For as long as she can remember, Danielle Young has always stood up for what she believes in. So it’s no surprise that the sophomore English major has become an activist and student leader at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
In her time at UNL, Young has become involved in the Afrikan People’s Union, and helped organize the Black Lives Matter rally as well as co-created a fall 2015 social media campaign that sought to bring attention to racial intolerance on campus.
For her efforts, Young received an Outstanding Contribution to the Status of Women Award from the Chancellor’s Commission on the Status of Women Award on March 17. The award recognizes outstanding faculty, staff and student efforts to create a climate that encourages women to succeed at UNL.
“Danielle is helping to realize UNL’s mission to enhance the intellectual and cultural development of the state of Nebraska,” Kelly Payne, a lecturer and adviser in the Department of English who nominated Young for the award. “She represents feminist activism at its best.”
In November 2015, Young, along with friend Gloria Kimbulu, co-created #NOTATUNL, a social media campaign to speak out against racial and gender discrimination.
After seeing and experiencing racial insensitivity on campus, on social media and in person, the two women started the campaign days later.
The #NOTATUNL campaign and subsequent Black Lives Matter rally at UNL followed the controversial shooting and unrest in Ferguson and protests on college campuses, most notably the University of Missouri.
According to Young, people thought the situation at Missouri just suddenly happened, but in reality it was a process. She and Kimbulu didn’t want it to get to that point at UNL, Young said.
“(Racism) isn’t going to be something that we will foster here at UNL,” Young said. “We know that a lot of our generation is on social media. We thought that if we created a hashtag – which is an easy access type of thing – that we would be able to provide a space for people to talk.”
Young and Kimbulu met through Twitter before attending UNL. The two became friends on campus; Kimbulu also supported Young by writing a recommendation letter for the Status of Women Award.
“I wouldn’t have been able to do it without her,” Kimbulu wrote in the letter. “I know that others can learn from Dani as much as I have learned from her. She is outstanding and I can’t wait to see what else she achieves on our campus.”
Young also is the second vice president for the Afrikan People’s Union, a student organization that empowers the African American community at UNL. She was among the speakers at the November 2015 Black Lives Matter rally, which was held outside the Nebraska Union and was attended by about 600 students, faculty, administrators and community members.
Young’s advice to fellow activists is to get involved even if you’re scared: “Things are starting to change on campus and I was a part of that. That is one of the rewards – you get to see the fruit of your labor.”
Young said receiving the Status of Women Award was humbling.
“I do the work that I do because I know that it needs to be done, not because of awards like this,” Young said. “I didn’t really expect it. There are a lot of good people doing a lot of good things on campus. It was a complete honor to get that award.”
EDITOR’S NOTE — “One of U” is an ongoing series featuring stories about the lives of faculty, staff and students at UNL. Submit story ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org or 402-472-8515.