Anna Gifty Opoku-Agyeman is an emerging public intellectual hailing from Ghana and Maryland. She is one of the co-founders of The Sadie Collective, the only non-profit organization addressing the pipeline and pathway problem for Black women in economics, finance, and policy. Her work has been featured widely by press and media outlets. In 2020, she became the youngest recipient for the CEDAW Women’s Rights Award by the UN Convention on the Elimination all forms of Discrimination Against Women and previously awarded to U.S. Vice-President, Kamala Harris, and U.S. House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi.

She also co-founded the viral digital campaign #BlackBirdersWeek, which drew global attention from major wildlife, science, and media organizations such as the National Aquarium, National Geographic, and BBC, following the Central Park Incident. The digital initiative led her and her co-organizers to receive the Richard and Patricia Kane Awards for Conservation and Education by the New Jersey Audubon Society. She is an alum of Harvard University, where she was a Visiting Student and Research Scholar in Economics, and the University of Maryland, Baltimore County where she received her Bachelors of Arts in Mathematics and a minor in Economics.

1 Are you an early bird or night owl?

Night Owl

2 Are you pro- or anti-pun?

Pro-pun

3 Do you have any pets?

No

4 Do you have any science-themed home decor?

No

5 Do you prefer cooking or baking?

Cooking

6 Do you prefer sweet or savory?

Sweet

7 Do you speak any other languages?

I deceptively come off as an English-only speaker, but I understand the dominant language in Ghana, Twi, pretty well. I can’t speak it though to the disappointment of my parents and extended family,.

8 If you could switch professions, what would you do?

I would become a professional dancer or college counselor for high school students. I find myself often watching dance breaks from Step Up movies or just being in awe of people who dance. I think it is one of the hardest professions because of how much vulnerability it demands. Regarding the position as a college counselor, I love mentoring and teaching young people, and I sort of function as an ad-hoc counselor for many minority youth already!

9 If you could switch science fields, what field would you want to work in?

Economics is honestly the best fit for me. It marries math with political science, sociology, and other social sciences well if you err on the side of doing interdisciplinary work. I would say though that I would follow after my dad and delve into Epidemiology, which is the field I considered right before I came across Economics.

10 If you got a plane ticket right now, where would it go?

Dubai, and not for the destination, but for the plane ride. I literally want to fly first class United Arab Emirates to Dubai and then fly back. I can’t afford anything in that city, haha!

11 If you had one superpower, what would it be?

Teleportation, the question of just being able to teleport wherever you want whenever you want would be so amazing.

12 Is there anything you strongly recommend we watch and/or read and/or listen to?

In light of #BlackInMathWeek, I highly suggest people check out Dr. Dania Francis’ work on Black Girls and AP Math Classes. Arguably one of my favorite papers to date. Another paper that I think is an exceptional read in light of anti-Black racism is Dr. Lisa D. Cook’s paper on African-American patents, which links violence against African-Americans to decreases in scientific innovation.

In terms of what to read, anything by MacArthur Genius, Tressie McMillian Cottom, and I mean anything – her tweets, her essays, her books, all of it is good and incredibly informative.

What I am watching right now: I am watching all the romantic comedies possible, but I highly recommend people check out ‘An African City’, which is Sex and the City based in Ghana; also, check out Emily’s Wonder Lab on Netflix, basically your modern day ZOOM from PBS Kids.

What I am listening to right now: NPR The Indicator, an incredible radio show hosted by Cardiff Garcia and Stacey Vanek Smith, real life great human beings. I am also listening to a lot of Beyonce because why not.

13 It’s your day off. What do you want to do?

I sleep, next question, haha!

I kid. Honestly, on my day off, I usually watch a lot of movies and indulge. One thing I’ve been getting into is boxing. I find it’s a great release even though it hurts like hell. I’ve been off Twitter for awhile, but I love live-tweeting shows that I’m watching and interacting with the digital community. On occasion, I’ll throwback to Sims 3.

14 What are three things you can’t live without?

1) God and my circle, which consists of friends, family, and mentors.
2) Apple products, inclusive of my phone and laptop.
3) And food. I love food so much and I would be so sad if it disappeared.

15 What beverage gives you life?

Gingerade Kombucha from GT and Acai Berry Boost from Tropical Smoothie.

16 What book did you read in school that positively shaped you?

If I am being honest, any book that centered on racial identity, and from what I can remember, The Other Wes Moore was the only book I read that actually impacted me in that way. I would also say Humans of New York, I had been faithfully when the book came out, I read through it in less than two hours or so.

17 What did you want to be when you grew up?

Honestly, a boss, specifically entrepreneur. I also wanted to be politically involved in Ghana, specifically Minister of Education.

18 What drives you and keeps you going?

The next generation, specifically Black and Brown youth. Young people are the future and every time I remember that, I take a deep breath and remind myself that all of the organizing, advocacy, and everything in between will be for the betterment of all of us down the line.

19 What got you excited in science?

When I think back to my childhood, I always asked questions. I was the one kid in my family that asked “but why?” and I often questioned my parents on everything. For me, during my elementary school years, I had opportunities to learn more about nature through bird watching and nature clubs. I would say though, what got me excited to become an economist was conversations I had with my dad and brother about economic development before I knew what economic development was. In high school, when I discovered TED talks, I would literally binge them like Youtube videos. I recently found out that most of the videos I binged featured economists, which I thought was pretty serendipitous.

20 What excites you about science now?

The future, especially as it relates to diversity. The academy is being forced to reckon with itself across fields that have historically had abysmal representation. I am excited about Black people standing up in their fields and demanding the world, as they should! These #BlackinX weeks following the inaugural #BlackBirdersWeek, which I co-founded alongside Black AF in STEM, was the right spark to see to a global movement has shaken and is shaking the core of racist academic institutions. I am so excited about what is to come!

21 What is a guilty pleasure of yours?

I used to love Ben and Jerry’s Milk and Cookies, but since watching Gossip Girl, I’ve been a fan macarons. I would say though my guiltiest pleasure is Gossip Girl episodes paired with Cinnamon dough anything with icing.

22 What is a secret talent of yours?

I can sing pretty well actually, and often do…. in the comfort of my room.

23 What is your favorite game?

UNO because of how loud it gets and how it easily breaks the ice between strangers. I am also a lover of Spades, Black Spades specifically.

24 What is the last book you read?

The last book I read, I listened to. I am huge fan of Joanna Gaines so I listened to ‘The Magnolia Story’.

25 What is one of the best pieces of advice you’ve received?

Pride comes before the downfall. It’s a verse from the Bible and Torah, but I think it’s a simple truth that stands the test of time.

26 What is something you’ve always wanted to try but you’ve been too scared to do?

I am incredibly basic, but skydiving. When I watch the Olympics though, gymnastics.

27 What is the best advice for your 18 year old self?

At the age of 18, I felt very lost. I had just graduated high school and enrolled in a school that wasn’t the best fit for me. To be quite transparent, I was at one of the lowest points of my life. I think the advice, then, that I would give myself is the following:

“Nothing ever lasts for too long. This too shall pass. Trust God and lean on people who love you and care for you, and above all, trust your gut.”

28 What is the best way to de-stress?

I light a candle, turn on my sparkly lights, lay in bed, and watch a romantic comedy or feel good movie. Another show that gives me a lot of joy is Superstore, basically The Office based in Wal-mart. I also watch Desus and Mero on Showtime faithfully. They are probably the most hilarious duo currently.

29 What is the last thing you watched?

The last thing I watched was a Drake SNL sketch. Drake’s pretty funny.

30 What is the weirdest thing you’ve had in your bag?

Don’t judge me, but… a Cheez-It. Just a single one.

31 What is your favorite animal?

Birds because Black Birders Week!

32 What is your favorite book?

Honestly, anything by Meg Cabot, but I am also a fan of dystopian novel series like ‘The Uglies’ or Farehenheit 451.

33 What is your favorite comfort food?

Anything made with cinnamon sugar, dough, and icing.

34 What is your favorite day of the year?

Thanksgiving, there’s just always so much joy.

35 What is your favorite plant?

Trees!

36 What is your favorite science fact?

It’s not my favorite fact, but it’s a significant one. Less than half of one percent of all newly minted PhD holding economists identified as Black women between 2015 and 2019.

37 What is your favorite season?

Fall

38 What is your favorite smell?

Lovespell from Victoria Secret.

39 What is your favorite sound?

Laughter after a joke or story I’ve told and silence in my house.

40 What is your favorite thing about yourself?

I love that I show up for people. I know what it feels like to have people not show up for you and I don’t want anyone to feel that way.

41 What is your favorite word (in any language)?

It’s an AAVE term (as is most pop culture terminology), but “bruh”. I use it often and without thinking.

42 What is your proudest moment?

Honestly, my proudest moment is when my dad received his doctorate in epidemiology. Knowing, eventually, that he was pursuing the degree while raising three kids and working multiple jobs made me so exceptionally proud.

43 What kind of tree would you be?

Cherry Blossom!

44 What’s the best thing about where you live?

It is equidistant from two of the best cities in the area and it’s really peaceful.

45 Tell us something we probably don’t know.

I have two siblings, Eillen and James, who are much older than me. Even though there’s been a large age gap between us for awhile, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve gotten closer to them.

Also, it’s #BlackinMathWeek! Make sure you follow @BlackinMath to stay up to date and look to @BlkinData #BlackinDataWeek next week!

46 Who would you like to see 46 Questions interview next?

Raven Baxter