Progressive History Makers: Sigma Gamma Rho Soror Kanisha L. Ffriend
Kanisha Ffriend is a senior at Syracuse University pursuing a bachelors degree in Education with a Cultural and Social Justice focus and Disability Studies concentration. During her freshman year, she created a program entitled, The Girls’ Room that aimed to empower young women through hands-on education of social skills and self-esteem workshops while promoting healthy body image and cultural appreciation.
Each meeting would start off with Beyonce’s I Am Here, to inspire the young women to reflect on their value to society. Her program included topics of hair appreciation, activities to understand who/what influences them (negatively and positively), gender empowerment and much more.
During her sophomore year, Kanisha became very vocal about the lack of Disability awareness among students on campus. “I hesitated to speak on the topic, particularly because I was not someone who identifies as Disabled”, she recalls. Fighting through her reservations, she became a silent leader in the Disability Cultural Center (CDD), the Disability Student Union (DSU) and as an assistant in the Disability Services Office.
Assisting with numerous projects under the DCC Director Diane Wiener, her work as the events-coordinator in the DSU was geared toward encouraging cultural communities on campus to have Disability inclusion in their programming. She often engages in dialogue with her peers about why we think groups, specifically the Black community on campus, have not made substantial efforts to engage with the Disability Cultural Center. After those conversations, she became an outspoken leader.
Starting small, Kanisha created videos of sign language to post on her Facebook page which she began to use as a social justice platform. She also went to forum events and asked questions that would link to Disability issues to get presenters to notice what they were missing in their ‘open-to-all’ discussions.
Due to her advocacy, Kanisha was named as the first President of the Student Advisory Council in the Disability Cultural Center. The accomplishment she is most proud of is that during her junior year, she self-published her first children’s book, “I, Too, Am a Dancer!” With Anika, the main character, representing three minorities- being Black, a girl and Disabled- and the book being a visual representation of my work in the Syracuse community
As a Fall 2015 initiate of the Theta Tau chapter of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc. Kanisha says that she is excited to pass the torch to other resilient women and continue burning the flame of inclusiveness and progression throughout her future profession as an educator.
For more information Kanisha’s book, please visit www.BlackGirlWrite.com