Jennifer French Giarratano
Public Relations Manager
Andrew Young School of Policy Studies
ATLANTA—Student Kenyah Farley has solid advice for any passionate person looking for a foothold into activism. She walks the walk for justice and equity herself while working towards her Bachelor of Social Work at Georgia State University and preparing for an internship with Atlanta Legal Aid.
In the months leading up to her internship, Farley kept busy on the Atlanta activism scene, attending protests against racial injustice and police brutality. Her involvement captured the attention of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, which featured her in a recent story.
At one protest, Farley and others urged Governor Brian Kemp to repeal House Bill 838, which doles out punishment to anyone “intimidating, threatening, or harassing a person based on actual or perceived employment as a first responder.”
It wasn’t long before Farley organized her own demonstration. So, what advice does she offer future social justice advocates and activists?
“Find something you’re passionate about, find a mentor who has some experience, get specific about the issues you want to focus on, then get involved! Volunteering is a great way to show your passion,” she said.
Farley began her journey before she became involved in social work. She also found a mentor early on in her career, a high school teacher who encouraged her to pursue a career in a helping profession.
Farley initially chose a small, quiet university setting for her undergraduate experience. But after growing up in metro Atlanta, she found herself missing the hustle and bustle of the city. So, she decided to switch her major to social work and transferred to Georgia State University.
“I found out I would be in smaller classes specific to my major, so I decided to move,” she said.
A volunteer in the foster care system, Farley originally wanted to work with teenagers and young adults aging out of foster care. But her experiences at the Andrew Young School, especially as president of the school’s social work club, sent her in new directions.
“I’ve learned about the layers in the field of social work,” she said. “I’ve interacted with social workers devoted to affecting change in policy, working in the medical field or with veterans. There are so many different avenues I can take.”
This insight, coupled with Farley’s own identity as a young Black woman and the fire ignited in her by participating in demonstrations this summer, has highlighted the importance of policy work in her future career.
“I used to hate politics and say I would never get involved in policy,” she said. “But I’ve begun understanding that in order to dismantle systems and build something new, to be productive as a social worker, I have to go into the systems and help change them.”
Story by: Sumar Deen, Student (M.S. Clinical Mental Health Counseling, ‘21)