Brooklyn native Joshua Applewhite, also known by his YouTube handle Awakened Mind, is a 17-year-old student at Liberation Diploma Plus High School, a transfer school in Coney Island. He lives in Sunset Park with his mother and sister.
When the COVID-19 pandemic struck New York, Joshua felt some despair, almost like the world was coming to an end. But he soon recognized that the pandemic was a pause – an opportunity to think deeper about life:
“I started to think about careers and how I would earn a living,” he recalled. “I thought about my YouTube channel. Before the pandemic, I was inconsistent, but the quarantine [gave] me time to come up with some new ideas.”
His major problem with the quarantine was the school closures. Remote learning forced him to sit in front of a computer for hours a day, which was extremely difficult given his learning style.
He said he needs in-person interaction with teachers and classmates – asking questions, debating issues, and sharing ideas.
“I don’t like school to begin with,” said Joshua, who attends an alternative school, which helps students who have fallen behind academically to get on track.
Despite the challenges, Joshua managed to clear the hurdles he encountered with remote learning and passed his classes. He expects to graduate in 2021.
During the lockdown, he had lots of time to think about refocusing on his YouTube channel, which Joshua launched in the summer of 2019. It’s an outlet to share his rants and views, with the aim of introducing his followers to new perspectives. As fall 2020 arrived, Joshua’s channel approached nearly 2,000 followers.
An advocate of racial equality, Joshua was a strong supporter of the Black Lives Matter protests that erupted during the lockdown. Growing up, he had several police encounters in which he felt harassed. He hopes that the BLM demonstrations against police brutality will ignite a permanent change.
“I’d like to see unity around the world, which must start with unity among minorities – Blacks and Hispanics,” he said about his vision for the future.