Winning Essay by Raven W. from South Carolina attending Spelman College

When asked about inspirational African American individuals, names such as Ida B. Wells, Martin Luther King, Malcom X, W.E.B Dubois, and Angela Davis often come to mind. When I think about someone who inspires me personally, however, I think of someone who may not be as recognizable: Mary Lease Champagne Roper.

My great-great grandmother is one of the most inspirational black people in my life. Mrs. Roper was born in Charleston, South Carolina in 1888. She was a midwife who delivered over 1,000 babies in the Charleston community. As she helped women bring lives into the world, she was also a community leader. She managed to feed the less fortunate with only a small amount of money. What amazes me about Mary is that she found time to do all this with ten children at home. To me, Mary Roper is the definition of a heroic black woman. Mary is the reason that I have always dreamed of being an OB/GYN. I am in awe at what this woman was able to accomplish. The stereotypes put upon black women restricted their abilities to grow and succeed beyond the house or home life. She broke barriers that for black women that at the time seemed indestructible. Mary’s struggles made me realize that even as a black female who faces discrimination on regular basis, I am still privileged because the work of those who came before is the only reason I can achieve the things I am able to today. I recognize that even though the medical field is not always accessible to African Americans, it does not mean that I cannot excel. It takes perseverance and self-awareness like my great-great grandmother displayed to be able to surmount the expectations of society.

I have always been passionate about the STEM field. The way the world of science and technology is always changing and adding new challenges interests me. I find it fascinating that the science of yesterday continues to build on the science of tomorrow. What Mary saw in her work is what I will see as an OB/GYN with exception of new technology and new ways of doing things. Mary Roper serves as my reason for loving the science field and caring for others while doing so. Mrs. Roper is the perfect example of mixing passion with perseverance to achieve your goals.


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