“My life is based on pain, passion, and purpose!”
--Elijah Eugene Cummings, United States Representative, 1951-2019
Homecoming 2019 marked my first year serving as the president of The African American Alumni Association. My first year has been rewarding and challenging as I served the gifted and talented members of our Quad A family. This year marked the beginning of our 10th yearlong celebration of the African American Alumni Association as an affinity of CWRU. We are especially excited about a new project to further preserve our history at CWRU with a digital display Exploring: The Africa American Experience at CWRU, with special thanks to Dr. Marilyn Mobley; Dr. Joy Bostic, Interim Vice President, Office for Inclusion, Diversity and Equal Opportunity; and Arnold Hirshon, Vice Provost & University Librarian. I want to extend my sincere appreciation and support to the alumni members, President Barbara R. Snyder, Bradford Crews and Christal Crosby. The Blue Block party on Thursday evening once again was a fun-filled event. On Friday evening, I was thrilled to welcome alumni back to campus to our annual Welcome Reception at the Linsalata Alumni Center – Phi Gamma Delta First Floor room. The Welcome Reception is always met with great anticipation. As we began our meet and greet, along with our candle lighting vigil in memory of Stephanie Tubbs-Jones, this year was no different.
I was delighted to serve on the Alumni Association Awards committee, and want to congratulate all the homecoming award recipients: JP Graulty, Nikki DiFiliippo, Sara Y. Fields, Moses Joloba and Robert P. Madison. A special thanks to Mr. Robert P. Madison, for allowing Linda Wheatt and me the privilege of seeing firsthand many of his architectural design models. His work is fascinating, we saw several landmark designs, including the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and the Cleveland Browns Stadium. Also, it was my pleasure to invite Moses Jolloba, Ph.D., Professional Achievement Award Winner, from Uganda, to attend the play, Pipeline along with Quad A members. It was a memorable experience for all who attended.
Pictured: Moses Joloba, PhD (GRS ‘96, GRS ‘03, pathology) (center) with his children Joshua (left) and Anna (right), a first-year student at CWRU. Photo credit: Vera Perkins Hughes
One of my most cherished memories this year was receiving an invitation to attend the Inamori International Center for Ethics and Excellence annual Inamori Ethics Prize, which “honors outstanding international ethical leaders whose actions and influence have greatly improved the human condition.” On September 19, The Inamori International Center for Ethics and Excellence at CWRU awarded LeVar Burton “for his outstanding global ethical leadership as an advocate for such important and worthy causes, for his tireless, decades-long dedication to children’s literacy and AIDS research and treatment.” LeVar Burton won my personal admiration in 1977 in the acclaimed mini-series Roots, his character Kunta Kinte, made a lasting impression of me and my family. In addition, he starred in Star Trek: The Next Generation and hosted the PBS show Reading Rainbow.
Finally, on September 27 & 28, I had the pleasure of attending Project 400: Our Lived Experience conference at Cleveland State University, and was pleased to learnthat CWRU, along with multiple partners, is also supporting this invaluable year-long observation of the arrival of Africans brought to America. Congratulations to Case Western Reserve University participants Dr. Marilyn Mobley, Dr. David Miller and Janice Eatman-Williams for presenting and serving on the planning committee. Project 400 “presents a series of events that examine slavery’s foundational significance to the historic and contemporary challenges faced by African Americans.” To learn more about Project 400 visit csuohio.edu/project400.
Vera Perkins-Hughes, BA, LSW (WRC ‘76)
Photography credit- Matt Shiffler Photography
Fred Wheatt, Linda Wheatt (FSM ‘72; GRS ‘77), Blaine Taylor (WRC ‘75), Joanne Brogdon (WRC ‘75), Mark Smith (WRC ‘75), Vera Perkins-Hughes, (WRC ‘76),Elisaida Mendez-Patterson, Dean Patterson (WRC ‘75, GRS ‘82), Erma Leaphart-Couch (WRC ‘75), David Smith (WRC ‘75), and Gail Reese (LYS ‘79, MGT ‘00, SAS ‘00)
Pictured left to right: David Smith (WRC ‘75), Joanne Brogdon (WRC 75), Alicia Graves (CWR ‘05), Erma Leaphart-Couch (WRC ‘75), Janice Eatman-Williams (MNO ‘01), Vera Perkins-Hughes (WRC ‘75), Mark Smith (WRC ‘75), Joshua Lutaakome, Moses Joloba, PhD (GRS ‘96, GRS ‘03, pathology), Demetrius Thomas, Tamara Thomas, Zain Thomas, and Zion Thomas. Photo credit Vera Perkins-Hughes
Traditionally, the African American Alumni Association (AAAA) hosts a reunion every other year, with odd years being considered “off-years.” But as recent attendees have discovered, CWRU packs every reunion with activities of interest to diverse groups.
On Thursday, October 10, the Think Forum Conversation on Diversity and Success was moderated by Provost Ben Vinson III. Featured panelists Edwin Mayes, Director of CWRU First Year Experience; Dr. Lolita McDavid (MED ‘79), Medical Director of Child Advocacy and Protection at Rainbow Babies and Children Hospital; Naomi Sigg, Director of the Office of Multicultural Affairs; Nsisong Udosen, Undergraduate Diversity Collaborative; and Miguel Zubizarreta (CWR ‘90), formerly of Hyland Software, emphasized that diversity does not guarantee inclusion or success. Their suggestions for the university include hiring more black faculty, linking black students with black upperclassmen and alumni, giving staff in diversity positions more freedom in doing their jobs, improving communication among various groups and resources, and ensuring that firsts become forevers.
Alumni of color were recognized at both the Homecoming Luncheon on October 11 and the Trailblazer Unveiling October 12. Congratulations to Newton D. Baker Distinguished Service Award recipient Sara Y. Fields, Professional Achievement Award recipient Moses Joloba, PhD (GRS ‘96, GRS ‘03, pathology), Distinguished Alumni Award recipient Robert P. Madison (ARC ‘48, HON ‘04), and 2019 Trailblazers Samuel Allen Counter (GRS ‘70), M. Deborah Hyde, MD (MED ‘77), and Wilma Peebles-Wilkins, PhD, DPNAP (SAS ‘71).
In addition to delicious food, a reverent candlelight vigil, and soulful music, this year Family Feud came to the AAAA’s Signature Welcome Reception on Friday, October 11. Teams named the Browns and the Ravens faced off on such questions as “What do men and bears have in common?” and “Name a phrase that starts with out of.” The Browns came from behind to win the game, hopefully a good omen. One answer, “out of this world”, accurately describes Homecoming 2019. In the words of alumna Ivy March, “I never realized there was so much going on. I’m already planning to attend next year. “
The fellowship, food, and fun continued on Saturday evening, October 12. The 10th anniversary of the African-American Alumni Association is this year. Even though we plan to commemorate the occasion next year when everyone is in town for the reunion year festivities, we wanted to mark this milestone by facilitating a new type of event. We started the evening by enjoying a delicious meal and stimulating conversation at Chicago’s Home of Chicken and Waffles. Afterward, we walked over to the Outcalt Theater in Playhouse Square for the opening night performance of the play, Pipeline. In this gripping drama by playwright Dominique Morisseau, we caught a glimpse into the world of a single, African-American mother, Nya, trying to do everything in her power to protect her teenage son from the school to prison pipeline that is an all too familiar ending too far too many stories in the African-American community. As we bore witness to her specific story, we laughed and cried with Nya as she struggled with the challenge of rearing an African-American male in today’s society. The overwhelming response of the participants in this event was that it was a timely choice, considering everything that is happening in current events. Many of us kept the story going after play ended, discussing what we could do in our individual communities to begin to address this reality on a larger scale. The overall evening was enjoyed by all. We hope you will join us next year!
Candlelight Vigil, Fall 2018
Photo credit: Kamron Khan Photography
October 2019 marks the 10th anniversary of the constitution which made the African American Alumni Association (AAAA) an official affinity group of The Alumni Association of Case Western Reserve University (CWRU). The organization, however, has existed informally since the 1970s, when Stephanie Tubbs Jones and her contemporaries first hosted reunions. Today, affiliation with the university enables the association to provide ever-increasing support and networking opportunities for alumni, students and staff of African heritage.
The success last year of the AAAA display celebrating the 50th anniversary of the African American Society sparked an interest in Marilyn S. Mobley, Ph.D. (GRS ‘87, English) and other association members to create a permanent record of the black student presence on campus. Representatives from the AAAA, the Alumni Office, OMA, OIEDO, Kelvin Smith Library, and others are in collaboration to launch Reflections this fall, a digital collection of photos and stories chronicling the black student experience at CWRU.
“I’m excited to see this history preserved and made available worldwide. Students and alumni will enjoy seeing those who journeyed with them and those who traveled at a different time. I hope it inspires them to add their own reflections to the record,” said Linda Berry Wheatt, AAAA Communications Chair.
If you have photos to be considered for the display, please email them, including captions with names, dates, events, etc., to firstname.lastname@example.org.
John Sykes Fayette, Class of ’36
By Janice J. Gerda, Ph.D. (CWR ‘89), Associate Vice President for Student Affairs
Perhaps you’ve seen references to or commemorations of CWRU’s first documented African American student, John Sykes Fayette. I had too and began to wonder about this very early student and his story. After a little digging, I’ve learned he was a remarkable man who lived a long and interesting life.
John Frederick Augustus Sykes Fayette was born around 1810. His early life is still a mystery, but he came to Western Reserve College by way of New York City. His minister, the Rev. Samuel Hanson Cox of the Laight Street Presbyterian Church, known for its radical inclusion, wrote a letter of recommendation to President Storrs in Hudson. Fayette enrolled in 1832 when Western Reserve College was only six years old, and a year before Oberlin College was founded.
At Western Reserve, Fayette was an active student, participating in the college’s abolitionist activity. He requested to live off-campus, attended a revival, collected funds for the church, signed a petition in defense of a faculty member, served on a committee to attend a convention and graduated in 1836. He remained another year as a divinity student. Since abolitionist John Brown and his family lived nearby, those in the college would have known the Brown family. In his 1909 biography of John Brown, W.E.B. DuBois wrote that Fayette was a witness to Brown’s pivotal path to emancipation “when a Negro preacher named Fayette was visiting Brown and bringing his story of persecution and injustice.”
While a student, Fayette married a daughter of the founding family of Hudson, but she died shortly thereafter. Upon finishing his theology degree, he was married again in Hudson to Emily Preston, and in 1838 they had a daughter, Emelie Augusta. Fayette was given a missionary charge in Ontario, Canada, and the young family moved to what is now the city of Kitchener. There, Fayette started his own school, the Wellington Institute, where he taught the children of Mennonites, who went on to be prominent leaders of the area. After the school failed, Fayette was assigned to numerous Presbyterian congregations across Ontario, helping each to organize and sometimes build a church. While near Hamilton, he oversaw the construction of the 1847 Barton Stone Church, which still stands today at the site of a busy suburban intersection. Eventually, he became a naturalized citizen of Canada.
Fayette’s second wife Emily also died young, and he married a third time to Elizabeth Bartlett Forbes. In 1845, they had a daughter, Elizabeth Hyde Fayette. It appears that all three of his wives were white. He himself had many different racial identifications, being listed as black, mulatto, white and French at different points in his life. From the two photos that remain of him, as well as by accounts of those who knew him, his appearance led others to believe he had African ancestry. But his daughters’ descendants would identify as white.
Through the 1850s and 1860s, Fayette had a series of appointments with the Presbyterian Church, and with his family lived in many places across Ontario. When his daughters married, the extended family settled near London, Ontario, and he took leadership in the local schools. He retired in 1869. Elizabeth died in 1888, and Fayette lived with his daughter and son-in-law, a German bookbinder and bookseller and son of a professor of music. Fayette died on February 27, 1876, and is buried in Oakland Cemetery near the other leaders of the Presbyterian missionary movement in Ontario.
Fayette was not the only African American student in Hudson during that era – three other students, Richard W. Miller, Samuel Nelson, and Samuel Harrison, were students at the attached Western Reserve Academy. Harrison went on to be a chaplain in the Northern Army during the Civil War and was the subject of the PBS documentary, A Trumpet at the Walls of Jericho. But that’s another story…
During its first 10 years, The African American Alumni Association (AAAA)...
- Established the Reach Back, Raise Up Scholarship Fund for minority students
- Hosted biennial reunions with African American programming
- Presented awards to outstanding African American Alumni
- Doubled its membership
- Provided financial and moral support for student initiatives
- Improved communication among its constituents
- Increased visibility on campus
- Maintained relationships with OMA, OIEDO and other university offices
- Participated in search committees, panel discussions and other university activities
- Began archiving the CWRU African American experience
The AAAA is proud of what it has accomplished and invites you to join the journey. Fill out the membership form.
Pictured left to right: A. J. Stovall, Vera Perkins-Hughes (WRC ‘76), Fred Wheatt, Linda Berry Wheatt (FSM ‘72; GRS ‘77, education), LeVar Burton, Vincent Holland (GRS ‘79, sociology), and Ruby Holland. Photo by Dan Milner
Members of the African American Alumni Association (AAAA) were privileged to be in attendance at Case Western Reserve University’s Maltz Performing Arts Center when celebrated actor, director, producer and writer LeVar Burton added another accolade to his many honors. On September 19, Burton became the first recipient from the field of arts to be awarded the Inamori Ethics Prize. He received the award for outstanding ethical leadership and advocacy in children’s literacy and AIDS research.
“Beyond these enduring contributions,” said Shannon E. French, director of the Inamori International Center for Ethics and Excellence, “LeVar Burton made the world confront the inhumanity of slavery with his unforgettable performance as Kunta Kinte in the 1977 mini-series Roots and helped us imagine a better future as Jordy La Forge in Star Trek: The Next Generation.”
“In my mother’s house, you either read a book or got hit in the head with one,” said Burton. “If I’d been born in another century, it would have been illegal for me to read. There are few things more precious to me than the written word and the power of storytelling. I never want to miss the opportunity to hear a story that may change the world.”
With the exhibit The Soul of Philanthropy, the Cleveland History Center is changing the white-washed narrative around charitable giving. “Many times individuals don’t think of African Americans as philanthropists, givers or donors,” says Belva Tibbs, exhibit committee chair. “The community is seen as the recipient of the generosity of others, while in fact studies have shown that black households tend to give about 25% more than white ones.” With stories and photos from the book Giving Back by Valaida Fullwood and Charles W. Thomas, this traveling exhibit showcases the work of America’s black philanthropists in black-and-white portraits and will be on display through December 6, 2019.
A permanent offshoot of the exhibit, Celebrate Those Who Give Black, highlights Cleveland givers specifically. “It’s not just about millions of dollars,” says Tibbs. “It’s that people are willing to give significant time or share their talents to make a difference in this community.”
Congratulations to all being honored, including alumni Indigo Bishop (CWR ‘08, SAS ‘12), Donté Gibbs (CWR ‘10, SAS ‘12), Kathryn M. Hall, Phyllis 'Seven' Harris (MNO ‘05), Amanda King (LAW ‘17), India Pierce Lee (SAS ‘05), Robert P. Madison (ARC ‘48, HON ‘04), Joan Southgate (SAS ‘54), Teleange Thomas (CWR ‘02), the late Dr. Adrienne Lash Jones (GRS ‘79, GRS ‘83, American Studies) and the late Steve Minter (SAS ‘63, HON ‘89)
Pathways to Giving for Donors of Color, November 19, 2019, 5:30-7 p.m., Cleveland History Center, Free.
African Student Association’s Cuisine Expo, November 16, 2019
African American Society’s Ebony Ball, December 17, 2019
Steven A. Minter (SAS ‘63, HON ‘89)
Patricia Ann Taylor (WRC ‘77)
Want to see who else is involved with the AAAA? View a list of AAAA members as of June 2019.
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