Sharing Stories for Systemic Change

When an act of legislation ends legal discrimination, it does not automatically end oppression or abuses of power, said scholar and activist Jamal Grant at an assembly hosted by the student clubs Students Interested in Middle Eastern Affairs (SIMA) and Amnesty International.

“It’s not enough to change bad laws and bad leaders,” he said. “We have to change the systems that keep bad leadership in power.”

Grant worked with three other African American scholars and activists to create a film exploring the topics of wealth inequality, race relations, and progress in post-apartheid South Africa for the Ase [Ah-SHAY] Research Film Project. He was the lead producer for the film, Ubuntu Rising, a documentary covering the legacy of apartheid: continued social inequality, corruption, infrastructure failures, and poverty.

Filmmaking was a new venture for Grant, a first-generation American who was raised by Trinidadian immigrants in Boston. He graduated from the University of Massachusetts, Lowell, with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering, and has worked as a mechanical and aerospace systems engineer at MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory. He is the founder and director of the NET Mentoring Group, a nonprofit focused on closing the achievement and opportunity gap for minorities and young women in STEM fields. He has held international human and civil rights fellowships in Rwanda, Detroit, and Atlanta, where he studied colonialism, resistance, and social progress.

Grant is a public policy master’s degree candidate at Harvard Kennedy School of Government, where he is a fellow at the school’s Center for Public Leadership.


The curiosity to ask why and the courage to speak out are qualities that lead to innovation and change. The individuals featured in this issue embody these qualities. Through their questioning, leadership, and willingness to share their views, they are making a difference–in their professions and in the world.