Since 1923 • For a greater Loyola

The Maroon

Since 1923 • For a greater Loyola

The Maroon

Since 1923 • For a greater Loyola

The Maroon

NAACP showcases Black excellence in awards ceremony

Laci Barrow
NAACP editorial board at the Black Excellence awards on Feb. 23. Pictured (L-R): Makayla Hairston, Liana Tarte, Nyla Cunningman, Ashleigh Laws, Torron Brown Jr., and Akilah Toney.

The Loyola Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People hosted an awards ceremony to celebrate Black excellence on campus, which was a part of a week-long Black Excellence week coordinated by mass communication junior Taylor Pittman.

The week-long event hosted many events including a post-college panel hosted by Lemon Pepper and a “Love Hair” salon talk hosted by L.O.V.E.

The awards ceremony was one of the week’s culminating events to acknowledge all of the ways that Black voices, creativity, arts, and sciences contribute to the university.

Nyla Cunningham, president of the Loyola chapter of the NAACP, said “These awards were chosen based on the talent we see with the black community. We wanted to make sure that there was a broad spectrum of categories in order to make sure that everyone was included.”

The categories that were awarded include changemaker of the year, musician on the rise, singer on the rise, lyricist on the rise, dance and theatre arts award, STEM award, filmmaker award, griot award, visual arts award, and NAACP advancement of excellence award.

Cunningham said, “There is so much talent within our community that goes unnoticed and these awards provide an opportunity to honor that talent.” She also goes on to say, “I hope to accomplish creating a safe space where we are welcomed, celebrated, and honored by our own community. A space created for us, by us.”

She feels that the event was a complete success and that it will be back next year “bigger and better.”

Many of the event’s attendees shared similar sentiments, saying that the awards are necessary, and that there should be more events on campus to highlight the achievements made by students of color.

For criminology and justice freshman Paris Hayes, these awards mean a lot because it means that the Black community on campus is being seen, heard, and recognized.

She said, “I would love to see more events like this, this honestly means a lot, when I was watching everyone perform, dance, get nominated, accept their award, it felt encouraging for me to do more.”

The recipients of these awards have a mutual view on both the importance of events like these, and the fact that events like these exist mean so much to them.

Makayla Williams, president of the Black Student Union, said she sees the awards as a representation of hard work and excellence. She said, “I have put in countless hours and energy into all organizations I’ve been involved with. It is truly a great feeling and accomplishment to win the changemaker award.”

In the coming year, Williams will use what she has learned from her time at Loyola and her time as president of BSU and apply it to her masters program. She feels that she represents this category well through her efforts to shape BSU into the organization that it is today.

“This year while being the president of BSU one of my main goals was make BSU a safe space for all [people of color] on campus,” she said. “It was stated before that some students felt like BSU wasn’t inclusive to every black person on campus due to different friend groups, personalities, etc. It was my mission to change this and I think I have done just that.”

Jordan Bush, junior jazz studies major and recipient of the musician on the rise award is incredibly grateful for winning the award and recognizes the awards as a symbol that he is “doing something right.”

Bush said, “It gives a validation and platform to artists who are hardworking, creative, talented, and graced by God. I pray this community flourishes as we create, build and change this world that we’re in, through words, notes, movements, sculptures, every medium possible.”

He represents this award through the work that he does as a musician, “I play music, using instruments as a tool to express what’s in my heart and expose what’s in my mind.” Bush believes that his younger self, from ten years ago, would be proud of where he is now.

He wants everyone to know, “The dark places will not last always because joy comes in the morning. Seek companionship and community, find who you are safe with.They are out there. Don’t fear rejection as it builds resistance and gets you closer to the greatness destined for you. Love is abounding in quiet places. You are seen. You are heard. You are loved. Be blessed.”

Kennadi Allen, popular and commercial music senior and recipient of the singer on the rise award, feels that she represents this category through the work that she has done through her major. She proudly indulged in the opportunities that were presented to her, and as a result of her work with various Black artists, feels proud to continue the legacy that they have created.

For her, the singer on the rise award means perseverance. Allen said, “Aside from being a darker toned Black woman in a male dominated industry, there are many inconsistencies artists face. It’s well known to not be believed in unless you’re an established or signed artist. However, with the support system like the College of Music and Media at Loyola and the NAACP organization on campus, we’re appreciated and acknowledged by our peers and professors who look like us and see something in us.”

Jaylin Darby, theater senior and recipient of the dance & theatre arts award, feels that these awards show how much power there is in showing up for yourself and your community. In the coming year, she plans to exemplify this category by continuing her work in acting, directing, producing, and teaching theater.

Darby said, “To exemplify black excellence, it means showing up authentically and being excellent as you are and I have no doubt that the work I will do will display these values. I am excited for the art I will continue to make and the communities I will be able to serve.”

Darby’s mission is to continue to fight for underrepresented and marginalized voices, not just those in theater but all voices. She looks forward to pushing for a change through her many roles of dancer, future playwright, performer, and director.

To her, receiving the award shows that the work that she has done leading up to this moment has genuinely touched people. This award is a reminder, “to keep going and not for the sake of another shiny award, but for the sake of the people that are in need of the light that I am able to shine in this world.”

The recipient of the STEM award, biology senior Liana Tarte, represents her category through her work in the healthcare field. Tarte said, “Coming from an underrepresented background it made pursuing a career in healthcare really difficult. I often felt lost when I asked for help and had to advocate for myself way more than I realized any of my other white peers did.”

She now serves as NAACP’s health committee chairwoman and works as the clinical coordinator in cardiovascular research at Ochsner Hospital. For her, the award means a lot, but being a part of the NAACP means even more. Tarte said, “I love being a part of a national initiative that encourages the advancement of underrepresented minorities like myself.”

She is dedicating her life’s work to ensuring that other workers in pre-healthcare can have support while beginning their careers. In the coming year she plans to exemplify this award through her work at Ochsner, and continuing to serve as a resource for students and patients to break barriers.

Visual communication sophomore and recipient of the visual artist of the year award, Jamilah LeCesne is a photographer both in and out of school. Beyond that, through her work in photography she “makes people’s visions come to life.” For her, this award means being seen and recognized for the work that she does.

In this coming year, she is dedicating herself to, “making art and representing my school and fellow black artists as best I can.”

History sophomore Jeremiah Simmons said he sees the awards as something that serves to sow unity among the Black community on campus and to highlight the strengths that they bring to the university.

“[These awards] signify an acknowledgement of the efforts of the Black community.”

For a full list of winners, click here.

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About the Contributors
Pharrell Every
Pharrell Every, Senior Staff Writer
Pharrell Every currently serves as The Maroon’s Senior Staff Writer. Pharrell is a freshman English major with a concentration in literature, upon graduation he plans to establish a career in secondary education. In his free time he enjoys listening to music and reading books/articles. Pharrell can be reached at [email protected]
Laci Barrow
Laci Barrow, Photo Editor
Laci Barrow currently serves as The Maroon's Photo Editor. Laci is a junior mass communication major focusing on public relations and minoring in marketing. She loves connecting with her community through the art of storytelling. Outside of the Maroon, you can find Laci scoping out spots to take great landscape pictures and weightlifting. For inquiries, reach out to Laci via email at [email protected]

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