Bishar Jenkins, MPP'20

Bishar Jenkins

“I am both black and queer. These marginalized identities coupled with the painful experiences that have accompanied those identities grant me a depth of perspective on issues that affect my community.”

Hailing from Trenton, New Jersey, Bishar Jenkins, MPP’20, aims to elevate the voices of multiple communities he belongs to, through a public policy career. “The issues I intend to research are affecting thousands nationwide and the stakes are high. Unfortunately, the issues that affect black LGBTQ folks have been rendered invisible in the mainstream public discourse. I'm here at Heller to gain the skillsets that I need to conduct applicable research. Research that does not simply rehash problems, but creates meaningful and impactful solutions.”

Prior to enrolling into the MPP program at Heller, Jenkins worked at a nonprofit organization to incentivize redevelopment in Trenton, a city that has undergone drastic changes due to deindustrialization and disinvestment. He explains, “My role was to reach out to different stakeholders - to figure out how to make that process as inclusive as possible and how to work with various groups. To bring everyone to the table and create something everybody is happy with – a redevelopment process that’s equitable.” Building on this unique experience, Jenkins chose Heller to expand his capacity in facilitating social change.

Jenkins’ deep commitment to giving back to his communities has already brought him rewarding opportunities. In 2014, he was an Emerging Leaders intern with the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, working on issues surrounding historic and systemic oppression of the black community across all sectors. Today, Jenkins’ interests lie in policies focusing on HIV and AIDS, particularly for the black community and other marginalized populations.

Asked about his plans for an internship opportunity while at Heller, he responds, “I'm looking at the National Black Justice Coalition, an organization that was primarily formed to advocate for issues on race and sexuality related to the black LGBTQ community and other LGBTQ communities of color. They advocate on issues not just around HIV and AIDS but also around discrimination in the workplace and across various sectors. This is the space I definitely want to be in.”

Further into the future, Jenkins also hopes to contribute to filling the research vacuum that currently exists for research within the black LGBTQ community. He says, “I'm considering a PhD program in the future. I want to research healthcare outcomes for the black LGBTQ community, specifically examining mental health outcomes for populations disproportionately affected by HIV, namely black gay men from the ages of 18-24.” With this vision, Jenkins is eager to make a difference. “For me, pursuing graduate school is not a dispassionate exercise to simply gain knowledge, but a mission to actualize social justice.”