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The Girl with the Barrettes Reaches for Her Dreams  

Amber Ingram

A role model and educator, CEHS alumnae Amber Ingram shares the story of her life, so far, in a soaring video portrait.

Growing up in Piscataway, New Jersey, Amber Ingram, B.S.'20, always had a strong sense of who she was.

From childhood on she was happy and energetic, a lover of poetry and music. Like many youngsters, Ingram was not aware of her racial identity at first. She was "just a girl with barrettes in her cornrow braids," as Ingram says in her video self portrait. But one day while she was at summer camp, another child pointed out her dark skin. And from there her awareness of being Black began to emerge.

Ingram's story gracefully unfolds in her recent video, produced for a class assignment during her senior year. Here, she takes viewers along on her journey to understand and celebrate her racial identity.

As an Elementary and Special Education major, Ingram studied urban education with Professor Edmund Adjapong, Ph.D. A leading scholar in the field, Adjapong originated a course entitled Urban Education through the Context of Hip-Hop. Each semester, Adjapong, a program director in the Department of Educational Studies, invites his students to take a multimedia approach to sharing their personal narratives. He asks them to reflect on themes of class, race, privilege, gender, education and hip-hop. Ingram fearlessly takes on a number of these themes in her video.

"Many students do not have a deep understanding of the realities and inequities that urban communities, which are composed of historically marginalized people, face," explains Adjapong. The digital storytelling assignment, he says, helps students see the connections between their lives and the themes of the course. It's a path to "challenging students to be thoughtful about how they see themselves positively contributing to the success of urban youth / or any student that they serve."

Ingram's video opens with footage of Maya Angelou reciting her poem "And Still I rise," which becomes an anthem for her own story. Facing the challenges of growing up in a racist society, Ingram shatters the darkness with light, defiance and boundless energy. In the archival footage she has pieced together from her childhood, her path unfolds before our eyes. We see her she growing up and racing toward her dreams. Along the way Ingram deflects antiquated stereotypes as emerges into her full self.

Music, and Hip Hop in particular, play a key role in Ingram's story. We see her as a toddler -- microphone in hand -- and playing the piano as a teen. Inspired by her mother's favorite Hip Hop artists, Ingram develops favorites of her own and proudly learns the lyrics to the songs she loves most. "In the Black community," she says, "whether as an active participant or a periphery listener, Hip Hop is integral to how we experience the world. I wanted to tell a story of Hip Hop through my life."

Of Ingram's video, Adjapong says the piece "was deeply reflective and shared images that spanned her entire lifetime, including her time as a student at Seton Hall. Amber's work tells a story of her growth as a person and shares how that growth will support her to be an effective, competent, and knowledgeable educator. I don't have favorites, but Amber's reverence for teaching resonates with me."

Ingram graduated from Seton Hall last spring, earning a Bachelor's of Science in Education. She is now teaching English as a Second Language in Orange, New Jersey, while pursuing a Master's Instructional Design and Technology from the College of Education and Human Services. As an educator and role model, Ingram is grateful for her life experience and acknowledges that everything she's learned and encountered has shaped who she is now.

As she concludes her video, Ingram lifts her voice as an advocate for Black children. "We have to be culturally responsive. We have to listen to our kids. And we have to continue to grow inside and outside of our profession."

Categories: Arts and Culture , Education

For more information, please contact:

  • Omayra Arocho, Ph.D.
  • (973) 761-9661