Ravi (Sanskrit for 'sun') was raised in a home of educators – a middle class family in Ohio. While in high school, Ravi’s interest in politics blossomed as he became active in student government. In high school, he also won the first-ever State of Ohio King’s Oratorical Contest sponsored by the Ohio Martin Luther King Holiday Commission. While in high school, he organized the region’s first-ever gospel music youth group competition: Youth Excited for Christ, a weekend of friendly competition and showcase of musical talent. Finally, in high school, he also created the city of Toledo’s Youth Empowerment Award bestowed annually by the Board of Community Relations to adults who volunteer significant hours of their time to the nurture and development of area youth.
Following high school, he enrolled at the University of Michigan where he obtained his Bachelor of Arts degree in political science with university honors in the winter of 2004. At Michigan, he founded and reactivated the school’s NAACP chapter, and as membership chair, created the largest NAACP college chapter in the country in 2003. He also ran for president of the College of Literature, Science and the Arts, student government and led the effort to host a national NAACP rally at the 2003 Michigan affirmative action oral arguments that April. After Michigan, he briefly served as the campaign headquarters manager of the city of Toledo’s first-ever black mayor re-election campaign. In the fall of 2005, Ravi enrolled in Brown University’s Ph.D. program in political science and earned his Master of Arts degree in political science in 2006 and a Ph.D. in political science in 2009 at the age of 26. At Brown he led the reinvigoration of the Nabrit Black Graduate Student Association as their president. While living in Providence, Rhode Island, Ravi has co-led the effort to re-establish the state’s only alumni chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc.
Ravi’s first job after graduate school was at Clark University in Worcester (“Woosta”), Massachusetts. While at Clark, Ravi led the effort to re-establish the Worcester unit of the NAACP and was elected President (the first-ever openly-gay President of color in the history of the national organization). While President, Ravi created and led the city’s first-ever march and rally for Troy Davis and also for International Day of Human Rights. On campus at Clark, Ravi led the drive to develop and propose a Diversity Action Plan, which ultimately led to the development of a university-wide Diversity Task Force that, for the first time (after decades of trying) set into motion the creation of the university’s first-ever Chief Diversity Officer position and office. While at Clark, as one of four Black faculty, he led the effort to institute the first-ever university-wide Martin Luther King, Jr. Symposia and Black History Month Commemorations.
In 2012, Ravi moved to Starkville, Mississippi to work at Mississippi State University (MSU). At MSU, Ravi desired the opportunity to work in one of the few political science departments in the country with a black chair, There, he led the effort in African American Studies to host the first-ever Freedom Summer Conference, bringing together international scholars and former Freedom Riders to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Freedom Summer. He also developed and led the program’s first-ever MLK Oratorical Contest.
Still, while at Mississippi State, Ravi led a “Die-In,” one of the earliest university marches and rallies in support of Black Lives Matter (and the first in the SEC). He also served as founder and faculty adviser of the LGBTQ+ Union, a student organization who sought to use the tools of activism to advance equality and equity for underrepresented sexual minorities.
Finally, while living in Mississippi and working at Mississippi State, Ravi was a key participant in the City of Starkville’s effort to add LGBTQ non-discrimination protections for municipal workers. He was also elected a member of the Board of Directors at the ACLU of Mississippi, a position he resigned upon his transition to VCU. While with the ACLU, he also served as the Affiliate Equity Officer, where he was responsible for the development and oversight of the unit’s affirmative action compliance.
Upon arriving at VCU, Ravi supported students’ efforts to develop an ethnic studies curriculum, and supported the efforts of the student activists #BlackVCUSpeaks. In his first year at VCU, he caused some controversy in national conservative media circles as an invited guest speaker at a suburban Richmond public high school’s first-ever Black History Month celebration, where he dialogued about structural racism and screened the African American Policy Forum’s Unequal Opportunity Race cartoon video about discrimination and privilege, causing an uproar in the school district about culturally sensitive education in Virginia public schools. This event led to the video being dubbed a “white guilt” video with significant national coverage in the Washington Post and Fox News, among other outlets.
At VCU, he also introduced two new undergraduate courses in Political Science, African American Studies, and Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies: Black Queer Politics and Black Political Activism. In Richmond, Ravi serves on the City of Richmond’s Human Rights Commission, appointed by Mayor Levar Stoney. Ravi was also a member of the Board of Diversity Richmond, where in February 2017 he co-created and led the organization’s first-ever programing for Black LGBTQ History Month, including the region’s first ever Black LGBTQ Gala, featuring a month-long self-portrait photo exhibit of area Black LGBTQ community members throughout RVA. The series of events with the state’s Black History Museum is the first-ever known collaboration between a regional LGBTQ organization and a statewide Black History Museum in the country. In March 2018, at VCU, Ravi co-hosted the 46th annual conference of the Association for Ethnic Studies, featuring the theme: The Ongoing Struggle: Confronting White Neo- Nationalism, 21st Century Racism, and Settler Colonialism. In July 2018, Ravi proudly assisted organizers of the first ever Black Pride in Richmond, Virginia to host the closing worship service at Third Street Bethel AME Church – the first-ever AME church to host openly Black LGBTQ persons as part of a weekend celebration of pride.
At the age of 36, was elected as Chair of the Department of Political Science at VCU. One of the youngest chairs of a ‘R-1’ department at any university in the United States, Ravi is the youngest, first-ever black, and first-ever openly gay chair in the department.
Ravi is currently Professor and Chair of Political Science at Howard University. Since arriving at HU, he has advocated for LGBTQ inclusive curriculum and experiential learning on campus. Ravi has spoken in favor of DC Statehood at the foot of the Washington Monument. This past summer, he also proudly marched alongside student marchers leading a George Floyd protest from HU to the White House and he spoke at the rally alongside former NAACP President and CEO Rev. Cornel Brooks at the barricades in front of Lafayette Park.
In 2021, Ravi was named one of 20 under 40 "Shapers of the Future" worldwide by Encyclopedia Britannica in social activism and politics. In 2018, Ravi was recognized as a “Emerging Scholar” in Diverse Issues in Higher Education. In 2015, Ravi was named one of 50 “Hero Citizens” by the Andrew Goodman Foundation, an international civil rights organization committed to voting rights. In 2014, Ravi was awarded the Clarence Stone Young Scholar Award from the Urban Politics Section of the American Political Science Association. In 2014, Ravi was also awarded the Outstanding Book Award for Black Mayors, White Majorities from the National Association for Ethnic Studies. In 2011, he was recognized as one of the “Hidden 105” by Out Magazine and “40 Under 40” by Advocate.
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