“I really wanted to go to the football field, but it’s too cold, so alas we are here in Dunster,” says Amanda D. Bradley. I’ve asked to meet at her favorite spot on campus. She elaborates, “I chose the football field initially because I was a cheerleader, and I have been cheerleading since I was like five years old. Cheerleading was my first love.”\r\n
It’s been two years since Bradley quit cheerleading, forced into early “retirement” by two concussions her sophomore year—one from hitting her head coming down from a spin (she was a flyer), another from capture the flag. But if cheerleading was the first pursuit she was ever passionate about, it’s hardly alone in that distinction these days.\r\n
A joint sociology and government concentrator from Atlanta, Ga., Bradley has led and taken part in more advocacy projects at Harvard than the vast majority of her peers. Today, she is a member of the Association of Black Harvard Women, the Black Pre-Law Association, the Black Students Association, and the Seneca. She heads a law enforcement policy group at the IOP, has served a student mentor and participated in talks with the administration about improving the first generation experience at Harvard.\r\n
Bradley spent her sophomore summer in Paris, where she studied the Muslim-veiling crisis in France. She notes that her experience “changed how I looked at how women are treated, specifically how issues with women are addressed in the law and really how to do some self reflection on what is my position as a black woman in America and what are some things that I can do to help change how black women are perceived.”\r\n
That summer she and a fellow student, Jasmine S. Burnett ’16 , took part in what she terms “my first solo-type, activist-y-type thing”: they teamed up to write an op-ed about the problematic media portrayal of Trayvon Martin’s friend Rachel Jeantel.\r\n
When she returned to campus as a junior, Bradley took part in the viral “I, Too, Am Harvard” campaign. In the play that accompanied the widely viewed photo series, Bradley was cast as “the Angry Black Woman,” who is an electrical engineer.\r\n
At the same time, she was serving as the president of the Association of Black Harvard Women. During her tenure, the Association hosted a panel on the mass incarceration of women of color.
“There were just so many people there, and people from the community actually came to speak about it and talked about what the implications are for black women being arrested at such great rates,” she says.
This summer, Bradley helped organize Harvard’s We Stand With Ferguson movement. As part of their protest, the activists arranged for a photograph of almost 200 black Harvard students standing with their hands up above their heads on the Widener Library steps.\r\n
As for the future, “My life is pretty planned for the next five years,” Bradley tells me. She is a member of HLS’s first class of the Junior Deferral Program. She’ll be returning to the investment management firm BlackRock, where she interned this summer, for two years before coming back to Harvard for law school. “Those are the plans for now.”\r\n
When asked about her legacy at Harvard, Bradley pauses. “I’m overwhelmed to even be sitting here and to consider that someone cares about my legacy here.” But she relents, offering: “Be really critical of things that are going on in the world, things that are happening at Harvard. Be critical of things that you believe, and really think about why you believe the things that you believe. Do you think these are consistent with what you consider to be justice? And if you don’t, do something about it.”\r\n
Then she adds, “But also, I just want students to have a good time.... I’m always like smiling and running around.” She’s laughing as she says it.', )