Meet Our Damon J. Shearer Scholarship Awardees
Updated: Sep 8, 2021
The San Diego Black LGBTQ+ Coalition is honored to share more about the awardees of our Damon J. Shearer Scholarship. Each awardee is award $1,000 to contribute toward their education costs. These folx are future of our community and we couldn't be more excited to watch them lead. Read their stories below.
Meet Marvens Pierre (He/Him/They/Them)
Marvens is a graduate student at University of San Diego, pursuing a Masters of Arts in Education and Leadership. Moving to San Diego for school in the middle of the pandemic, Marvens arrived at the city with little-to-no community. Hailing from Massachusets, he's long uplifted the Black LGBTQ+ community and worked with organizations dedicated to serving the community. Working and studying at a faith-based school holds tension for Marvens, knowing first-hand how Catholicism puts queer and trans lives into question. They hope that their time at USD can disrupt this experience for themselves and other Black queer and trans students.
In their studies, Marven is working on a project that investigates the ways Black queer and trans across San Diego colleges and universities have, or have not, fostered community, and how they might be supported in their identities. The research seeks to explore the lack of support and identity development that exists within the realm of predominantly white higher educational institutions.
"I continue to wish for our people to build community and love for one another so that we can reach a day where we are able to claim that we are thriving." - Marvens Pierre
Meet Taylor Vassar (She/Her/Hers)
Taylor is paving a new way for activism in San Diego. In the midst of last year's protests, riots, and BLM marches, she realized that her avenue of support was investing in Black-led organizations and Black communities. Her grassroots efforts launched Clothing 4 Black Lives, which sells donated clothes so that she can give the money to organizations and those seeking extra support. Her donations have ranged from Black LGBTQ+ orgs to orgs supporting women with access to menstrual kits. Since June 2020, she has raised over $3,000 to support Black communities nationwide!
Through this work, Taylor has discovered the power of Mutual Aid, and fully believes that this practice is the most equitable pathway to changing the world. Mutual Aid is a practice that's rooted Black communities for decades, if not centuries, and this return to the roots of support inspires Taylor to continue her work.
"Since Clothing 4 Black Lives’ creation I have met strangers of all socioeconomic statuses, sizes, skin tones, abilities, sexualities and backgrounds while delivering and picking up clothes -- this is the beauty in humanity that I love and strive to promote." - Taylor Vassar
Meet Darren Wilson (He/Him/His)
Darren is a testament to the power of reflection and introspection. This past year, mixed with his current master's education at San Diego State University for Multicultural Community Counseling, has helped him unlearn histories of his past so that we can pave forward a better future. With a emphasis in social justice education, Darren is on his way to becoming a licensed therapist focused on community healing. The program weaves in cultural competency into the studies so the students are able to apply a critical lens into the modalities of therapeutic practices. This supports Darren in unpacking and deconstructing misogyny and racism in his work.
We know that Darren will change the landscape of therapy, particularly for Black families, and help multicultural communities gain power through mental health!
"I have embraced that I am a Fat, Black, Queer, Cisgender Male, and those intersections are nothing to be ashamed about, or something that will allow me to diminish my worth for the acceptance of others in the platonic and romantic sense." - Darren Wilson
Meet Keke Grayson (She/Her/Hers)
On the courts, Keke is fierce and fearless. Off the courts she is an affirming pillar of strength and support for her community and friends. Keke grew to love basketball during during her primary education and it has taught her the importance of dedicating herself to her goals and achieving success through determination. A natural born leader, she strives to instill confidence in those around her and works to make sure that people always feel seen and heard by her.
Keke was recently offered a four-year basketball scholarship to Hope International University in Fullerton, CA, making her the first Black Trans woman to get a full scholarship from a Christian University for basketball. At 18 years old, she is already demonstrating immense growth and is paving a way for more folx to thrive. You can read more about her in an LGBTQ SD News article here.
"One thing about me is I enjoy cheering up people and making them feel that they are needed and that they are doing everything well." - Keke Grayson
Meet Paris Wells (He/Him/His)
At 20 years old, Paris made the courageous decision to leave his home, knowing he wasn't getting the support he needed from his family. Growing up with several forms of abuse, Paris knew he wouldn't be able to grow into the person he wanted to be if he stayed. For several years Paris couch-surfed with friends and enrolled in remedial classes at San Diego City College. The struggle was real for him but he continued to persevere through it, eventually getting home stability with a friend, working several jobs, attending classes, and building financial independence. Now, at 25, Paris has his own apartment, two jobs he really likes, and has been accepted into seven universities that he's applied to, giving him an abundance of choices to make for his future.
"I am working to complete my degree and be the best example that I can be." - Paris Wells