Hailing from the South Bronx, senior Ashley Ramos is adamant about social justice and uses that passion to fight against gentrification. She’s been making a difference ever since she began her college career at Geneseo.
Geneseo wasn’t originally on Ramos’ radar, however. She explained that after she did not receive a scholarship that her brother got, she reevaluated her choices and applied to different colleges.
“I quickly tried to apply to the SUNY system, got into Geneseo and I was like, ‘What is in Geneseo?’” she said. “My mock trial coach was like, ‘You absolutely have to go there.’ She was like, ‘That is the number one SUNY school, you’re going, you’re going, you’re going,’ and I ended up coming here.”
Ramos explained that she spends most of her time working as the vice president of Black Student Union. BSU has acted as an educational organization for students of all races since its start in 2014.
“You go under the Black Studies department on KnightWeb and there are hardly any Black Studies courses here. So BSU does all in its power to educate the campus on black issues and black histories and things we may take for granted or not know,” Ramos said. “We try to just unify the campus—we have a lot of parties where everyone’s welcome to attend. We strive for black excellence—that’s our motto—so if it’s not excellent, we’re not doing it.”
Ramos got started in BSU during her sophomore year after getting involved with Students Against Social Injustice. “I met Christopher Bland ‘15—who was the former president—and I admired him,” she said. “He was just so excellent and organized and had a vision for it, so at first I was treasurer and this year, I became vice president.”
Outside of Geneseo, Ramos is involved with a nonprofit called Movimiento por Justicia del Barrio—Movement for Justice in El Barrio, which is a colloquial name for East Harlem. “East Harlem, which is predominantly Hispanic, is quickly being gentrified because of schools like Columbia [University] or even [New York City] Mayor [Bill] de Blasio’s rezoning plan,” Ramos said. “My job is basically to go out to the community and get people motivated to come to our meetings and at least just hear us out and hear the issues that are concerning our communities.”
Ramos found the job through the former public relations manager of SASI. He mentioned the position to her because of her passion for fighting gentrification. She’s worked there for the past three years.
Movimiento por Justicia del Barrio isn’t the only nonprofit Ramos has worked with, however. “For some time, my brother and a bunch of his college friends started another not-for-profit called Inspirational Medicine,” she said. “We tried to connect terminally ill children with their role models, but via technology. So I dibbed and dabbed a little bit there.”
Now in her final semester at Geneseo, Ramos is looking to continue her fight against gentrification through a fellowship. “I was offered a fellowship with Movement for Justice, so I will be having my own tenant committee and I will focus on three buildings in East Harlem. I will organize them, have meetings and I’m completely autonomous—it’s all my doing,” she said. “It’s a little frightening to have so much responsibility because this is also their livelihood. Most of the members are women—single women—so they work multiple jobs but still find the time to do community organizing and to come out to our meetings to fight against gentrification.”
For the time being, Ramos plans to continue working with BSU to educate the campus and to fight against injustices in Geneseo and New York City. “It’s a lot of work, but it’s a lot of fun as well,” she said.