“None of us got to where we are alone. Whether the assistance we received was obvious or subtle, acknowledging someone’s help is a big part of understanding the importance of saying thank you.” – Harvey Mackay

Being a part of the CUNY Peer Leader program has gotten me through personal and academic adversities. At the beginning of the program, I had two semesters left of undergrad at Medgar Evers College. I was taking six classes and working a part-time job. On top of that, I dealt with my mental health by relearning how to have fun and discovering what joy means to me. The pandemic and uprise in crime kept me on edge almost every day, forcing me to stay home. That time in my life was challenging for me to overcome, but The CUNY Peer Leaders program helped me to decompress my emotions and realize that I’m not alone in this journey called life.

When I did my research and applied for the program, I knew that it would be an excellent opportunity for me to express myself through my writing. I always had great expectations that this program would aid me in developing into a beautiful and knowledgeable adult. My experience within this community has been amazing. I’ve learned much about gender identity, advocacy, feminism, meditation, graduate programs, and individuality. I’m confident in my leadership to pass down what I learned as a CUNY Peer Leader to others from experience and not ignorance.

The impact of this program will never be forgotten. I felt a sense of community and belonging in the meetings and conversations with the coordinators. The stipend of 1,000 dollars helped me to pay off my 2022 winter class; the recommendation that Kashema wrote for me in my graduate process has gotten me accepted into Craig Newmark School of Journalism, and the meditations and check in’s helped me to express my gratitude for the minor things in life that comes together to create the big picture.

I want to thank everyone for allowing me to be a part of such a great community, and I am looking forward to showcasing what I have put together for the final project.

Kenny Matthews A Burn Survivor Is Leading Followers With Grace. Discussing how this social media star is a leader in a world full of judgment. #BlackHistoryMonth

“People are going to talk about you until the day you die, the best thing to do is ignore folks.”

From the 2012 Youtube video Kenny posted about how he was burned.

Taken from Kenny's Instagram @ikendawg
From Kenny’s Instagram @ikendawg.

Kenny Matthews better known as “Ken Dawg” to his 2 million followers collectively on all his social media platforms is showing everyone how to be unapologetically themselves. He loves to dance, make funny Tik Tok videos and share his personal experiences on Youtube, Instagram, and Twitter. “I can still do what you do if not better, and I can still Dougie my ass off,” Kenny said in his 2012 video explaining how he was burned.

Before the tragic accident at 3 years old, Kenny explains how his family remembered him for being a good kid but cursed a lot. He was like any other child and enjoyed playing with toys. He lived with his mother and grandfather in Los Angeles, California. One day when his mother went out to run some errands she left him at home with his grandfather. He remembers being in front of the TV and playing with his toys when he heard the glass window in the living room shatter and a burst of flames violently centering in on him and his grandfather. The only way out was through the same window where the object was thrown, so his grandfather grabbed him and ran through the fire to escape out the window. Sadly, his grandfather was pronounced dead due to smoke inhalation.

Kenny is pictured with one of the greatest female rappers, Cardi B. On his Instagram where he posted the picture, he explains how happy, Cardi B was to see him and she even gave him some encouraging words.

85% of Kenny’s body is burned it has affected his hands, chest, and feet. After over 100 surgeries Kenny is thankful that the doctors were able to heal and fix his appearance the best they could. His grandmother’s positive attitude and the strength she instilled in him over the years have helped him become the man and leader he is today. But never the less he isn’t a burn victim but a burn survivor.

As a survivor, Kenny experienced a plethora of adversities he uses his social media presence to spread love and destroy ignorance. This is the real reason I think he is a noteworthy leader. On his Instagram, you can see him doing what he loves and dancing to songs while letting all the internet trolls know he doesn’t care what you say about him. He is going to live his life every day like it’s his last and won’t waste a minute listening to people who think otherwise. Personally from following him through the years he has taught me how to be my authentic self in spaces where I would second guess if I could. In a conversation last year I had with him he told me some words I would never forget and that was to “Stay positive and love yourself first.”

How Do I Make Changes in My Community? It’s vital for me to share financial independence with my peers.


*Disclaimer* First I want to start by saying I’m not legally certified to give financial advice. I am only passing along information that can potentially help build wealth.

As an English major, I have been fascinated with British literature such as Taming the Shrew and Beowulf. My concentration is in creative writing so preparing for a New York #1 best-seller novel is something most people would think I want to do. But I always had the mentality that you can’t put all your eggs in one basket. While scrolling through Instagram for hours I came across a video with a guy asking millionaires what advice would they give young people. The two responses that stuck with me were getting life insurance and having your parents get a trust instead of a will especially if they own a house that way when it’s given to you property taxes and other fees can be avoided. That video sparked an interest in finance that I never knew I would be passionate about. It didn’t take long before I found myself down a rabbit hole of videos, articles, and a plethora of free classes about financial independence. When coming in contact with many of my peers in college they complained about not having money and living paycheck to paycheck. I always made sure to share what I learned with them so they could start to be financially stable.

  1. If your credit is “bad” or you don’t have enough credit in your name you can get a parent/guardian or any family member to add your name to one of their credit cards. Also, it’s a website called kikoff.com that helps to build your credit by giving you 12 dollars virtually and you pay 1 dollar from the money they “give you” within a year so it can help raise your score. 
  2. Once you have a credit of 650 or better you can apply for student-friendly no annual fee credit cards that will give you points back that you can use for everyday purchases. Apple card, Discover, and Amazon are some great cards but it’s smart to get a card where you shop a lot. For example, I love Amazon and I shop at whole foods so I got an Amazon credit card. Many of these cards will give you a fair limit as a college student working a minimum wage job. For the average student, the limit will range from 500-1500$ 
  3. Next look into an account where you can gain interest just for having your money in an account. High Yield Savings accounts, whole life insurance, or even a 401k account are great for earning interest. Based on how much money and how the economy is you can earn a good amount of money every month. 
  4. The last thing is getting a travel credit card so you can get miles when booking a flight, hotel, car, etc. Delta Amex’s lowest level credit card gives you a certain amount of miles just for getting approved for the card. Last time I checked if you spend 500$ within your first 6 months of getting the 0 annual fees blue Delta AMEX card you can get 15,000 miles and keep in mind that every 10,000 miles are roughly 121$ you can use to get off on your next flight. 

I share my knowledge with my peers to help promote financial freedom. Since I took it upon myself to learn about this I make sure to express how helpful it is to have a great relationship with money.

Music Is The Love Of My Life, Not Love? #MandelaEffect. How I became an expert at uncovering the allegory of Erykah Badu’s Love of My Life.

A still picture from Erykah Badu’s Love of My Life music video provided by @ Afrostrawberryyy

Have you ever listened to a song and realized later on that it was about something completely different? This realization is similar to the Mandela Effect–when you believe your distorted memory of something is accurate. This is not to be confused with gaslighting, which is deceptive and a flat-out lie. In this article, I’ll be explaining how I became an expert at uncovering the allegory of Erykah Badu’s Love of My Life.

It was 2016 in the summer, and I was cleaning my fridge listening to an R&B Pandora station with my Skullcandy headphones over my head. I just graduated from High School and was in a dysfunctional codependent “relationship.” So cleaning was one of the therapeutic rituals I would do to take my frustration out in a positive way. Then suddenly, Love of My Life by Erykah Badu started playing blissfully in my ears. But, something was different this time listening to this song. When I heard, “He moved around, and we kept in touch through his friend mic.” It dawned on me that this song isn’t about her explaining her love for a man but about her passion for music.

As I continued to listen more in-depth to every lyric Badu was singing. I realized the allegory in this song was about her loving music the same way she would love her significant other. From there on, I explained every lyric to my friends and family when they questioned me about this epiphany. I even fact-check myself by going on Genius to decode every verse. It turned out I was right in my discovery in this timeless track by Erykah Badu.

Sidenote: D’Angleo’s song Brown Sugar is about his love for Marijuana.