers. She died in 2008.

“We are excited to offer these four students $2,500 each in the name of Catherine Fahringer,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “She would have been proud of them, since all four are keeping her legacy alive.”

The scholarship winners have perceptive insights to offer on young freethinkers of color.

“I not only identify as a secular person but as an African-American, which brings into play two different cultural aspects that contrast with mainstream society’s view of who is secular,” writes Heyward-Rotimi. “Secular people are rarely seen in media as people of color, let alone a young black man raised by an African-American mother and a Nigerian-American father in a nonreligious household.”

Scott describes the joy she derives from being a nonconformist of many stripes.

“I take pride in saying I’m a nonbeliever,” she states. “I take pride in saying I’m black. I take pride in saying I’m a lesbian. I take pride in saying I’m a woman. I don’t conform to societal norms, and that’s OK.”

Banuelos reveals the liberating effect of casting off a heritage of strong belief.

“I grew up in a family of Jehovah’s Witnesses, going three generations back to my great-grandmother,” he writes. “It didn’t sit easy with me that I had to automatically accept an Earthly hierarchy connected to a mystic, ethereal creator. I didn’t like the communal peer pressure to follow a preset life pattern, nor did I appreciate the full devotion to some texts, but lenience toward other beliefs. As I grew, I told myself that I owed it to my well-being and my conscience to not maintain this façade for the emotional comfort of those halfway vested in me. So I didn’t.”

And Harper pinpoints the essence of freethinking.

“Humanism is the key to fixing us and making our society the best it can possibly be,” she states.

FFRF congratulates the four winners and wishes them the best in their endeavors.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is dedicated to the separation of state and church and the promotion of freethought, with almost 24,000 nonreligious members all over the country. It hosts or underwrites a number of student essay and activist awards.

Freedom From Religion Foundation

Send this to a friend