Oliver Telusma was born July 2nd, 1996 in Miami, Florida to Haitian parents. However, he is sure that his work lies not solely expanding opportunities for himself, but utilizing the resources at his disposal to create opportunities to disadvantaged communities. In his desire to combine elements of public service and civic engagement, charitable work and his love of public speaking and delivering spoken word pieces to create Progress (otelusma96.wix.com/progress), an entity dedicated to closing economic, educational and racial-based disparities. He also took up the mantle of campaign manager for Juliun Kinsey, a candidate for Alachua County School Board, who was committed to closing gaps in one of the most economically disparate areas in the state of Florida and the country (Gainesville). His desire to practice law and eventually enter public service in the future does not deter from his unwavering belief now in society’s potential to be and equitable for all people.
- Issues Areas:
- Education Justice
Campus: University of Florida-Gainesville, Florida
Fellowship Class Year: 2016
Blueprint: The Latino Diaspora of the Americas Project
The Latino Diaspora of the Americas Project is a project launched in 2014 by Genesis Lara under the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program. By design, the project is designed to promote the preservation and protection of Latinx history in North, South and Central America as well as the Caribbean. Its willingness to engage in innovative practices in conducting interview series as well as collaborating with activists, scholars and the community has won it acclaim and awards at university, state and national level. To expand the capacity of the program, steps will be taken to create educational programs designed for high school students, partnering with mentorship programs to provide opportunities for disadvantaged youth K-8th, designing curriculums at the collegiate level, petitioning for greater inclusion in community conversations regarding community development and fostering pathways for collaboration between oppressed communities. This blueprint will lay out tangible goals that will focus on allocation of resources, advocacy work locally and at the state level, as well as creating long term partnerships that will strengthen the operational strength of the program.
Featured Fellow Spotlight
What experiences/opportunities lead you to apply to the YP4 Fellowship program?
Oliver Telusma: The most important opportunity that led me to apply to the YP4 Fellowship program was the relationship I have with my mentor (and fellow YP4 alum) as an Outstanding Freshman Leadership Award recipient. Outside of the both of us being Black men navigating a predominantly white institution, our desire to create stronger pipelines for marginalized communities meant a lot for the both of us.
What social justice work are you currently doing in your communities, or on your college campuses?
OT: Currently I am the Research Coordinator for the Latino Diaspora in the Americas Project at the University of Florida. In the near future, we are planning for a collaboration between our parent organization and Madres Sin Fronteras, an organization that advocates for migrant farmworkers and the undocumented. We are working to create vignettes for those that wish to have their story told in hopes that we can provide them with a tool that they use to advocate for themselves. It is also in the works to tie this to our internship program that is conducted every fall and spring semester and in the long as well as incorporate it into a podcast series.
Outside the office I’m also a public speaker, writer and spoken word poet. I’ve spoken at various events and conferences both on campus and in the community ranging from mourning the deaths of Black bodies to challenging systemic inequality in education, the workforce and politics.
What are you passionate about/what motivates you to public service?
OT: The opportunity to leave a legacy and help in the reversal of systemic inequality motivates me the most. Being a writer and a poet allows me the opportunity to be a critical observer of society in a manner that most aren’t. However, choosing to serve allows me the opportunity to change it.
What is the main goal you want to accomplish in your social justice work?
OT: I determine my success by how many people I can empower. The truth is not the
Can you give an example of how your YP4 Fellowship helped you accomplish something meaningful for your community?
OT: YP4 gave me both the insight to develop a fellowship for high school students in the area to give them research experience in a university setting. I received advice on how to best structure that from my mentor through the program and also received a letter of support.
What piece of advice would you give to a current YP4 Fellows?
OT: Do not limit yourself in what you set your mind to. Movements that we engage in are in part built upon turning the improbable into the inevitable. Set your course, keep your head up and stay focused.
Can you summarize in one sentence the impact YP4 has had in your life?
OT: YP4 expanded the scope of my work outside the mainstream work that some of my role models engaged in.
What do you want to be remembered for?
OT: I want to be remembered for opening doors for people to have greater opportunities that I did. Awards don’t dismantle systems that continue to oppress marginalized people. Praise doesn’t mean you’re reaching out to the people who need your help the most. If I win awards or receive praise, that’s nice but my purpose given to me from a higher power and through my gifts is to open doors.