AAAA Newsletter - Spring 2021

AAAA Spring 2021

President’s Message

Photo of Vera Perkins Hughes








“I have learned over the years that when one’s mind is made up, this diminishes fear; knowing what must be done does away with fear.” ~Rosa Parks


I hope all is well. The COVID-19 pandemic has certainly taken its toll on our families and friends, however, I believe that the vaccines give us reason to hope. Let’s continue to take care of one another.    

In March, we celebrate Women’s History Month, remembering women who have impacted our lives. For me, this list of women begins with my mother and extends to the women of CWRU and beyond, Justice Melody Stewart, The Honorable Stephanie Tubbs-Jones, Dr. Marilyn Mobley, Dr. Joy Bostic, Dr. Cassi Pittman-Claytor, and the women featured in this newsletter to name a few.  I applaud Rosa Parks, who refused to give up her seat and started a movement; Coretta Scott-King, who fought for human rights for more than 50 years; Katherine Johnson, the brilliant NASA mathematician whose calculations were so exact that John Glenn orbited the earth only after she gave her equation for a successful reentry; and Kamala Harris, the first female Vice President of the United States. I am excited about what the future holds for our daughters and for all women.  Whether the field is politics, STEM, the humanities, entrepreneurship or construction, the glass ceiling has been broken. The sky is the limit!

- Vera Perkins-Hughes (WRC ’76)
President, African American Alumni Association

Democracy 2.0

The 21st year of this century started with COVID-19 continuing to create the worst pandemic since 1918, when influenza claimed 20-50 million lives. In addition, three major domestic events occurred, the 3 i’s “–insurrection, inauguration, and impeachment – each of which not only consumed the news, but our everyday conversation. How have they influenced the way we live out democracy?

United States institutions are in crisis. We can see the world more clearly. The same problems are everywhere – border wars, caste, poverty, etc. Political systems cannot manage human relationships; populism dominates many political frames; and the intentions of sons and daughters of slave owners and benefactors of slave systems, in view throughout American history, are on display and undeniable once again. 

Who is responsible? How do we resolve the contradictions in forging a democratic union? What are we polarized around? Can the disparate impact on Black people be quantified? These and other questions will guide our collective (and together we must) resolve and approach to build a society where full citizenship is afforded to all, even within varying partisan leadership. Issues abound within the 3 i’s. The remaining question is “What role will you play in moving our society forward”?
- Marquita Stephens (WRC ’74)

Meet the Mock Trial Team

CWRU Law Mock Trial Team 2021 - Nadia Haile, Sally Enoh, Shalanda Plowden, Makela Hayford

The February 10, 2021, article from the CWRU School of Law spotlighted the four members of the Black Law Student Association (BLSA) mock trial team and their victory at the regional competition. See the article here. We decided to get a bit more personal with advocates Nadia Haile (2L), Sally Enoh (2L), Shalanda Plowden (3L), Makela Hayford (2L).

Second-year law student Nadia Haile is from Kalamazoo, Michigan, and was drawn to the International Law program. Now, she is targeting Food Law and Policy as a career. Her competitive spirit came into full view when she exclaimed that during a different mock trial competition, the BLSA CWRU team crushed the other team from CWRU! 

Sally Enoh is also a second-year law student and hails from California. Ambitiously, Sally is in the Health Law program and is also pursuing a medical degree. She started her career at CWRU at the law school and will pick up more classes at the medical school as she gets many of her law requirements under her belt. Sally then wants to be involved in social justice issues while treating patients.  As for her mock trial team, she says they bring that #BlackGirlMagic. Everyone brings different and necessary strengths to the team.

Shalanda Plowden is a third-year law student and has wanted to be a lawyer since she was in elementary school. When asked why CWRU Law, she responded that she was interested in International Law and was a recipient of a scholarship in that discipline. Though she was prepared for the rigors of law school, being from Louisiana she initially was not ready for winter in Cleveland. Shalanda loves mock trial and has been excited to see the exponential growth in herself and her teammates. Her future goals are to litigate within a community development clinic.

Makela Hayford, second-year law student and BLSA CWRU chapter president, earned the award for best advocate among the all competitors in the Midwest regional competition. Makela is from the Kansas City Metropolitan area. She is a 2018 graduate of the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences (MSASS) and recipient of the Louis Stokes Fellowship in Community and Social Development. Her path to CWRU began with parents and relatives calling CWRU the “Harvard of the Midwest.” Makela plans to practice Social Justice law. 

The team participated in the national rounds of the Constance Baker Motley Mock Trial Competition from March 3-5, 2021. They won two of their three preliminary rounds, losing only to Harvard, and did not advance to the semi-finals. Harvard went on to win the championship. Thank you, Nadia, Shalanda, Sally, and Makela, for representing CWRU so well. Kudos!

- Pippa Carter (LAW ’88) 
Vice President, African American Alumni Association

Clockwise from top right: Nadia Haile, Sally Enoh, Shalanda Plowden, Makela Hayford

Congratulations, JoAnna! 

Antique photo of John Sykes Fayette and his wife

On March 8, 2021, JoAnna Rusely (CWR ‘94, SAS ’95) became the first winner of the new Quad A Quiz by correctly identifying John Sykes Fayette as the first documented African American student to attend Western Reserve College (now part of CWRU). Look for a new trivia question on the AAAA Facebook page every first and third Monday and message us your answer by Thursday for a chance to win a prize. Follow this link for more information about Fayette.

(Photo: John Sykes Fayette and wife)

Black History Month Highlights

Heather McGhee

Heather McGee

In her keynote address at the Martin Luther King Jr. Convocation on February 5, 2021, public policy expert Heather McGhee referenced Montgomery, Alabama’s 1959 decision to close its park system for ten years rather than to let blacks swim in the pools. “We’re all sitting in a drained pool today”, said McGhee, “because racism has a cost for everyone. Just as an acorn from an old oak tree holds the seed to recreate that same tree, the past is not in the past.” The video of the Convocation is available until April 15, 2021. Watch the video of the 2021 MLK Convocation.

Donna Brazile 

Portrait of Donna Brazile

The Office of Inclusion, Diversity and Equal Opportunity featured author, professor and political strategist Donna Brazile in its February 9, 2021, Power of Diversity lecture. Brazile spoke of the impact of women on national politics, from Sojourner Truth through Fannie Lou Hamer and into the present. “Visibility is viability,” said Brazile. “The new face of American politics is female. A record 144 women are now serving in Congress, a 50% increase from a decade ago. We need more women and more young people to serve. Why you? Because there’s no one better. Why now? Because tomorrow is not soon enough.”


Clarence Bozeman

Clarence Bozeman

African American Alumni Association board members Sharyse Jones (MNO ’08) and Brian Webster (CWR ’11) facilitated a community conversation with Clarence Bozeman on February 18, 2021. The civil rights lecturer and former chauffeur for the family of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. discussed his first-hand experiences while driving for the Kings from 1958 until 1960. During this time, Bozeman had the rare opportunity to share in private thoughts and conversations, discussing among other things religion, civil rights and education with Dr. King. The program ended with a question and answer period. You can view the entire program here

Know Your Neighbors

Know Your Neighbors logo - an illustration of gold silhouettes of people standing side-by-side over the blue words Know Your Neighbors

Know Your Neighbors CWRU is a student-run campaign to build community between CWRU students and residents of local Cleveland and East Cleveland neighborhoods. Its goal is to recognize the negative effects of past historical outcomes, establish positive relationships between students and residents, and cultivate mutual pride. The students and residents work to engage local Cleveland residents and CWRU students through a multitude of initiatives, including monthly discussion meetings, a one-to-one buddy system, and a pilot program to bring local residents into CWRU writing classes as guest lecturers.

Know Your Neighbors CWRU has hosted student-resident discussions once a month since August, with more than a dozen students and a dozen residents continuing to discuss facets important to building positive, sustainable and long-term relationships.                        

The buddy system has recently kicked off, where each interested local resident is matched with a CWRU student “buddy,” with the goal of facilitating the formation of personal, meaningful, one-on-one relationships. Over a dozen pairs have been formed, and buddies have begun getting to know each other virtually. These personal connections are what will drive the slow cultural change within the university student body, away from an “us” versus “them” mentality where local neighborhoods and their residents are stigmatized and taboo, toward a culture where students view local residents as neighbors with whom they can form meaningful relationships, even without the help of our program.

Know Your Neighbors CWRU also piloted a program to match CWRU writing course professors with local residents in the community who have expertise or knowledge in the content area of the course. This past semester, Know Your Neighbors connected thirteen CWRU professors with local residents to share their insight with students. Residents shared not only their knowledge related to the course content, but also about their lives and experiences in the Cleveland community. This direct connection between Cleveland community members and the classroom breaks down imaginary barriers and encourages meaningful discussions. Ultimately, more than 200 CWRU first-year students were reached by the pilot program this semester.

All CWRU community members — alumni included — and members of the broader Cleveland and East Cleveland communities are encouraged to engage with our work and learn with us about how to build bridges. The next student-resident discussion meeting will be hosted via zoom on Wednesday, April 7 at 6 p.m. EDT. Contact us at and follow our Facebook page at to stay up-to-date on how to become involved in our successful initiatives.               

- Nicole Palmer

Young Alumni Spotlight

Photo of Alexzondria Carter

Alexzondria Carter (left) graduated from CWRU in 2016 with a Bachelor’s Degree in biochemistry. She is currently pursuing a Master’s Degree in Cosmetic Science from the University of Cincinnati. Alex is an R&D Chemist at Sherwin Williams, where she helps with the maintenance and development of paint products. Her fondest CWRU memories include the Thwing Study Over and the Unity Banquet. In her free time, she enjoys reading, traveling, and shopping. 

Alex advises current students to get experience outside of academia, and even outside of their majors, while in college. Whether volunteering or working part time, this expands breadth and sharpens people skills. It is also a great way to connect beyond CWRU. 

What surprised Alex most about CWRU is the broad spectrum of cutting-edge classes and technology available. She is just now seeing translate into industry many of the applications she learned about in college.

The biggest lesson her work life has taught her is to give everything her all. Especially in industry where many people seem to know one another, a reputation for doing projects well is a boost to a career. It is beneficial to have positive recognition associated with one’s name. 

The Social Justice Institute 

The Social Justice Institute at Case Western Reserve University strives to support social justice leaders on and off campus, investing in research and expanding relationships in our campus and broader community.

In a society wrought with blatant discrepancies, SJI supports and facilitates social critique and civic engagement to identify the causes and consequences of injustice while seeking solutions.
Providing a distinctive educational opportunity for students, scholars and community members, the institute ensures that the university and its neighbors are poised to better understand the role of education, development and policy in bringing about social change.

To better service the needs of the entire community, and build bridges across differences, SJI is seeking to raise $6,000 in support of this important work.

Your support of SJI will fund two strategic priorities—the Graduate Student Fellowship and Community Scholar in Residence programs. These initiatives will provide resources for student research projects that serve populations near our campus and beyond.

Through these programs and other ongoing efforts, the Social Justice Institute works to provide equal access for all people, while addressing the root causes of and developing innovative solutions to social justice. To learn more and give please visit our site.

Save the Dates

March 24, 2021, 6 – 7 p.m. EDT
Women of Wonder: Sharing HERstory - Bettye C. W. Kearse, MD, PhD (MED '79), author
Register for Women of Wonder

4th Friday of the month, beginning March 26, 2021, 7 p.m. EDT
Virtual Game Night with Black History Jeopardy
Register for Virtual Game Night

March 30, 2021, at 6:30 p.m. EDT
Profiles of Inclusive Excellence: Carolyn Harmon, PhD
Register for Profiles of Inclusive Excellence 

April 8, 2021, 7 p.m. EDT
Afrobeats Dance Workshop, Part II 

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 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

Blaine Taylor (WRC ’75)

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