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18-year-old activist Ziad Ahmedvia Instagram

Teen writes #blacklivesmatter 100 times to get into uni

Ziad Ahmed successfully got into Stanford after repeatedly writing the phrase on his application

A Muslim teen activist has managed to successfully secure a place at Stanford after repeatedly writing the phrase “#blacklivesmatter” on his application form. 

18-year-old Ziad Ahmed wrote the hashtag 100 times in response to the question: “What matters to you, and why?”. Stanford admissions officers – claiming to be struck by the teen’s “passion”, “determination” and “heart” – then offered him a place at the prestigious university.

Although the question was only part of the application, Ahmed admits that he was “stunned” by its success. “Like all college applicants, I had one audience in mind: the admissions officers,” he tells Dazed. “It was important to me that they literally hear my impatience for justice and the significance of this issue.”

The 18-year-old adds that the hashtag was meant to be a “statement” rather than a piece of activism. He explains that – more than anything – his response was supposed to convey his “frustration” with the US judicial system’s failure to protect the black community from “violence, systemic inequity, and political disenfranchisement”. 

“Black/queer/immigrant women created this movement. Black people are killed for just being black. My essay does not begin to change this,” he adds

“I wanted to demonstrate that the essence of what motivates me as a learner, a member of a faith community, and a global citizen is my passion to be a part of change-making.”

Ahmed’s acceptance went viral earlier this week when he tweeted a screenshot of his admission form and acceptance letter. However, predictably, the response on social media has been mixed. “I’ve been so grateful for the outpouring of support, congratulations, and love, but the power of social media has also provoked significant trolling and personal attacks,” he says. “It’s certainly been a hard to navigate and the vitriol is sobering.”

Ahmed, who is currently at high school in New Jersey, has already established himself as a seriously formidable force in racial activism. In 2015 he gave a Panama TedxTalk about what it means to be a young Muslim in the US, and he has attended a White House dinner in honour of Ramadan. He also interned for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign last year. 

“The attention from this tweet emboldens my desire to learn and understand the history of how we have arrived at this moment,” he adds. “I want to find innovative ways to disrupt and create positive change, to be a constructive and respectful ally, and to be better a person.”