AAAA Summer 2020

President’s Message

You may write me down in history, with your bitter, twisted lies. You may trod me in the very dirt, but still, like dust, I’ll rise. - Maya Angelou

In August 2019, I was returning from a conference in Virginia Beach. I never would have imagined that things would be so different just one year later. Today, we are challenged to manage day-to-day life without becoming discouraged. As summer ends, there are still so many uncertainties ahead.


At the top of the newscasts are statistics on COVID-19, with deaths projected to be 200,000 by Labor Day. Our heartfelt sympathy goes out to all who have lost loved ones. The discussion continues about the best way to return to school, work and activities. The science appears to be getting lost.


8:46 – The time it took on May 25, 2020, for George Floyd to be killed while America, the world and four armed policemen watched. The final moments of Floyd’s life, his breathless words, “MAMA” and “I CAN’T BREATHE.” Ahmaud Arbery, killed February 2020, by a white ex-police officer; Breonna Taylor, killed by police March 13, 2020 – no arrests made as of August 24, 2020; Rayshard Brooks, killed by Atlanta police June 12, 2020… and the list goes on. We live in a nation that does not value black lives; we grieve with the families and pray for justice.


On July 17, 2020, the world lost a man of unyielding strength and conviction, veteran civil-rights and voting-rights champion Congressman John Lewis. Lewis believed that nonviolent actions could in fact give “Negroes” the right to vote. His tireless work helped pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964. We congratulate Democratic Vice Presidential Nominee Senator Kamala Harris on her historic nomination, yet the right to vote can only be realized when we get out and vote. Whomever your choice of candidate, I encourage you to vote in the 2020 presidential election. Even in this time of uncertainty, one thing remains sure. Your vote will help determine our future. Every vote counts.

—Vera Perkins-Hughes (WRC ’76)

#Masks for Community

Donte Gibbs, left

With the support of many local organizations and 140 volunteers, Shanelle Smith and alumnus Donte Gibbs (CWR ’10, SASS ’12), co-led #Masks4Community, an initiative which identified vulnerable neighborhoods in hard-to-count census tracts. With an original goal of providing 60,000 free masks to these areas, this coalition distributed over 77,000 mask kits in just two months to Cleveland and East Cleveland residents. Each kit included a washable cloth mask and a newsletter with pertinent COVID-19 information from MetroHealth, voting and census information from Cleveland VOTES, a children’s outdoor safety sheet from Trust Public Land, and a community letter urging residents to mask-up and social distance.

Residents and groups were able to request masks via the website: This is also where volunteers signed up for socially distanced sessions at Thirdspace Action Lab to assemble masks kits. Cleveland Cavaliers power forward Larry Nance Jr. and members of the Cavs organization assembled over 4,000 of those kits, which went to barbershops/salons, churches, Boys & Girls Clubs, food pantries, grocery stores, census and voting drives, small businesses, and more.

Supported by St. Luke’s Foundation and Cleveland Foundation’s Greater Cleveland COVID-19 Rapid Response Fund, #Masks4Community purchased masks from local sewing companies and printed materials locally. A diverse grassroots movement, #Masks4Community shows what can happen when community organizing and philanthropy meet foundational procedures. Follow this link to more information regarding #Masks4Community:

Say it Loud, I’m Black and I’m Proud

Shockley-Innis Debate, 1974 

What’s the soundtrack of your time on campus?

I could write a full article using titles of songs I used to dance to. My memories of Case Western Reserve University are sometimes distant and sometimes as if I were on campus yesterday. What I don’t remember — my professor’s names. I had little to no personal interaction with most of them. My speech communications advisor Joan Harley, however, was the exception. She was extraordinary, and I am still grateful for her teachings. When we African American students protested the debate between Ben Shockley and Roy Innis, the protest resulted in its cancellation. Shockley professed that Black people were genetically inferior. Harley said, while she clearly understood our feelings, a better approach would have been to have let them speak and then ask questions to expose the absurdity of Shockley’s argument.  She suggested that revealed idiocy leads to enlightenment.

While I like the idea that intelligent thought shines brighter, exposes lies, and weakens hate, sometimes I’m not so sure. Just as in today’s Black Lives Matter movement, I’m glad we protested. Protesting inhumanity and what matters is not really a choice. What is said matters because it influences what we believe, and what we believe can change our destiny. Protesting awarded us the belief that we had the power to change things, that standing firm against something offensive made a difference, and that we were stronger together.

- Erma Leaphart-Gouch (WRC ’75)

Congratulations, Kiyla!

Kiyla Cooper (CWR ‘20)

Dear Alumni,

Thank you for contributing to my university education. I am a 2020 graduate with a degree in accounting. I recently studied abroad in Auckland, New Zealand, and absolutely loved the experience. For the first half of 2019, I studied drama, biology, accounting and finance at the University of Auckland and participated in a number of activities outside of the classroom. My experience in New Zealand shaped me in more ways than I could have imagined and significantly influenced my post-graduation plans. I am currently pursuing my master’s degree in accounting at the University of Auckland via distance learning. I hope to return in person early next year to complete my degree.

Once again, thank you for your contribution to the Michael E. Fisher Scholarship, of which I was a recipient. I am truly appreciative of your generosity and will continue to make the most of the education which you helped make possible.

Kiyla Cooper

The Michael E. Fisher Scholarship, endowed by the AAAA in honor of the university’s first Black admissions officer, is one of many for people of color. To make a difference in another bright future, please visit the giving page.

Alumni Spotlight: Dr. Regennia N. Williams (GRS ‘01, History & Museum Studies)

Dr. Regennia Williams

Thirty years ago this fall, Dr. Regennia N. Williams enrolled in the College of Arts and Sciences’ Social History and Policy doctoral program and started a part-time job at the Cleveland Museum of Art. Thanks to the education that she received at Case Western Reserve University, she enjoyed a rewarding career as a teacher-scholar, having earned tenure and promotion to Associate Professor of History at Cleveland State University (CSU), where she was a faculty member for more than 20 years.

This year also marks the 25th anniversary of her successful launch of a CSU course that examined American history through the lens of Black sacred music. It was this course and related community outreach activities, domestic and international travel, research, and writing that inspired her to leave full-time teaching to pursue her dream of establishing and leading her own nonprofit organization.

That dream became a reality in 2016, when she moved to the Washington DC Metropolitan Area and established the Center for the Study of Religion and Spirituality in the History of Africa and the Diaspora (The RASHAD Center, Inc.), a small Maryland-based 501(c)(3) that is also authorized to do business in Ohio.

Williams’ work with RASHAD is informed by everything that she experienced during and since her graduate student days at CWRU.  After earning her PhD, she served as a Visiting Fulbright Scholar at Nigeria’s Obafemi Awolowo University in 2010, and a Fulbright Specialist in the Department of History at South Africa’s University of the Free State (Qwaqwa Campus) in 2019.  Other research and/or teaching-related travels have taken her to Austria, China and France.

It can be argued that in many ways Dr. Regennia N. Williams’ life has come full circle. A native Clevelander, this Spartan entrepreneur currently serves as the Distinguished Scholar of African American History and Culture at the Western Reserve Historical Society (WRHS) in Cleveland.

Through her work as a part-time consultant for WRHS and a long-time member of its African American Archives Auxiliary (AAAA), she has the opportunity to help the Auxiliary, which will observe its 50th anniversary in 2021, execute its mission of presenting outreach programming related to African American history, even in the era of COVID-19.  For example, when the WRHS Cleveland History Center closed temporarily because of the virus, Williams and other members of AAAA organized a series of online book discussions for Designing Victory: A Memoir (2019) written by Dr. Robert P. Madison, another CWRU African American alumnus. For Dr. Williams, the fact that this type of work is on-going in this historical moment is cause for celebration.

It’s not too late…

The African American Alumni Association (AAAA) encourages you to nominate yourself or other candidates for the 2020 AAAA Awards. Nominations must be received by 11:59 p.m. on August 31, 2020.

Please help us identify leadership for the African American Alumni Association  by making nominations for officers.  Self-nominations are encouraged.

Nominations must be received by 11:59 p.m. on August 31, 2020.

Questions? Contact Deborah Lewis-Curlee or Erma Leaphart at

CWRU Distinguished Alumni African American Artists Show

Front row, left to right: Georgio Sabino III (GRS ‘09, art education), Sandra Noble, Danny Carver (GRS ‘81, art history; GRS ‘94, art education), Anna Arnold (GRS ‘10, art education)

Back row, left to right: Gina Brent (GRS ’92, art education), Travis Williams (GRS ‘17, art education), Napoleon Dismuke (GRS ‘01, art education), Tucker White (GRS ‘91, art education), CWRU faculty member Tim Shuckerow, Jerome White (GRS ‘94, art education)  

While “everyday life is an art form” (Danny Carver), these accomplished alumni take art to another level. A recent story on the CWRU College of Arts and Sciences website celebrates retiring art educator Tim Shuckerow and African American alumni of the Art Education Program. They were featured in an acclaimed campus exhibition this spring, which ran from February 8, 2020 to March 6, 2020, in Gallery 102 at 2215 Adelbert Rd.

“This wasn’t like any other art show,” remarked artist Georgio Sabino III.  The CWRU African American Artists’ Alumni Exhibition highlighted the relationship between African American ancestral traditions and current cultural expressions, and was a unique collection of varied and diverse visions, the likes of which are rarely seen. There were creations from men and women, younger and older, painters and fabric artists, photographers, those who work in mixed media, and much more.

“I was thrilled to return to CWRU as assistant curator for this event,” continued Sabino. “Not even heavy snow on the evening of the opening reception kept 250 artists, students, faculty, alumni and new friends from celebrating our accomplishments as American artists of color. Among the guests were notable area artists Hector Vega, Ed Parker and Keith Berr. In addition to appreciating ancient African art and experiencing contemporary art from a northeastern Ohio perspective, celebrants enjoyed fantastic food and dancing to a reggae band; some even joined in drumming.

“Going forward, we are exploring whether the public or CWRU alumni communities would enjoy a traveling exhibit of this type in a city or gallery near them. We welcome and appreciate feedback from the community. Please submit your comments to"

Please follow the links to learn more about the artists, to view their stunning creations, and to experience the live show. Then, please share the links to bring the greatest possible attention to these gifted alumni.

Read the Arts & Sciences article.

Watch the video.

A Virtual Blast (Upcoming Events)

Join us in collaboration, with CWRU’s One to One Fitness, for a special Afrobeats Dance workshop. Together, we’ll learn Azonto, a dance style that originates from Ghana, West Africa. This upbeat style of dance is typically performed for recreational or entertainment purposes and creates movements from significant terms or actions and daily activities. The Azonto dance style gave rise to the current Afrobeat dance style, with a majority of movements taken from Azonto steps.

The class will be taught by Christian Mintah, a  third-year MFA in contemporary dance student at CWRU. He is a dancer/choreographer trained in West African (Ghanaian) traditional dances, African contemporary dances and popular African dance (commonly known as Afrobeat dance).  No prior dance or fitness experience is necessary.

Thursday, September 17, 2020
Register today!

Homecoming 2020

Given the continued uncertainty surrounding COVID-19, this year’s Homecoming will be held virtually, instead of on campus. Join us online as we celebrate the CWRU community, connection, and culture. More information will be provided in early September.  We look forward to seeing you on October 8–11, 2020. We have an exciting weekend planned!

Want to see who else is involved with the AAAA? AAAA members as of August 2020.

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