Olasubomi Adesoye wanted to do something special for Black History Month while also paying homage to all the women in his life.
So Adesoye, a senior accounting and international business major and a photographer, created a project called #UMDMelanin, a series of portraits of 14 black women posing at iconic locations on the University of Maryland campus. The project, which involves a team of five students, has featured one woman a day on social media since Feb. 14.
"This series is meant to capture and showcase the essence of an African-American woman at College Park," he said. "I wanted to find a creative way to say thank you to all the strong black women in my life."
The women, all of them students, posed at the M Circle, the Frederick Douglass statue, McKeldin Mall and other sites, he said.
While discussing the future of #UMDMelanin, as it is due to finish on Feb. 29, Adesoye hopes that many organizations see how deep the meaning of this project really is and to help spread it around.
Cheyenne Fogg, the project's creative director, said the team wanted to do something artistic and powerful to represent black women on the campus.
"We did a shoot in McKeldin with one of our models, and we basically just had her standing by the stacks to show the intellectual side of a black woman," said Fogg, a sophomore communication and government and politics major. "We took a lot of books and surrounded her with them. We just wanted to show that black women are just as smart as anyone else on this campus."
The project isn't just about pretty pictures, said Rae-Ann Steele, a sophomore physiology and neurobiology major and the public relations leader for #UMDMelanin.
"It will be great if people will understand our purpose behind this series, why we are doing this and the importance of it," Steele said. "This is something that we love and something that we are proud of. We want to show people that we are proud to be black on this campus."
Alongside each woman's photo posted on Twitter and Instagram is her biography, Fogg said, so people "see how diverse these women are" and have a sense of their backgrounds.
For Adesoye, he didn't realize the impact this project had on other students until someone tweeted #UMDMelanin.
"I saw this tweet the other day saying, '#UMDMelanin showed me that there are so many beautiful African-American females on this campus,'" Adesoye said. "That really touched me because for me, just taking pictures to create something that helped someone realize that was amazing."
Mayowa Obatuase, a freshman computer science major and videographer for the project, said that until Culture of Excellence — an annual event hosted by the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. each February for Black History Month — he didn't really understand what this project really meant.
"When they played the commercial for this project," Obatuase said, "I was like, 'Wow, we just showcased black beauty on this campus; we showcased minority status on this campus.'"