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Joshua Aiken

Yale University

African-American Studies and History / Law



Steven Esposito Memorial Scholarship

Graduate Student Joshua Aiken is a black queer poet who considers St. Louis, Missouri home. Joshua grew up in six different states, in overwhelmingly white, conservative, evangelical Christian communities, and hypermasculine spaces, as the son of a college football coach. His early experiences of anti-blackness and homophobia have shaped his approach to social justice and collective liberation today. Joshua received his Bachelor’s from Washington University in St. Louis summa cum laude, where he advocated for increased mental health resources, greater socioeconomic diversity, and a University bias reporting system. He served as Advocacy Chair of the Social Justice Center, Speaker of the Student Senate, and as an Undergraduate Representative to the Board of Trustees. Additionally, he studied ethnic conflict in Northern Ireland as part of a Fulbright Summer Institute and as a Humanity in Action Fellow, studied human rights and worked with refugees experiencing racial discrimination and police harassment in Germany. Joshua earned Master’s degrees in History and Forced Migration Studies from the University of Oxford, before spending a year as the Policy Fellow at the Prison Policy Initiative, where he published research on America’s system of mass criminalization and its disproportionate impact on the LGBTQ community and communities of color. His poetry has been featured in publications like Assaracus, BOAAT, Boulevard, and Muzzle Magazine and he is a Cave Canem Fellow. As a J.D./Ph.D. student, Joshua is studying the relationship between racial capitalism and the criminal legal system and is committed to getting people out from behind bars.

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