The sixth of eight children born and raised in Southeast Washington, DC, Askia Tariq West is the product of Black urban cultural groundings and elite European education, of exposure to the often brutal realities of the inner city and of encounters with the functionaries of wealth and power. The defining moments of his childhood are idyllic: hours of play with neighborhood children in the shelter of the pear and peach trees in his backyard, an oasis from the violence and chaos of the surrounding ghetto. His adolescence was marked notably by the passing of his brother, Malik, but culminated in a contagious enthusiasm for life which he applies to all of his undertakings.
Helping communities at home and abroad to achieve their greatest potential and live lives worthy of human dignity is Tariq’s driving passion. In 2004, moved by the moral imperative to take action to protect human life, he founded Access Sudan, an advocacy group dedicated to raising awareness of the plight of the beleaguered peoples of this African cross-roads. He also served as a Spanish language teacher and techie at the World Language School of Washington, a Saturday language academy serving students from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds. His last project, Raising Expectations, founded in 2004, was an after school arts program for inner-city children and aimed to achieve community uplift through the arts.
Independence and excellence have been the hallmarks of Tariq’s endeavors and are manifest beyond his academic achievements, in his professional and entrepreneurial activities. He began his professional career at the Mayor’s Youth Leadership Institute in 2002, then worked in Human Resources and Marketing at the Department of Energy in 2004 and NIMH-funded psychology research at Howard University in 2005. He ran a web design firm specializing in publication and web design for non-profits and small businesses. Previously, in 2004, he ran a successful eBay-based business specializing in industrial electronics.
Tariq’s explorations in the arts have been key in reconciling the many facets of his identity. He has been involved in music since the age of 7, receiving in recent years high praise from the Washington Post, the DC Poet Laureate, and others for his work in the literary and performing arts. He is twice-published and has been featured in numerous dramatic and musical performances, starting in 1999 with Leaving the Summer Land, and concluding with a recent production, Sitting This One Out, a series of monologues exploring social identity and race through the scope of dance.
Tariq graduated from Stanford in 2010 with a BS in Science, Technology, and Society. He is currently a Project Manager at Xif.