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College of Humanities & Sciences

Department of African American Studies

Black History in the Making 2017

March 10, 2017

[View Image]African American Studies instructor Chioke I'Anson presents Interior Design student Dara Merritt with a certificate.


The Department of African American Studies hosted its annual Black History in the Making ceremony on February 15, 2017.

The Black History in the Making award is given each February to exemplary students who have made an impression in their departments. The award was established in 1983 by Dr. Daryl Dance, the distinguished scholar of African American and Caribbean literature who served as Program Coordinator during the 1983-1984 academic year. Each January, academic departments and units are invited to participate in the award by selecting recipients. The Department of African American Studies coordinates the award and hosts the ceremony.

Departments develop their own criteria for the award, but recipients are usually chosen for their strong academics, their professional ambitions and achievements, or their volunteer work.

This year a total of 40 students students were selected by 26 departments and units to receive awards. 38 students received the Black History in the Making award and one received the History department’s W. E. B. Du Bois award, which is also awarded at the Black History in the Making ceremony. In addition, African American Studies has selected Danyel Smith and Akea Robinson to receive scholarships.

This year, African American Studies was honored to have Dr. Daryl Dance attend as a guest. Seats were full with with students, faculty, and recipients’ friends and family. Faculty from the participating departments presented the award to their recipients. VCU jazz students Nathanael Clark, Nick Davidson, and Benjamin Kelly provided live music.

Recipients include both undergraduate and graduate/professional students, and represent a broad range of experience, ambitions, and areas of study. Regardless, common themes emerged as the awards were presented. The recipients are driven students who have made the most of their experiences at VCU and who have not shied away from pursuing their goals. Ways that they have demonstrated that drive include going above and beyond in the classroom, performing impressive research or internship work, embarking on ambitious career paths, and demonstrating a passion for social justice and helping others. Those who have worked with these students have faith that they will go on to do great things.

Shawn Utsey gives opening remarks at the 2017 Black History in the Making ceremony. [View Image]African American Studies interim Chair Shawn Utsey, PhD, giving opening remarks.


Tamika Akhidenor is given the Black History in the Making award. [View Image]Shawn Utsey presents a sankofa statue to African American Studies recipient Tamika Akhidenor.

 Clara Owens receiving the Black History in the Making award. [View Image]Patient Counseling recipient Clara Owens accepts her award.


[View Image]Elaine Williams poses with an award engraved for her by the School of Social Work.


[View Image]Public Policy and Administration recipient Michael Perkins.‌


[View Image]Gender, Sexuality and Women's Studies recipients Zaza Willis and Ayanna Ogaldez celebrate with friends.


A list of the 2017 recipients:


Tamika Akhidenor (African American Studies)

Jasmyn Abrams (Chemistry)

Calvin Bartelle (Criminal Justice)

Hailey Belleperche (Statistical Sciences and Operations Research)

Julian Bobb (Chemistry)

Denzel Boyd (Graphic Design)

Cortney Calixte (School of Social Work)

Kamali Charles (Chemistry)

Jelani Drew (School of Social Work)

Nicole “Nikki” Fernandes (English)

Meredith Franklin (English)

Gwendolyn Griffin (Urban and Regional Planning)

Stephen Guyton (Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness)

Selamawit Hailu (Psychology)

Christina Hairston (Communication Arts)

Mitchell Harris (Health Administration)

Mariah Hines (History -- recipient of the W. E. B. Du Bois award)

Emerald Holman (Dance)

Jaz-Munn Johnson (Biology)

Ciara Jones (Health Administration)

Ibrahim Keita (Public Administration)

Jordan McFarlane (Global Education Living Learning Program)

Dara Merritt (Interior Design)

Ashley Moody (Graphic Design)

Ayanna Ogaldez (Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies)

Kelechi “KC” Ogbonna (Health Administration)

Clara Owens (Patient Counseling)

Michael Perkins (Public Policy and Administration)

Nancy Sey (Psychology)

Danyel Smith (Global Education Living Learning Program)

Raven Smith (Chemical and Life Science Engineering)

Kiana Snekcim (School of World Studies)

Hermella Tessema (Mathematics and Applied Mathematics)

Zurashwork Tewlde (Global Education Living Learning Program)

Elaine Williams (School of Social Work)

Zaza Willis (Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies)

Morgan Woody (Art Foundation)

Christine Wyatt (Dance)

Midian Yohannes (Political Science)

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