An Indian American teenager in Corvallis, Oregon, has created the multicultural organization ‘Only Being You’, inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, according to a news release.
The organization, started by 17-year-old Covallis High School senior Suraj Kulkarni, is dedicated to empowering minority voices through discussions and writing.
Since launching in July, the organization has received a lot of support.
“He has been working on this project for a while and has put a lot of thought into it,” said Rajeshwari Gadasally, Kulkarni’s mother.
Kulkarni has been working on the project for several few months, starting after attending his own city’s BLM protest.
“I never expected that I would receive this much support from others, and I am so grateful that people love it,” Kulkarni said.
According to the Indian American teenager, the only way to effectively help eliminate discriminatory tensions is through awareness.
“A lot of people underestimate the power of writing and discussing; writing allows people to authentically express their thoughts and feelings, and discussions help create new perspectives. Even though discrimination and prejudice are quite systemic, spreading awareness is key,” said Kulkarni.
So far, Only Being You conducts interviews of politicians, professors and public role models, has partnered up with more than 15 nonprofit organizations worldwide, has its own blog that features minority student voices, and holds conferences to give students opportunities to connect with others from all around the globe, and share their own experiences with each other, according to a news release.
“We are really excited to hold our first ever Awareness Conference. The conference acts as a platform for students to share their own experiences with other students from all around the world as well as to learn more about different backgrounds. So far, we have had people from more than 11 countries sign up for our conference, and I’m pretty excited,” added Kulkarni.
Kulkarni is also a nationally qualified debater, and thinks his experience in debate has helped increase his passion for social justice.
“Speech and debate has been so helpful. Ever since I was in middle school, I’ve been passionate about various causes, but I felt restricted. My debate experience has definitely made me much more confident in expressing myself and my passion for social justice,” said Kulkarni.
Kulkarni also believes that going to Corvallis High School helped strengthen his confidence, the news release said.
“Going to CHS and being surrounded by amazing teachers, staff, and students really helped me feel better about myself,” said Kulkarni.
Kulkarni’s dream for Only Being You is that it keeps expanding and helps others become better allies, it said.
“I really hope that I can do bigger things with Only Being You and help more people speak out when I’m in college,” Kulkarni said.