AAAA Winter 2016

President's Message


‌‌As some of you know, I sit on the board for a professional theater, which prides itself in offering productions that give insight into human behavior and social issues. Last summer, the musical 1776 by Sherman Edwards was produced to capture the delight when the compromise was made and the Declaration of Independence was signed. The audience was elated and clapped, even though everyone knew how the story ended. The North and the South reached a compromise that allowed slavery to continue. However, an important insight seemed to go past most of the audience. It is ironic that these men were willing to go to war because of “taxation without representation,” but voted to continue slavery without one slave present or represented. Their vote continued the enslavement of thousands for another eighty-nine years. Would it not have been better for the slave to forgo the revolution and stay under British rule, which abolished slavery in 1833 with a stroke of a pen and no civil war?

The idea that it is acceptable to compromise the liberties of some groups to give others the illusion that they are better and more entitled is simply wrong. It was wrong in 1776, and it is wrong now. Compromising the ability of certain groups to participate fully as citizens has been so woven into our collective thinking from the beginning of this nation that it is difficult to unravel and it continues to be acceptable for the rights, privileges and dignity of some citizens to be minimized.

For the last several decades, there has been a push toward diversity and inclusion that seems to threaten some. But many of us live diversity and inclusion every day and see the greatness of America in the interactions of her people. Recently, CWRU alum Ernestine Patterson and I were at a restaurant when the man sitting behind her passed out. Ernestine, a graduate of the Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing, sprang into action, as did the entire restaurant.  Within minutes, there were three doctors and four nurses available. Patrons moved tables to allow for the EMT, and staff waited outside to give them directions. Someone even comforted the man’s wife. Though it had not been practiced, in a matter of minutes a community acted on behalf of a member, without regard to race, creed, sexual orientation or socioeconomic status.  We were a team, a very diverse and inclusive team.

This is the America I live in, and this is the vision of our greatness. We respond to each other with care. Great leadership doesn’t look backward to former glory, but continues to prepare for future challenges by pushing forward towards excellence.

In this holiday season, let us be reminded that greatness is about how we conduct ourselves today and how we prepare for what is required of us to be great in the future.

Happy holidays, everyone!

—Linda Sharpe-Taylor, PhD (WRC '78)

Homecoming 2016 Highlights


Inclusivity · Excellence · Community · Scholarship · Legacy

‌‌‌‌Welcome Reception

The core values of the African American Alumni Association (AAAA) were in evidence October 14-16, 2016, during Homecoming Weekend, as beautiful weather enhanced well-planned events.

More than 40 people, including current students and their parents, played group games, consumed delicacies, perused yearbooks and jammed to the music at Friday’s welcome reception.

At the statue of Stephanie Tubbs Jones, prayers to fulfill our purposes and remembrances of others gone too soon were offered. Seasoned alumni, who had entertained mixed feelings over the years, thanked the #webelonghere movement for the realization that, indeed, we belong here.

Membership Meeting

The Tubbs Jones family was in attendance, the class of ’75 was well-represented and things just continued to get better. The Reach Back-Raise Up Scholarship Fund raised $12,000 in a matter of minutes. Goals for 2017-2018 were chosen, including a fully-funded $500,000 scholarship account and a 25 percent increase in AAAA membership. Also, the following board members were elected:


Linda Sharpe-Taylor (WRC ’78), president

Vera Perkins Hughes (WRC ’76), vice president

Marian Bryant (CWR ’10), secretary

Ernestine Patterson (NUR ’98, GRS ’03), treasurer


Debra Lewis-Curlee (WRC ’74)

John Patton (WRC ’75)

David Smith (WRC ’75)

Tiarra Thomas (CWR ’12)

Melvin Washington (CAS ’89)

Stephanie Tubbs Jones Residence Hall


As part of this year’s Homecoming  celebration, the university honored one of its most distinct alumni with the dedication of its newest campus residence, Stephanie Tubbs Jones Hall.

The dedication included remarks from members of the CWRU and Cleveland community. While Stephanie’s son Mervyn Jones Jr. fittingly referred to his mother as one of many titans in their Cleveland-area community, CWRU President Barbara R. Snyder highlighted Tubbs Jones’ commitment to and tremendous impact on our university, as well as our nation, and Cleveland Mayor Frank G. Jackson praised her loyalty and ethics. Additionally, AAAA president Linda Sharpe-Taylor called Tubbs Jones a trailblazer, ambassador and bridge builder.

Makela Hayford, African American Society president and co-founder of the #webelonghere movement that pushed for this recognition of Tubbs Jones, called her hero. “It is a huge honor to be here today to celebrate Stephanie Tubbs Jones,” said Hayford. “As students in the African American Society and the #webelonghere movement, we are all humbled to speak her name and to find ourselves connected to her. For us, today represents a moment in our movement that is celebratory. As student activists, or just activists in general, you learn to cherish days like these because they are rare, and because they remind you why you do what you do… So shine on forever, Stephanie Tubbs Jones, you’ll be forever in our hearts.” 

Read Makela’s inspiring speech in its entirety:

Pictured above from left: Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson; Mervyn Jones Jr. and his daughter, Stephanie; CWRU President Barbara R. Snyder; Linda Sharpe-Taylor, president of the African-American Alumni Association; and undergraduate student Makela Hayford, president of the African American Society

Dinner Dance and Awards Banquet


Members and guests of the AAAA returned this year to the beautiful Cleveland Skating Club for the bi-annual dinner dance and awards banquet. Following a delicious meal and preceding the sounds of Robert “Line Dance King” Johnson, attendees met the outstanding 2016 African American Alumni Awards recipients.

Rising Star Award winner Dr. Kari Cunningham (DEN ’10, DEN ’12), was introduced by Sara Fields, director of alumni relations, CWRU School of Dental Medicine. Dr. Cunningham is the only African American pediatric dentist practicing clinically in Cleveland and the first pediatric dental specialist in the 46-year-history of the NE Ohio Neighborhood Health Services, where she works to educate patients and give back to the community. Dr. Cunningham believes “service is the rent we pay for living on this earth.” In her eighth year of teaching dental anatomy to pre-dental students at CWRU, she is living her motto, “each one, reach one, teach one.”

The Ella Mae Johnson Service Award was presented to Donald Freeman (ADL ’61) by Janice Eatman-Williams (MGT ’01, SAS ’01), who commended the educator and civil rights activist for 50 plus years of service to CWRU and the greater community. In the 1960’s, Mr. Freeman participated in sit-ins and wrote publications for the freedom struggle. For more than 30 years, he and wife Norma taught youth at Cleveland’s League Park Center, and they remain committed to the development of that area. Mr. Freeman has assisted CWRU’s Dr. Rhonda Williams with her City as Classroom course and was the keynote speaker for the first Social Justice Think Tank.  He attends many campus events and every Cleveland school board meeting.

Dr. Vincent Holland (GRS ’79) was honored to accept the Stephanie Tubbs Jones Leadership Award, named for a woman he knew since he was 18 years old. He credits Tubbs Jones with bringing out the best in him and always admired her faith, generosity and ability to be a friend to all. Like Tubbs Jones, he has chosen to live in the city where he grew up. Dr. Holland was the first African American chief probation officer of Cuyahoga County and is a past co-chair of the Cuyahoga County Re-entry Coalition. He taught swimming for 16 years at the YMCA and served on Glenville’s community development board.  The award was presented by Naomi Sigg, director of the Office of Multicultural Affairs, one of several CWRU offices that Dr. Holland supports with his time and money.

Inspirational Breakfast

We ended Homecoming Weekend by taking a moment to reflect during the Inspirational Breakfast. Parents expressed gratitude for the caring African American alumni and staff they had met and the campus support their students receive.

After the traditional libation ceremony and a delicious buffet, keynote speaker John W. Patton Jr. (WRC ’75) reminded participants that, even if they are in a place of hurt, they can be a divine appointment for someone God has placed in their lives. “Stephanie Tubbs Jones experienced relationship, career and health difficulties, yet still was a blessing to others.” Advised Patton, “Reflect on these:

*This promise from God - you will have tribulation

*This command from God - be of good cheer

*This fact from God - I have overcome the world …

Then you too can be an angel for someone else.”

2016 CWRU AA Alumni Reunion Survey

‌‌‌‌We're conducting a survey in regards to our 2016 CWRU AA Alumni Reunion weekend. Your input would be appreciated. Please select the link below to start the survey. Thank you for your participation!

2016 CWRU AA Alumni Reunion Survey

Student Affairs

The Ebony Ball


The African American Society’s 43rd annual Ebony Ball brought students, staff, alumni and friends to the Cleveland Airport Marriott Hotel on December 10 for an elegant evening of enlightenment and fun. 

Poets Arik Stewart and Eva Barrett and soloist Lawrence Wright reinforced the theme of the occasion, Royalty: Proclaiming Your Identity, through their moving presentations.

President Makela Hayford encouraged the audience to “see the royalty in yourselves and others.”

Activist and educator Shemariah Arki used everything from hip-hop to scripture in her keynote address to emphasize that we “are a chosen people… a people belonging to God.”  1 Peter 2:9.

Concluding remarks were followed by dancing.

Reach Back, Raise Up


‌More than 84 percent of all undergraduate students receive some type of financial aid. Providing scholarships to students enables CWRU to be as competitive as possible in recruiting the most academically qualified students, regardless of their financial circumstances.

Join the AAAA board in celebrating our past and investing in their future. Support this worthy and ambitious effort! Learn more about Reach Back, Raise Up.

Donations can also be mailed to:
College of Arts & Sciences
10900 Euclid Ave.
Cleveland, OH 44106-7068

Save the Date!

Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration Events

February 1, 2016 – Noon

Deadline for the new MLK Reflection Competition. 


February 3, 2016 - 12:30 p.m.

Margot Lee Shetterly, author of the best-selling book, Hidden Figures. 

Tinkham Veale University Center


February 23, 2016 - 4:30 p.m.

Former Spelman College President Beverly Tatum, PhD, author of, Why Are All The Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria.

Wolstein Research Auditorium



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