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Viking Spotlight: Toiell Washington '21, Sociology

Toiell Washington '21 is a sociology major with a minor in women's studies. She's a Boston native, from a neighborhood called Dorchester. In her early teens, she spent her time as a peer leader working at the Boston Public Health Commission, teaching about dating violence prevention and healthy relationship promotion. She also worked for Teens Imprint at the Boston Globe where she wrote stories about colorism, representation in the media, and other societal issues.

What led you to choose sociology as a major?

Through my past work experience doing equity work, it encouraged my love for social justice and civic engagement. While I came into my freshman year at Salem undecided, taking sociology classes helped form my ideas of what type of work/career paths I wanted to get into.

What attracted you to Salem State's sociology program? 

While I originally came to Salem Undecided, the Sociology department was one of the most supportive and diverse at the university. Not only was it diverse in faculty, but also in world topics that were all equally important to learn doing social change work. I have taken classes such as Afro-latinx in the US, Marriage, family and intimate relationships, and Sociology of Law. 

What opportunities have you had beyond the classroom to learn more about sociology and apply your sociological understanding? 

Outside of the classroom, I have worked/interned at many places both on and off campus that allowed me to apply what I learned to the real world. From being in meetings with leadership to create an Anti-racist school environment, to working with Mothers that have lost their children to gun violence, I have been able to see how social norms effect a group's behavior, and how that influences each individual differently. 

You have been very involved in civic engagement activities, even before your entry into Salem State. What inspired your civic engagement?  What do you hope to accomplish? 

As a Black woman, I come from multiple marginalized identities, which have impacted my life choices. Growing up and realizing the many disadvantages not only I had, but my community has encouraged me to do work that promoted systemic change. One very big life-changing experience was the uprising of the Black Lives Matter movement in 2020. As a child, you watch these stories and feel helpless. As a young adult, I felt it was finally my time to become active in this movement.

The main goal I am set on accomplishing at this moment is establishing a new community organization I founded called Black Boston. This non-profit was founded after my team organized the largest Black Lives Matter protest in the history of Boston on May 31, 2020. Since then, we have been working on obtaining resources to build an organization that will help promote Black solidarity, creativity, and equity through policy change and education.

What are your career plans, and how does sociology fit into your career plans? 

My career plans are to continue establishing Black Boston as the Chief Operating Officer. In addition, I hope to work closely with elected officials and educational administrations to adjust the funding, policies, and curriculum within the education system.

What would you say to a prospective student who is thinking about studying sociology?

I would say, think about your end goal. Sociology impacts every aspect of life; therefore, everyone should be taking a sociology course no matter what. The factor most important to consider when making this your major is what is your end goal and will make this your major help get you there. Be intentional.

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