Fall 2021 AAAA Newsletter

President’s Message


Vera Perkins-Hughes (WRC'76)

Serving as president of the African American Alumni Association (AAAA) for the past three years has been an honor and privilege. It has been an interesting, exciting journey. I especially love meeting incoming students at the beginning of each new school year, and for the past nine years have come to campus with other AAAA members to answer questions, share snacks, and talk with students about our CWRU experiences. The new “normal”, COVID-19 with its mask mandates, vaccine, and aggressive Delta variant, has made these get-togethers more difficult.

Still, the new normal” has me watching the CWRU community continue to excel despite the restrictions. Congratulations to our newest alumni, who embraced the digital sphere of online learning and graduated in spite of a senior year outside of the traditional classroom.  We are encouraged by your endurance and perseverance.  Congratulations to John Killings, named the new Director, Office of Multicultural Affairs, and to Robert Solomon, Vice President, Office of Inclusion, Diversity and Equal Opportunity (OIDEO), on the receipt of OIDEO’s 10th Higher Education Excellence in Diversity Award. We applaud your accomplishments.

The AAAA continues to be available to serve the African American students, alumni and other members the CWRU community. Please don’t hesitate to contact us at cwruaaalumni@gmail.com.

- Vera Perkins-Hughes (WRC’76)

President, African American Alumni Association

A Conversation with Fred Gray


Fred Gray (LAW '54, HON '92)








Photo: New York Times

Students of Promise Closing the Achievement Gap, in partnership with Case Western Reserve University School of Law, Social Justice Institute, FOCUS Outreach Programs, African American Alumni and other campus sponsors, will present A Conversation with Attorney Fred Gray’ on the morning of Friday, October 29, 2021.  A book signing and small reception also are being planned as part of the event.  Capacity is limited and registration details will be forthcoming.

Fred Gray (LAW ’54, HON ’92) is best known as a Civil Rights hero who relentlessly fought in U.S. courts of law for the equality of African Americans. The first black president of the Alabama Bar Association, Gray argued before the Supreme Court the unconstitutionality of Tuskegee-based rezoning laws that left African Americans out of elections. He was also one of the first two post-Reconstruction African Americans to serve in the Alabama Legislature.

Legal representative for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks and other members of the Civil Rights Movement, Attorney Gray still practices in Alabama.  In September 2021, on behalf of Macon County, AL, Gray filed a lawsuit in state court over the Confederate statue in the Tuskegee town square. 

- Janice Eatman-Williams (MNO ’01)



Rev. Marvin A. McMickle (GRS '88, american studies)






From Art/Sci Update

Rev. Marvin A. McMickle (GRS 88, american studies) has been recognized for outstanding contributions to his field and the greater community with his selection as the CWRU 2021 Distinguished Service Alumnus. Among many other accomplishments, McMickle, an influential figure in the Cleveland community for nearly 35 years, has served as pastor of Antioch Baptist Church, president of the Cleveland NAACP, and president of Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School. He is the author of 18 books and dozens of articles.

John R. Killings






John R. Killings, who joined the CWRU community in 2014, was recently promoted to Director of the Office of Multicultural Affairs. He had previously been serving as Interim Director. The Office of Multicultural Affairs seeks to serve the diverse needs of students and enhance the harmony of the multi-ethnic community through the mutual acceptance of all individuals.

Homecoming, Oct. 21-24, 2021

African American Alumni Association members poses in front of the Linsalata Alumni Center

The African American Alumni Association invites you to kick off Homecoming Weekend with our signature Welcome Reception. This event, uniting alumni from across the country for a fun-filled evening of games, connections and great food, also includes a candlelight vigil. Mark your calendars for Friday, October 22nd, 6-10pm at the Linsalata Alumni Center. 

Pack your tennis shoes for The Stephanie Tubbs Jones (STJ) 5K Race and Fun Walk, Saturday October 23rd, 8:30-9:30am.  It travels a new route this year, starting at DiSanto Field and looping around much of north and main campus. All proceeds benefit the STJ Scholarship for underrepresented undergrads and honor Tubbs Jones, the first African American woman to represent Ohio in the House of Representatives.

Register now (https://case.edu/events/featured-events/homecoming) for the Welcome Reception, the STJ Race, and other great virtual, in-person and hybrid homecoming events.


Extra-ordinary Light

Michelle R. Smith (CWR '98)

Tracy K. Smith: The Daily

On Friday, Sept. 24, 2021, Siegal Lifelong Learning presented theremote lecture, Extra-ordinary Light” by Michelle R. Smith (CWR ’98)which explored the works of Pulitzer-prize winner and former poet laureate Tracy K. Smith.  The lecture highlighted the unique ways that Smith speaks away the “silence that feeds pain” in the poetry of her four books, addressing difficult topics without losing literary quality. 

Wade in the Water, titled after the spiritual of the same name, is Tracy Smith’s most recent collection and was common reading for this year’s CWRU first-year students.  Said Michelle Smith, “Water is an important image in the African American spiritual, symbolizing life, mystery, danger, hope, and a primary aspect of the slave experience. For example, slaves began their captivity by traveling across the ocean to America, and the Ohio River was the dividing line between slavery and freedom on the Underground Railroad.”

Michelle R. Smith is a writer, educator and cultural facilitator. She has been featured at CWRU’s Writers House and is the Programming Associate at Literary Cleveland, a non-profit committed to helping Northeast Ohio writers and readers explore other voices and discover their own. For information on classes and workshops, visit litcleveland.org.


Mental Health and Wellness

Michele L. Owens-Patterson, Ph.D. (FSM '71)

As we weather yet another fall with the specter of Covid-19 over us, it is important to take stock of where we are as a community and how we can support and improve our mental health and wellness through this difficult time.  Not surprisingly, our community has experienced some of the worst effects of this pandemic. Statistics tell us that we become ill from Covid-19 more often, are hospitalized and die with greater frequency, and suffer more social, economic, and mental health impacts than other groups. Studies explain these numbers in many ways, including lack of access to health care, mistrust of the medical field, vaccination refusal, more crowded households, and higher numbers of workers in front-line and service positions. We know that many of these factors are connected to the institutional racism that exists in this country and its impact on our lives in both big and small ways.

It is no wonder that from a mental health perspective, our community is challenged by this frightening and potentially deadly disease. While there has been a general rise in rates of depression, anxiety, substance abuse and domestic violence in the U.S. during the pandemic, the stressors we face in this society during the best of times can amplify these mental health effects in our community. Additionally, the loss of loved ones to this disease leaves our families and communities reeling not only from grief, but also from the very practical impact of the loss of the family breadwinner, the caretaker, community leader, local educator or faith leader. As major figures in the fabric of healthy functioning in our communities, these losses can contribute to instability and intensify community trauma.

As the disease affects more young, healthy individuals, our young people must deal with vulnerability at a time when they tend to feel invulnerable. Now there is more risk to their parents, cousins, friends and significant others, as well as the potential shock and trauma of loss at an atypical stage of life. Even if they escape the disease themselves, they are affected by the upheaval, uncertainty, and social-emotional challenges that it presents. Disruptions in schooling, job continuity and personal interaction have also challenged relationships, educational progress, and future plans. Foundational routines and the pursuit of activities, goals and interests are often disrupted as well. These trends threaten the stability and healthy development of our young people. Additionally, they can undermine a healthy mood, and a sense of connection, engagement, and accomplishment that fuel the wellbeing of us all. As such, they can contribute to anxiety, depression, apathy and/or recklessness.

Despite these challenges, all is not doom and gloom. The trauma of the pandemic may threaten the resilience of our community, but we have always rebounded from difficult circumstances. By relying on each other, our values, cultural and faith traditions, we have pulled through. That is not to say our community must go it alone. There are many available resources to assist in fortifying us. Among these are a wealth of apps, podcasts, online forums and chats that are available to utilize as boosters and reminders to invest in our self-care.

While we acknowledge the strength and persistence that are part of our history, there is no better time than now to also acknowledge the need for mental health and wellness support in our community. Affirming and encouraging each other to seek out mental health services when needed can help destigmatize it. Thankfully, things are gradually trending that way, and technology has eased the way for those seeking services as they become more available virtually. Additionally, some of our churches and community organizations have begun to emphasize the need for mental health and wellness care, particularly now. In some cases, they have provided these services on site. If we continue to follow our traditional paths to recovery, and affirm mental health and wellness care as a fundamental aspect of the resilience of our community, we will strengthen our ability to rebound, both now, and in the years to come. 


- Michele L. Owens-Patterson, Ph.D. (FSM ’71)

Clinical Psychologist



55 Mental Health Resources for People Color - https://www.onlinemswprograms.com/resources/social-issues/mental-health-resources-racial-ethnic-groups/ 




Psychology today/find a therapist - https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/therapists





Young Alumni Spotlight

Tobili Hatcher (CWR '20)






Photo: Ohio Citizen Action

Hi, I’m Tobili Hatcher. I was a member of the first CWRU COVID class, graduating in 2020 with a Bachelor’s Degree in International Studies (Hons) and concentrations in International Business and Latin America. I also earned a secondary degree in Marketing Management and minored in Business Management and Spanish.  Currently, I am a second-year MBA student at Cleveland State University and will decide in the spring whether to concentrate in supply chain management or marketing.  

I recently landed my first full-time post-graduate job as a Digital Communications Associate for Ohio Citizen Action (OCA), the premier grassroots organizing team in the Midwest. In my current role, I manage the organization’s social media accounts, create original content, and enjoy learning how to fight corruption in the Statehouse.

Fond memories of my time at CWRU include dancing with the Korean Student Association my freshman year, studying abroad in South Korea my junior year and writing for The Observer my senior year. Seeing my byline in The Observer for the first time on Valentine’s Day 2020 is a moment I’ll cherish forever.

When current or future Spartans ask why I chose the classes or clubs I did, the answer is simple: do what inspires and interests you. Your college years are unique to you as an individual and go by in an instant. Take that class that’s been on your mind, attend that club meeting you heard about in passing, do things that will improve your overall experience at CWRU. College is much more than just the classes you take – it’s about the experiences and personal connections you make along the way.

Though my time at CWRU has ended, I am still actively involved in the community at large. As a chapter leader for the Cleveland Chapter of The Alumni Association, I stay in regular contact with many of my classmates and look forward to seeing the Class of 2020 at our upcoming graduation ceremony during Homecoming Weekend.

- Tobili Hatcher (CWR ’20)


Calling all Entrepreneurs

We would like to feature your business in our next newsletter. To appear in an upcoming issue of this newsletter, please send to cwruaaalumni@gmail.com

a description of your business and a link to the website, along with your name and graduation information (i.e. graduation year, school/program).


In Memoriam

Michael Francis (former CWRU student)

Want to see who else is involved with the AAAA? AAAA members as of September 2021.

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