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Winter 2014

Date Released: 6 January 2014

President's Message

President Alicia GravesI extend greetings and well-wishes for a happy new year to students, alumni, faculty and friends in our eighth newsletter. I want to welcome our students back to campus. I hope your hard work and dedication paid off last semester and that everyone had a joyous holiday season, surrounded by loved ones.  Ten months remain for the current officers to accomplish the goals we set out to achieve by the end of our two-year term. We are on track to reach these goals and look forward to serving you in the upcoming months.

The AAAA is diligently working to create programming that will allow meaningful connections between alumni and students. The Alumni-Student Mentorship Program application has gone live and we await commitment from students and alumni to become a part of this program. Don’t miss the chance to help a student navigate through these important years.  Additionally, the “Reach Back—Raise Up” Pledge Drive for African American Students is approaching its one year mark!  We encourage alumni to donate to this initiative to ensure that more African American Students have the opportunity to attend this prestigious university.

Lastly, I am excited to announce that it is time to plan the engaging events for Reunion Weekend during Homecoming, October 16-19!  We eagerly anticipate your arrival on campus. Bi-monthly meetings for the reunion committee will begin in February and we invite you to get involved. Please express your interest in planning for the festivities at

Have a successful new year, following through with resolutions and taking advantage of the opportunities this year has to offer. Remember to stay tuned for the next chapter of the African American Alumni Association.

Let's continue this journey. Connect with students. Reconnect with alumni. Get involved.

Alicia Graves (CWR '05), President, African American Alumni Association

Alumni Spotlight: Joan Southgate, (SAS '54)

Joan SouthgateThe grandparents of Joan Southgate were friends of Harriet Tubman. Needless to say, she grew up immersed in wonderful stories about the woman who walked more than 300 slaves to freedom.  As an adult Southgate wondered, “What was it like?  How can I praise them?  How can I teach others about their courage?” The answer became an 18-month, 519-mile journey from Ripley, Ohio to St. Catharines, Ontario for 73- year-old Joan.  The book, In Their Path (, details her Underground Railroad trek.

This 2002-2003 transforming journey to honor slave and conductor families has given rise to other enterprises. One month after its completion, Southgate and six friends founded Restore Cleveland Hope, an organization dedicated to celebrating Cleveland’s anti-slavery history.  In addition to presenting community dialogues, workshops and speakers bureaus, Restore Cleveland Hope offers school and day camp programs like “Children in the Underground Railroad” and “Story Telling Through Quilts”.  The organization is also raising funds to convert the Cozad-Bates house into an Underground Railroad teaching center.  This home was once owned by abolitionists and is University Circle’s only pre-Civil War structure.  Restore Cleveland Hope welcomes your participation.  To attend an event or make a donation, please visit

The Akan word sankofa means go back and fetch it.  Joan advises, “When you forget- sankofa, there is wisdom in learning from the past to build the future.”

Did you know?

Vintage PictureIn the 1820’s and 1830’s, Western Reserve College was an important center of Ohio’s anti-slavery sentiment. John Sykes Fayette, an ardent abolitionist, class of 1836, was the first African American student at the college.  In 1833, students and faculty organized the first abolitionist society in the former Connecticut Western Reserve.

This is Why We Rock!

Ebony HallThe African American Society presented its 40th Annual Ebony Ball in Thwing Ballroom November 1, 2013 with the theme “This is Why We Rock”.  Jazz standards were played by a talented CWRU quartet.  Dinner was a taste of excellence. Framed photos and brief biographies of such notable alumni as Icabod Flewellen, Clemence Greene, Robert Madison and Stephanie Tubbs Jones ignited conversations at tables as students, alumni and special guests acknowledged the trailblazers and challenged each other to learn more.

Keynote speaker Chris Motley, founder and CEO of Better Weekdays, encouraged the audience to have an entrepreneurial mindset and be willing to take a risk. His advice is: Use skills and personality to work at something you care about. Be authentic. Social media will expose you if you’re not careful. Be prepared. Raw talent is no substitution for preparation. Be empathetic. Treat people the way they would want to be treated. Motley ended with an innovative question-answer period, having the audience’s emailed questions projected onto a screen.

The DJ’s mix of line dance, hip hop and old school music brought students and alumni alike to the dance floor as the evening drew to a close. Raw talent, strong heritage, rich culture and sense of community: this is why we rock!

Life After Graduation

Life After GraduationOn November 4, 2013, the African American Alumni Association hosted the first session of three sessions to introduce the Life After Graduation Speakers Series. The series’ purpose is to create an opportunity for current students to interact with alumni and gain knowledge about various aspects of life after graduation.

During the evening, students engaged in motivating conversation with alumni, shared stories about their experiences at CWRU and left feeling encouraged. The panel of alumni, featuring Indigo Blakely (CWR ’08, SAS’12), Aqueelah Jordan (CWR ‘04), Joanna Lopez (CWR‘07), and African American Alumni Association President Alicia Graves (CWR ‘05), openly discussed their experiences, honestly answered questions and offered themselves as additional resources for the students. The panel let students know that they had alumni in their corner.

Office of Multicultural Affairs’ Director Naomi Sigg and Assistant Director Randy Blackford also participated in the event. This series is proving to be a move in the right direction toward student-alumni partnership, as well as an opportunity to build relationships with students and departments. The next session in the speaker series will promote mentorship. Additional details are forthcoming.

Winter Holiday Party

Winter holiday party photoFestivities for the December 2013 Winter Holiday Party were in full swing and bursting with food, fun and fanfare! More than 20 graduates were in attendance, along with friends and families. Conversation flowed with networking, childhood holiday memories and the occasional joke about the breakout YouTube sensations that had crowded the past year's airwaves. The food, aptly prepared by Dell’s Catering, was an undoubted smash. Family favorites of fried chicken, roast beef and mashed potatoes were complimented by well-mixed drinks from the bar, where Sangria enhanced the holiday spirit. Speakers spouted soulful sounds by such artists as Donny Hathaway, Luther Vandross and Boys II Men. We are looking forward to the next Association event: a February gathering to learn more about our heritage. Stay tuned for details.

Homecoming 2014

Homecoming 2014Don’t miss the African American Alumni Association Reunion October 17-19 It won’t be the same without you. To be a part of the Reunion Planning Committee, please contact us at

Save the Dates

Jumpin’ Jazz Jam- Alternative Break Benefit
February 22
7 - 10 p.m.
Greg Reese Performing Arts Center
Help support the students as they return to the South to serve.

Unity Banquet
April 11
7 p.m.
Details to follow.

Congratulations to Vinny Bell, Kari Cunningham, Donte Gibbs and Michael Knight, our four outstanding young alumni highlighted in Think magazine’s “Thirty Under Thirty”.  Read more about their outstanding accomplishments at

Share your good news including weddings, births and achievements at

In Memoriam: Love leaves a memory no one can steal

RoseJames R. C. Humphrey (ADL ’72)

Notices may be sent to

What would you like to see highlighted in future newsletters? Do you have wedding, graduation, baby news, etc. to share? Your ideas are appreciated. Contact us at

Please forward this newsletter to those who you think may not have received it.

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