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Two Harvard juniors win election with viral campaign rap video

The video racked up 5 million views on Twitter with Democrats Kamala Harris and Cory Booker reaching out to the students.
BY Braingain Staff Writer |   07-12-2018

The two Harvard minority students were elected president and vice president of the Undergraduate Council
after running a campaign focused on inclusion and diversity

A campaign video by two Harvard students James Mathew and Ifeoma “Iffy” White-Thorpe won over the Internet — and won them the election.

The fun video which features a bass-heavy beat, witty bars, and a catchy hook, went viral helping the running mates secure seats as president and vice president, respectively, of the Undergraduate Council. They will take office later in December.

“I knew it would blow up on campus because of the brand we have made as artists, but I had no idea it would go beyond that,” Mathew, 21, who is majoring in sociology told The Boston Globe. “It’s been surreal, honestly,” he added.

The video racked up 5 million viewson Twitter, with former American pro basketball player Dwyane Wade voicing his support, and Democrat senators Kamala Harris and Cory Booker reaching out to the students directly.

White-Thorpe and Mathew, both juniors, ran a campaign to foster inclusion and improve student wellness and safety under the slogan “Harvard Can’t Wait.” The video kicks off with a rap:

"You wanna feel at home / Like you belong / They got you / You want your voice to be heard / Every word / They got you."

White-Thorpe said that within a few hours friends from across the country were texting her saying they saw the video online. “Student government can be fun, and politics can be fun. It’s not something that needs to be high and dry,” White-Thorpe, who is majoring in government told The Boston Globe.

Student turnout for the Undergraduate Council presidential elections has increased significantly over the past few years. A total of 3,672 students voted in this year’s election, a 31% increase from the 2,797 students who voted last year, according to the Harvard Crimson.

“We said, ‘We want to meet people where they are,’ and we thought we could best do that through a music video,” said White-Thorpe, who made US headlines when she was accepted into all eight Ivy League schools. Being a leader is not new to White-Thorpe, who graduated as student government president from Morris Hills High School in Rockaway, New Jersey. Talk about an embarrassment of riches.White-Thorpe got into Harvard, Yale, Cornell, Columbia, the University of Pennsylvania, Princeton, Dartmouth, Brown and Stanford.

Students getting into all the Ivies is a rare feat, but it's happened to a handful of students over the past couple of years —Kwasi Enin in 2014, Harold Ekeh in 2015 and Augusta Uwamanzu-Nna and Kelly Hyles last year. The campaign video channels the talents of a group Mathew co-founded in his freshman year called “21 Colorful Crimson,” which is made up of musicians from the class of 2021 who use art to advocate for diversity and defy Harvard stereotypes.

The song features a large group of students dancing — sometimes in synchronization, sometimes not — on campus, as rapper BJ Watson delivers rhymes about how Mathew and White-Thorpe stand out from the other four tickets on the ballot.

“It’s James and Ify, goddammit they do it so spiffy. They got the campus super litty; so smart and so witty. If there ever was a problem, you know these two are gettin’ busy,” Watson raps.

Several students said they are excited for Mathew and White-Thorpe’s term on the council.

“I’m very happy that James and Ify won,” Aman Panjwani told the Harvard Crimson. “I think James especially was a great person to bring the campus together and embrace the diversity that we need on this campus.”



 

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