Volunteer Spotlight: Britany Gatewood

This is the first of a series of spotlights on our summer 2016 student volunteers.  Learning Life’s student volunteers this summer are translating documents, conducting research and doing outreach locally and internationally for our new Citizen Diplomacy Initiative established this year.  CDI will connect American families in Washington D.C. with families in other parts of the world through live online video-dialogue starting this summer.  As a Ph.D. student in sociology, Britany is helping with CDI research and outreach.    

Where were you born and raised?

I was born in New York but I was raised in Michigan in the metro Detroit area.

What school do you attend, and what is your year and major there?

I currently attend Howard University in Washington, DC. I am a second year doctoral student in the Department of Sociology.

Britany GatewoodWhat do you like to do in your free time?

In my free time, I like to travel (internationally and domestically), cook, read, and attend different cultural events or festivals.

What is the most beautiful place you have seen on Earth, and why is it so beautiful?

There are two places where I have been which I think are the most beautiful, Dubai, UAE and the state of Bahia, Brazil. They are two very different cultures and climates therefore they are beautiful in different ways. In Dubai, many of the buildings are new or decorated in a lot of gold accents. The Grand Mosque was breathtaking. It was made with marble, pearls, and gold with giant chandeliers encrusted with jewels.

In Brazil, I traveled to the state of Bahia, located on the country’s northeastern coast. There is a rich Afro-Brazilian culture in Bahia. They have many buildings that have been there since the Portuguese colonial era and some African traditions are still alive from that time of slavery. Bahian residents are proud of their heritage, and their passion made me fall in love with their culture.

Is there a particular life experience you have had that has shaped you as a person?  If so, what was it, and how has it shaped who you are?

There have been many experiences that have shaped me as a person. The one experience that confirmed the path that I am on was a specific experience in Brazil. I was mistaken for an Afro-Brazilian while I was there because I did not look like a stereotypical Black American. Due to racism and discrimination against Black Brazilian citizens, I was looked at and treated differently at times. At one point, one white Brazilian shook everyone’s hand in the group except for mine. Everyone else in our group was white American. My host family told that person I was American too, and then their expression changed from dislike to welcoming and friendly. It was experiences like these that verified that I want to dedicate my life to eliminating social inequalities.

Why did you choose to volunteer with Learning Life?

I chose Learning Life because of the Citizen Diplomacy Initiative’s (CDI) goal. It gives lower-income people a chance to connect with others in different countries when they may not otherwise have the opportunity. In a global society, international connections are becoming increasingly important, therefore programs like CDI help to bring people together from other countries.

What are your career plans?

My career plan is to become a professor at a four-year university after I graduate. I would like to teach classes related to social inequality such as race, gender or class. I want to help bridge the gap between academia and community and continue to be a scholar-activist.