I’m a Berkeleyan: Student Amir Wright on leading by example, power of community

Amir Wright poses for a portrait

Amir Wright is a third-year political science major and an ASUC senator at UC Berkeley. (UC Berkeley photo by Brittany Hosea-Small)

“I’ve always been drawn to advocacy. At first, I didn’t see politics as the route to do that. I didn’t know where it was going to come from. I was like, ‘I just want to help people and make a difference… how can I do that?’ There’s a million and one ways to do that, right?

But over time, I realized I wanted to help the masses. I think Obamacare was an inspiration for me when I saw how many people’s lives it changed. During a leadership development weekend with the Obama Foundation, the founder was telling us a story about how her baby is alive today because of the healthcare she received. Those kinds of stories are what I hope to one day make possible.

So, politics came in because it seemed like the best way to help a large group of people — through legislation. And the only way to do that was to get into office.

Amir and his grandma and mom

Amir with his grandmother, Jacqueline Jacquet-Williams (left), and his mother, Eboni Williams. Amir says his grandma taught him how to lead by example. (Photo courtesy of Amir Wright)

My father instilled in me a sense of leadership from a very young age. He was always talking about how you should lead and what a good leader is and how you should always strive to be a leader and to fight for those who can’t fight for themselves. I joke with my parents — my name ‘Amir’ means ‘prince’ in Arabic. And I swear they did that on purpose because they wanted me to sort of embody this idea of leadership.

I try to lead by example. That comes from my grandmother. She’s an amazing woman in her own right. She’s the founder and president of the Black Flight Attendants of America. She’s been a flight attendant for almost 50 years now. Back when she started, there weren’t a lot of women who looked like her in her industry. She always told us to not lead from above or in front, but be in there with your people, doing the work right alongside them.

One of the things I’ve found in my role as an ASUC senator, which is the most visible role I’ve ever had, is the constant scrutiny that you’re subjected to. I’m still learning how to deal with that and how to respond to it. Because, you know, I’m still young. And I’m still learning. There’s a lot of things that I don’t know and a lot of mistakes that I’m trying to learn how to navigate or avoid or rectify. It’s a ton of pressure.

Amir listens to a group member speak

Amir is the president of UC Berkeley’s Collegiate 100, an organization that extends the mission of the 100 Black Men of the Bay Area to support the development of young black college students. (UC Berkeley photo by Brittany Hosea-Small)

Community is where you can be the most authentic. Where you don’t need to hide anything and where you’re just very comfortable naturally. For me, that’s been the black community.

When I returned to campus after studying abroad, I lived on the African American Theme Program floor in Unit 1. One of my earliest experiences I had with the community was the grand opening of the Fannie Lou Hamer Black Resource Center. Just seeing all these people who were enjoying each other’s company and laughing together and celebrating this milestone — I knew that it was the community that I wanted to become a part of. They’ve just been incredibly comforting in many ways. My Cal career — both from a professional, and a mental and physical standpoint — would be very different if I didn’t have my community. It’s been crucial.

It’s been my prime directive to advocate and be responsible for the wellbeing and representation of the black community. I can’t speak for the whole community. And I can’t be a mouthpiece for the community. But as it relates to the ASUC or conversations with campus administrators, it’s my job to do my best to include our community in those conversations and make sure they’re advocated for and considered at the table.”

This is part of a series of thumbnail sketches of people in the UC Berkeley community who exemplify Berkeley, in all its creative, scrappy, world-changing, quirky glory. Are you a Berkeleyan? Know one? Let us know. We’ll add your name to a drawing for an I’m a Berkeleyan T-shirt.