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Destini T. Riley Receives Inaugural “Start Your Journey” Atharva Kharkar Memorial Award

An honorary member of the Stamps Class of 2021 (Stamps BA and Ross BBA), Atharva Kharkar was a beloved member of the Stamps School community.

Shortly after receiving a leukemia diagnosis in June of 2019, Atharva passed away on July 6, 2019, before starting his junior year at Stamps. Wanting to honor Atharva’s memory and spirit was kept alive at Stamps, his parents Prafulla and Shivani Kharkar created the “Start of Your Journey” Atharva Kharkar Memorial Award.

This award recognizes a student who is passionate in their creative voice and area of focus, inspirational to those in their community, committed and determined to have a positive impact, and is a talented storyteller. These were characteristics that Atharva was known and loved for — and traits needed to “start your journey,” an inspirational statement that Atharva used often.

Nominated by faculty, staff, and/or students, with confirmation by the Associate Dean of Academic Programs Brad Smith and Dean Guna Nadarajan, the Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design is proud to announce the inaugural recipient of the Atharva Kharkar Memorial Award: Destini T. Riley (BFA ‘21).

Destini Riley uses her creative skills to spark change with critical optimism, dogged tenacity, and a deep love for her community and her world. When her brother was incarcerated, Riley channeled her creative practice to shine a light on the deeply traumatic impacts of the prison industrial complex. Over the course of her time at Stamps, Riley's short film,I, Destini, which explores the impact of incarceration on the family members left behind, was profiled in the New York Times Op-Docs, dual premiered at the Aspen Film Festival, screened at the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival, and is archived in the National Smithsonian Museum of African American History.

Welcome to the Bull, Riley's work in Please Stand By: The 2021 Stamps School Senior Exhibition is a seven-foot, three-dimensional, multimedia monument that can be engaged in diverse environments through the use of augmented reality. Grounded by the history of Durham, NC, which in the early 1900s was the capital of the Black middle class in America, this project presents current challenges residents encounter such as racial tensions, crime, poverty, and gentrification.

Visit welcometothebull.com for full info on this project.

Riley is an active member of Stamps in Color and embarked on a trip to LA in 2019 with the group, which allowed her to meet and network with Stamps alums in the entertainment industry. She has been a tour guide for the Stamps undergraduate admissions team, served as a residential assistant and mentor for the Stamps Pre-College program, and also served as a Stamps peer advisor for a year. Outside of Stamps, Riley is a member of the Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc where she serves as the social media chair and treasurer.

One of Riley’s nominators, student Anthony Coffie II (Ross BBA ‘21), offered this reflection:

“Atharva, my best friend, inspired me every day to preserve my values (i.e., community, love, justice) despite the challenges I faced. Atharva's selflessness and interest in other people's stories lives through me.
Destini is very much an embodiment of these same principles. Like Atharva, she spends a lot of time working (very hard), but she never fails to consider others in her work and endeavors. Very much like Atharva, Destini represents her communities through selfless creative expression. I know Atharva would be happy with this decision. Atharva will forever be in our thoughts and hearts as we do the People's work.

Other Stamps students nominated for this inaugural award include:

Learn more about Atharva Kharkar through his work in Please Stand By: The 2021 Stamps School Senior Exhibition.