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People of Eastern: Meet Tomi Alarape, a freshman seeking to bring justice to his community.

Lover of words, music, and history, Tomi Alarape is a first-year student at Eastern University whose presence contains bountiful levels of laughter and wisdom. Originally from New Jersey, Alarape came to Eastern “through the wise words of my youth pastor Dave Charnick, an alumni of Eastern,” Alarape explained. His youth pastor shared that Eastern had a wonderful Christian community and numerous activities to get involved with. Upon visiting Eastern, “I just felt while walking through the
campus that I felt at home here, I’ll be happy here,” Alarape shared. Currently, Alarape plans on majoring
in psychology and business with a minor in history.

Beyond Alarape’s relationship to Eastern, Alarape loves delving into the world of history. He connects
his fascination in history to the current history that is unfolding in the present-day. Specifically, Alarape
explained how in order to understand present-day impacts of systematic racism, “You have to go back to
Civil Rights and even before that in how this country is founded,” Alarape noted. Alarape plans on minoring in history to further his insights on the ways in which the past influences the future. “It reminds us that humans make mistakes and this is how we can learn from it,” Alarape explained.

Initially, Alarape was interested in becoming a teacher, specifically hoping to impact youth. “I felt like,
at the time, that was the best way I could impact people, more importantly kids,” Alarape shared. However, Alarape’s interests were soon channeled into the field of psychology while taking an Advanced Placement Psychology class during his junior year of high school. At the same time that Alarape was engaging with the world of psychology, Alarape’s understanding of his future aspirations in psychology began shifting due to his evolving awareness of worldly injustices.

“Trayvon Martin is what made me incorporate psychology into the African American community. I remember I saw him the first time in the news. I was either a year older or the same age as Trayvon,” Alarape stated. In 2012, Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old African American youth, was shot and killed by a police officer while walking home from a convenience store in Sanford, Florida. The loss of Martin’s life “was just really sad to see. It hurt because why is it that because of who I am or my skin color that I should be afraid to go home at night? I just thought of how other people who are my skin color also have that fear now,” Alarape shared. Following this devastating occurrence, among many other similar cases, Alarape became more involved with Black Lives Matter and magnified his focus on psychology towards the African American community.

The devastation of watching any community face harm repeatedly is deeply infuriating. However, the
devastation of being a part of the community that faces harm repeatedly is utterly traumatizing. Alarape noted how the rise of social media and news outlets gives Black youth more trauma in seeing pictures, videos, and recordings of abuse endured by Black communities.

Alarape is adamant on using his skills in psychology to support those, particularly youth in the African American community, impacted by trauma and mental illness. When asked about what he would do to help those enduring trauma due to the harm caused by racial injustice, Alarape said he plans to use his own experiences to emphasize that they are not walking this journey of healing alone. He would also ensure that they felt comfortable talking about how they truly feel without any barriers present. In Alarape’s future practice, struggling youth that may come into his care will hear the message: “You don’t have to feel like that because there is power in change and there is power in you,” Alarape said.

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