As an ISPP Scholar, Oluwakemi Adeyemi is appointed with the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus/ Black Caucus Foundation. His work is significant as he investigates reproductive and voting rights for Black communities to help inform policy in these areas. He is also exploring barriers to the health and well being of youth, especially those in underserved and underrepresented Chicago communities, to enhance policy and resources for youth and communities. Oluwakemi shared some thoughts with me about the ISP program, and his work so far.
Why did you apply for the Illini Science Policy Program?
I was looking for a work through which I could apply my experience gained in the delivery of legal services in Nigeria and my knowledge of the American legal system to address some of the challenges that are facing various communities in Illinois while also increasing my knowledge of the history, victories and struggles of the diverse communities found within Illinois neighborhoods.
Tell us a bit about what you hope to accomplish as a result of being a 2023 Scholar.
Through my work as a 2023 Scholar with the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus Foundation (ILBCF), I hope to see marked improvement for communities along the four pillars of the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus (ILBC).
Tell us a bit about what you are working on for your host agency.
With the ILBCF, I work on curating solutions on protecting the rights to vote for people of color; expanding the funding pool available to the foundation by sourcing for new partners; improving women's health as well as connection between African Americans and Africa while paying attention to prospects to and challenges facing the full implementation of the four pillars of the ILBC
Tell us a bit about what you are working with your Extension Mentor?
My work borders on the health and safety concerns of young people in Illinois. The goal of my work is to directly interface with young people to identify their health and safety concerns as well as the underlying challenges to their enjoyment of optimal health and safety as a key to solving more complex and complicated issues. In the course of this work, I will equally engage with people working directly with young people as windows to gaining informed perspectives on the concerns of young people. The knowledge gained will be key to initiating policies aimed at creating an ecosystem within which young people can enjoy optimal health and safety.
What makes the work you are doing as an ISPP Scholar meaningful to you?
I find meaning in my work with the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus Foundation because it involves finding solutions to challenges that affect members of the Black community living up to their full potentials. I find strength in the fact that the little drops I put in daily helps ultimately to drive changes on the most seemingly intractable challenges facing members of the Black community in Illinois.
What is one thing that you have learned since becoming an ISPP Scholar that has made an impression on your transition from graduate student to career individual?
Communication is key; communication with my Host Agency, communication with my Extension mentor and communication with the Director of the ISPP program.
Why is/are the issue(s) important to the communities with which you are working?
Illinois like most parts of the United States has a history of systemic racism that has left members of the Black community on the receiving end of poor health services; lack of access to educational and economic opportunities as well as being on the receiving end of a criminal justice system that inequitably exposes members of the community to incarceration. Addressing the root causes of these issues through policies, advocacy and legislations will help to improve the living conditions of Black people and help entrench justice in the state of Illinois.
Who is impacted by the issue(s) you are working on?
Members of the Black community in Illinois will primarily be impacted by the issues I am working on, but many others will also be impacted.
What is the most unexpected thing about this program so far?
For me, it is the different hats I have to wear depending on the need at the time. One day, I am researching and developing solutions around the four pillars of the ILBC; another day I am organizing a conference while sourcing for speakers and participants, and yet another day, I am discussing with my Extension Mentor about the Extension project assigned to me.
If you could do one thing through this program and think “Wow, I did that,” what would you like it to be?
That will definitely be more connections between African Diasporans in the US with Africa because there is so much the African Diasporans can learn from Africa and what Continental Africans can learn from African Diasporans.
Anything else you’d like to share?
I am glad that I have the opportunity to apply my knowledge and experience in attempting to find solutions to challenges facing my brothers and sisters