AAAA Summer 2021
I began the year 2021 with great expectations, excited to get the newly developed Pfizer vaccine, so that life could begin to return to normal. A recent sign of normalcy for me was the 2021 CWRU Black Graduation. It was wonderful. Congratulations to the more than 70 graduates who participated! You overcame the many obstacles thrust upon you in 2020 to successfully complete your coursework and earn your degrees. Watching the commencement was an awesome reminder that “every great dream begins with a dreamer” and within each of us lies “the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world” (attributed to Harriet Tubman). It lets me know that when unexpected crises come, we are a resilient people and with everyone pulling together, great things can happen. I am so proud of our many African American alumni and CWRU faculty, students and staff who continue to work together for everyone’s betterment. I’d like to spotlight just a few.
On June 19, 1865 (Juneteenth), Union Army Major General Gordon Granger stood in Galveston, Texas, and issued the order declaring “all slaves are free.” The lengthy interval between the issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, and the day when black Texans learned of their liberation symbolizes the continued delays in achieving full racial equality in America and serves as reminder that there are ideals toward which we still need to strive.
In that vein and in commemoration of the significance of Juneteenth, the university was closed on Friday, June 18, 2021. Interim President Scott Cowen and Executive Vice President Ben Vinson III encouraged the CWRU community to “seek to understand and be understood and to act in meaningful measurable ways to become the inclusive campus community we know we can be.” The Office for Inclusion, Diversity, and Equal Opportunity sponsored and publicized many events inspired by Juneteenth. I hope you were able to participate in some of them.
Another person working to level the playing field is BOSS (Business Of Student Success) founder and CEO Everett Glenn (LAW ‘77). I first met Everett when we came to CWRU in Upward Bound, a program for underrepresented urban high school students entering college. Everett was always outgoing and enthusiastic about life. Now he uses that passion and his experience as a successful sports attorney to turn dreamers into achievers. The BOSS program provides STEAM-focused academics, financial literacy, leadership and life skills, and non-cognitive skills development for boys of color who show promise in sports. To learn more, visit https://www.bossprograms.org/our-program/.
Whatever your dream and however you access your strength, patience, and passion to reach for the stars, and change the world, I wish you much success and a very safe and happy summer.
- Vera Perkins-Hughes (WRC’76)
President, African American Alumni Association
Case Western Reserve University recently celebrated the graduation of the class of 2021. In recognition of our students, on May 28, 2021 the African American Alumni Association and other campus offices sponsored the 6th Annual Black Graduation ceremony. Miquela Hampton, Vice President of Programming for the Black Student Union, served as emcee. The event, held in-person for graduates, was streamed live for friends, families, and other guests.
The ceremony was a powerful one – the remarks to students were beyond outstanding. Graduates were addressed by Dr. Heather E. Burton, Senior Director for Faculty and Institutional Diversity, who encouraged them to do something we all should aspire to do – look forward while reaching back. Dr. Burton reminded us that, per the honorable W.E.B. Du Bois, “Education must not only teach work; it much teach life.” After being presented with stoles and African American Alumni Association pins, students were addressed by new alumni Undergraduate Senior Speaker Allan Willman (CWR ‘21) and Graduate Speaker Robyn Boyd (SAS ‘21).
Graduates received final words of wisdom from keynote speaker Alesha Washington, (MNO ‘07), Program Director of Vibrant Neighborhoods & Inclusive Economy at the George Fund Foundation. She shared three life lessons for them as they continue on their journey. First, be who you are, and understand the value that brings. No one can take that away. Second, we need others to help us through our journey. We need community, strategic alliances and others that we can trust. Cultivate a diverse set of relationships. Finally, we must care for ourselves. We can’t “set ourselves on fire to keep others warm”. Rest when you need to, but journey on.
The African American Alumni Association congratulates the class of 2021. Welcome to the Quad A family! We encourage you to stay engaged with us and the university. We could not be more proud of all of your accomplishments.
The 6th Annual Black Graduation Ceremony can be viewed here.
Tiarra Thomas (CWR’12)
Renowned attorney and activist Fred D. Gray (LAW ‘54) was recognized for his pivotal role in the push for equality in a virtual program sponsored by the National Archives Foundation on June 10, 2021. The program, entitled Destroying Segregation: The Personal Mission of Civil Rights Attorney Fred Gray, was well-attended by the CWRU community and others who appreciated the opportunity to hear from a man who not only witnessed our shared history, but helped shape it.
Audience members were treated to rare first-person accounts as Gray chronicled the struggles and landmark victories of the civil rights movement. Though perhaps best known for representing Rosa Parks, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and the victims of the Tuskegee Syphilis Study, Gray has spent nearly seventy years working to right the wrongs of injustice and change the fabric of this nation. Most textbooks of constitutional law include the impressive list of civil rights cases that Mr. Gray has won.
In response to a viewer’s question, Gray urged today’s young people to get involved. Said Gray, “Young people have always played a vital role in the civil rights movement. Claudette Corbin, Dr. King, John Lewis, and I were all young when we became involved.” He stressed the importance of non-violence for those seeking to rid the world of racism and inequality and urged everyone to keep pushing “until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream”- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
My great-grandma Mary was born a slave in 1853. Her remains are buried in a location marked by an engraved headstone. During a visit to the cemetery, I noticed an overgrown area where unfinished, unmarked stones indicated burial sites of persons now unknown.
Fifteen years ago, CWRU Black Alumni sought a way to support African American undergraduate students and to ensure that our legacy would not go “unmarked.” After conferring with several fellow Flora Stone Mather Class of 1971 graduates, I coordinated an effort to raise money for an endowed scholarship in honor of Michael E. Fisher, an African American counselor who was instrumental in ensuring the success of Black CWRU undergrads in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s.
African American Alumni Association (AAAA) members raised just over the $25,000 initial principal amount needed, and the Michael E. Fisher (MEF) Scholarship Fund was established in December, 2006. Since the principal amount of an endowed scholarship is protected, the fund can exist indefinitely. Through this fund, annual scholarships, modest but appreciated, are given to African American students in their second year of study.
The AAAA members who initially funded the scholarship and others continue to contribute as they are able. Yet, many of us are now at the stage of pondering details for the distribution of our assets, however small, when we shift to our “marked” resting places in the next life. I would like to challenge alumni who are financially able to consider designating an amount of their life insurance or other assets to the MEF Scholarship Fund, through beneficiary designation or by will. This will ensure that our footprint at CWRU will continue to grow, even after we are gone. No amount is too small; all gifts are significant enough that future generations of students and alumni will notice, ask questions about the Fund’s history, and appreciate the trails that AAAA members have blazed. For more information on legacy giving, please contact the Office of Strategic Giving. Donations may also be made online or sent directly to Case Western Reserve University, Attention: Advancement Services, 11000 Cedar Ave, Room 300, 44106.
- Sandra Allen (FSM’71, GRS’72, education)
The 2020-2021 Michael E. Fisher Scholarship recipient, Zhara D. Edwards, thanks you for your investment in her education. Zhara is an ambitious student, majoring in Medical Anthropology, with an intended minor of French. Her interest in healthcare and public health, with a focus on family wellness and mental health, may lead her to also double-major in psychology. A pilot fellow of the Schubert Center Research Fellows program, Zhara works with Dr. Faye Gary on research projects regarding the Provost Scholars program and public health disparities. She is also the Public Relations representative for the African American Society, a Collegiate Connections mentor, and a Spartan Ambassadors host.
Zhara has been accepted to the Summer Health Professions Education Program for public health at the University of Iowa, and is waiting for her application decision from Columbia University's Summer Public Health Scholars Program. In the future, she plans to get a Masters of Public Health degree through the Integrated Studies Anthropology B.A/MPH and work in the field of public health. She is also considering eventually going to medical school.
The CWRU African American Alumni Association (AAAA) hosted a virtual wine tasting event featuring wines from the Winery At Chateau Hough on Thursday evening, June 10, 2021.
The vineyard and winery at Chateau Hough are located in the heart of the historic Hough neighborhood, equidistant between downtown Cleveland and CWRU’s home in University Circle. Who knew there was a winery so close to campus?
The evening opened with a video and remarks from Mansfield Frazier, founder and General Manager of the winery and Executive Director of the non-profit Neighborhood Solutions, Inc. Frazier discussed the founding of and vision for the winery and its relationship to the non-profit organization.
The mission of Neighborhood Solutions, Inc. is to improve the quality of life of Hough community residents--“to use innovative educational and entrepreneurial strategies to encourage, prepare and assist at-risk youth, veterans, and those returning to neighborhoods after incarceration; to create greener, healthier and wealthier places to live, work, and raise families.” Château Hough is owned by the non-profit, which trains and employs formerly incarcerated individuals. Mr. Frazier, a native Clevelander, resides in the Hough community with his wife.
The very personable winery hostess Ashley Smith conducted the wine tasting. She began by quizzing guests with trivia questions about wine. What a fun way to learn about wines and wineries! AAAA had pre-selected four wines from the Chateau Hough list, which event guests had the option to purchase in advance of the event—Moxie, semi-sweet; Sunset, rose; Flame, dry red; and Roast, coffee. Ms. Smith discussed wine (food) pairings as guests tasted each of the wines. Comments from guests included: “This was great, thank you!”, and “Thank you, also, for your impact on the community.”
For more information visit www.chateauhough.com.
- Marilyn Maultsby (WRC ‘75)
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