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2021 Black Faculty + Staff Awardees


Congratulations to the 2021 Black Faculty and Staff Award recipients!

Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion  •  March 3, 2021

Congratulations to the 2021 Black Faculty and Staff Award recipients! In collaboration with the Utah Museum of Fine Arts; Black Faculty & Staff Association; Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion; and Lucid Software, the Black Cultural Center (BCC) celebrated their second anniversary and honored Black faculty and staff for their work on campus and in the community. With each award presentation, the Black Cultural Center aims to promote examples of excellence and amazing charges of upholding the four university goals.

This year’s Black Faculty and Staff Awards also recognized the BCC’s founders and original supporting staff and honored them for their community leadership and commitment towards establishing a center that seeks to holistically enrich, support, and advocate for faculty, staff, and students through Black-centered research and culturally-affirming educational initiatives.

Transcript

Meligha Garfield: Good evening, and welcome to the second annual Black Faculty and Staff Awards, a night to honor Black faculty and staff for their work on campus and in the community. Tonight we will showcase, award, and promote examples of excellence, amazing charges, and upholding the four university goals as well as celebrate the second year anniversary of  Black Cultural Center at the University of Utah.

This event came together because of a partnership between the Black Cultural Center at the University of Utah; the Black Faculty and Staff Association at the University of Utah; Utah Museum of Fine Arts; Lucid; and the Division of Equity, Diversion, and Inclusion at the University of Utah.

Together, our goal was to bring awareness of Black faculty and staff at the university whose teachings, research, support and innovations may go unnoticed here at the university — especially where Black faculty in higher education across the nation is well below average (at just a little under 5 percent) and the retention of Black staff at predominantly White institutions are declining year after year.

Thank you all for supporting this important event and helping us create a more diverse campus not only for students but for faculty and staff as well.

Now, a few words from my co-host for the evening, Alex Francis-Riggan, co-chair of the Black Faculty and Staff Association here at the University of Utah. 

Alex Francis-Riggan: Thanks, Meligha!

I’m so excited to be here presenting awards to amazing staff and faculty here on campus. For those of you who may not know me, I’m Alex Francis-Riggan, the co-chair of the Black Faculty and Staff Association along with my co-chair, Dr. Paula Smith. Thank you, everyone, for being here tonight to help celebrate the achievements of some great individuals here on campus.

I know that at last year’s event I never would have thought that this year’s ceremony would be on zoom due to a pandemic, so extra kudos to the awardees for leading during these hectic times.

I’d also like to say a huge thank you to Meligha for spearheading this event and making it awesome as a virtual awards ceremony — as you’ve seen with the music and the slide show. And I’d also like to thank the sponsors who helped make this event happen as well as campus and community members attending tonight.

Now we will have a few words from Ruth Watkins, president of the University of Utah

Ruth Watkins: I am delighted to join you for the 2021 annual Black Faculty and Staff Awards celebration. I want to express my appreciation to the Black Cultural Center for hosting this event with the Black Faculty and Staff Association and Utah Museum of Fine Arts. Now in its second year, this event allows us to honor Black faculty and staff for the work not only on our campus, but also in our community.

We are marking the second anniversary of the Black Cultural Center on our campus, and I want to acknowledge the many years of work that went into making the center a reality. The need for the center was clear long before the events of the past several years and the protests of last summer in particular, but those events have heightened its importance on our campus. We have a sharpened awareness of the depth of systemic racism in our country and of the duty we have — particularly those of us in positions of power and who are White allies — to resist and dismantle it.

Meligha, as director of our Black Cultural Center, you have created a home, a gathering space, and a safe space for our Black community. You are delivering on the promise of what the center can be, and in doing so you are making this campus a better, more welcoming place for students, faculty, staff, and community members. I want to acknowledge and thank you for the hard work you are doing with your team.

Tonight, we are honoring faculty and staff who have led by example. For some, that effort has focused on helping our students succeed and improving and building community both on our campus and beyond it. Others have promoted social justice in their scholarship and activism and, as exemplified by Maya Angealou, some have innovated new approaches in our services and operations that advance equity, diversity, and inclusion at the U.

Our honorees are inspirational change agents who see what we could be as a university and community and are dedicated to that transformation. The work our honorees do often go beyond their prescribed roles at the U. It takes extra time, energy, passion, and commitment to do what they do. For that, you have my deepest gratitude.

This has been a year of nationwide recognition of how short we are of achieving the goals of our most visionary Black leaders. We have much work to do, and that requires assurance that there will be ongoing investments in the center’s work and in nurturing the next generation of Black leaders — the primary aims of the George Floyd Memorial Fund we launched last summer.

I want to close by congratulating our honorees, and, again, thanking all of you who are participating in tonight’s celebration.

Meligha Garfield: Alright! Thank you, President Watkins. She wanted to be here, but she couldn’t. But this also works as well, and I love it. Thank you. Alright, next we will have a few words from Dr. Villarreal, the Vice President for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion at the University of Utah.

Mary Ann Villarreal: Good evening, everyone, and welcome. I want to also extend — before I start moving along — extended my congratulations to all of our awardees tonight. 

I should have listened to President Watkins video before speaking, because she took all my words about the Black Cultural Center, but this is what I’ll say: The Black Cultural Center is well on its way to ensuring that it is a hub, a center, and a place of gathering for our Black community. And I want to assure you that we will continue to do everything within the division of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion to not only support Meligha, but to support the growing programs within the Black Cultural Center.

There are many people tonight who we’re celebrating, and I want to say that some of those folks I pick up the phone and I call. For example, Dr. Paula Smith (when we were in a phase of where we were going to go with the Black Cultural Center) who stepped in, who offered guidance, who met weekly, who helped me to understand how it is that we could better serve not only our campus but our community, and Dr. William Smith when I needed to do some work with our Athletics program who stepped in as our former far and who did not at all ever hesitate in saying that he would help me in this work. I’ve seen Nona Richardson up here who has led within our athletics division an incredible social justice work to ensure that the work that we do with Athletics is about equitable-minded practices and social justice, and I can go on and on.

But that is the community that has not only existed, but continues to grow strong at the University of Utah. And I’m very grateful that people allow me the space to work alongside with and for our Black faculty, staff, students, and community members. I want to acknowledge that this year we had JaTara Smith, who had been with our Black Cultural Center, take a position at the MPA Program as the program manager, and JaTara, I never got to say congratulations and I’m saying it now, congratulations, a huge loss to the Black Cultural Center, but exactly what the MPA Program needed from her talent. So thank you for serving the Black Cultural Center from it’s initiation through this last year.

I also wanted to say that one of the things I was able to do this year was hire two special assistants to the vice president of equity, diversity, and inclusion — that would be me! One of those, that would be Daniel K. Cairo, who is the special assistant on strategy and operation, and  the other great privilege I had is hiring Ms. Emma E. Houston. I was able to steal her away from Salt Lake County Government, and while her portfolio is large that is helping me change the culture at the University of Utah, a part of her portfolio is also leading and helping me launch what will be the first Black Advisory Council to the vice president for equity, diversity, and inclusion. I know she will continue that work with other groups across campus. Through the leadership of BSU’s Maryan Shale and her executive team and ASUU leadership team, they asked for — at the end of last summer — was a Black Advisory Council, and while it’s taking us some time, I think that what we have done is we created a council that speaks to all the needs and inclusivity of our campus and our community partners. So, I’ll be excited when we have that finally on our website inviting our community to participate in the Black Advisory Council.

And finally, I want to say that one of the pieces we all know with the departure of President Watkins is that the work that we have to do there’s no turning back. We are moving forward, we are moving fast.

I had the opportunity to interview Dr. Thomas Parham — if you don’t know who he is, he’s the president of California State Dominguez Hills — today for another organization I belong to, and one of the things that he reminded us is that we are part of a marching band. This is not the time to go solo on any instrument. I’m actually not very good on an instrument; don’t worry I’m not going very far without you, but I cannot go very far on my own tune. This is a tune that we play together. This is a tune that we invite many. So thank you, again. Congratulations to all of you, and I look forward to watching the event unfold tonight. 

Meligha Garfield: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you, Dr. Villarreal. Now we will have a few words from Gretchen Dietrich, the executive director of the Utah Museum of Fine Arts.

Gretchen Dietrich: Hey everyone. Good evening. I am super honored to be here tonight to celebrate the Black Cultural Center and to recognize and promote the excellent work of our distinguished colleagues on campus. Over the past year and a half, the UMFA has had the pleasure of working closely with the BCC to prepare and present the amazing exhibition Black Refractions: Highlights from The Studio Museum in Harlem now on view in the museum’s galleries. It’s a very special exhibition that features a hundred artworks from nearly 80 artists of African descent from the 1920s to the present, and it’s drawn from one of the world’s most acclaimed collections. The Studio Museum in Harlem was founded in 1968 and has been a nexus for national and international artists of African descent ever since.

Director Garfield has worked super closely with UMFA staff to create wonderful programming and campus and community outreach. He contributed one of the six audio commentaries that offer perspectives on individual works of art in the exhibition from Black community members, and you can hear those in the galleries and on our website. Through this partnership, the UMFA hopes to contribute to the BCC’s work of building a sense of belonging and community at the U and to support its goal of increasing the recruitment and retention of Black faculty, staff, and students. This work is important to the museum’s mission and to our commitment to advancing anti-racism in our work. Black refractions closes on April 10th this year, but we’re so delighted to continue and strengthen our partnership with the BCC over time. The museum is super honored to support tonight’s event, and we are excited to celebrate and share the innovative work of Black staff and faculty with our audiences.

While we would have loved to host all of you in person in the museum tonight, we are super grateful for the increased access that a virtual event like this one provides, and if you’re able to visit the museum, we invite you into our galleries for a moment of reflection, connection, and pure joy so hop on our website and make your reservations for tickets in advance of your visit. If you’re not quite ready to visit, be sure to check out our website for all the great virtual online programming that Meligha has been working with us to organize. Congratulations to the amazing people being honored here tonight, and thanks so much for all you do to make our community and our campus all that it is. Be well and stay safe, everyone, and I hope to see you all soon. Thanks so much. 

Meligha Garfield: Thank you so much. Thank you so much, Gretchen. Alright, so I know you all want to get started with everything. We’re gonna get into the nitty-gritties, so here we go: the road to the BCC. 

[Recordings from speakers at the Black Cultural Center’s Open House fade in and out.]

We’re witnessing history in the making as we begin to open the University of Utah’s first ever Black Cultural Center…The book of Ecclesiastes of the Bible says, “it’s a place and a time for everything,” and today at this place, at this time, is the place and time for this cultural center…I’ve been wiping down tears all week, so yeah, just bear with me and we’ll get through this and it’ll be great, so good afternoon…I would like to personally say thank you to those that formulated the vision from the beginning…As I was preparing this speech, I drew back to my earliest memories of attending the U…to the students, to all of those of you who have made this possible, and today we all come to celebrate as we bless the place that has been provided. We thank you for their involvement their idea and their pursuit of that idea…and then Afro-American, a few years after the movement, on the campus of the University of Utah joined other campus movements in demanding their human rights, their community rights, and their educational rights…it was in the latter part of the sixties that a few Black students on this campus formed the Black Student Union, a student group formed to provide a sense of belonging and togetherness to a small number of Black students. 

Meligha Garfield: When two student leaders approached their advisor about the creation of an affinity space at the University of Utah, all involved understood the impact and importance of this work. After several anti-Black incidents at the university, Black Student Union (BSU) students Alexis Baker and Barbara Kufiadan were anxious to expedite research and strategies on establishing such a space following initial discussions at an open forum in 2015. With their advisor and Black Faculty and Staff Association member Portia Anderson, the BSU representatives soon joined forces with Romeo Jackson and Vivian D’Andrade from the Black Graduate Student Association along with support from other faculty and staff such as Dr. William and Paula Smith on campus to write a proposal for a Black Cultural Center (BCC) at the University of Utah.

Now, two years after the opening of the BCC, the transformative voices and legacy of these five co-founders continue to resonate across our campus and community. Tonight, I have a small discussion with the five co-founders and their thoughts on the process of what came to be in putting together the Black Cultural Center. Before then, I would like us to turn our attention to Dr. Steven Bell as he talks about Dr. Afesa Adams and her contributions as the first AVP of Diversity here at the University of Utah. 

Steven Bell: Thank you, Meligha. I am pleased and very honored, and I thank you as the director of the Black Cultural Center and all of the people involved in the BCC in honoring my mother and me. So I will just say a few words about Dr. Afesa Adams.

Dr. Afesa Adams, PhD in 1975 at the University of Utah, helped positions in higher education for 40 plus years. Dr. Adams, a.k.a. the Godmother of Diversity at the U, began as a teaching fellow here at the University of Utah. One year after completing her terminal PhD degree, she served as the acting chair in the Department of Behavioral Studies at the University of Florida. Just think, one year out and becoming chair of a department! Because Dr. Adams is my mother, I can say this is not the only beginning of her taking over and being the boss.

In 1984, Dr. Adams was serving as the department chair in the Department of Family and Consumer Studies at the University of Utah when she was approached and promoted to serve as the associate vice president for academic affairs, what is now Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion.

As the diversity vice president, Dr. Adams began or promoted programs that brought to the floor groups who were discriminated against, underserved, dismissed, unacknowledged, and overlooked. The following programs are programs that Dr. Adams began as the associate vice president of academic affairs: the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. University of Utah Celebration, Black History Month events, Women’s Week, Days of Remembrance: Commemoration of the Holocaust, administrative support of what is now CESA, and Utah MESA MEP programs and consortium.

Relevant committees that Dr. Adams served on were chair of Caucus of Black Faculty and Staff, 1975; President’s Commission on the Status of Women, 1976; Caucus of Black Faculty and Staff Task Force on Faculty Recruitment, 1977; and an awardee of fellowship to minority and women graduate students 1977.

Dr. Adams was a lifetime educator, activist, and trailblazer. Upon my observation every moment of the day if Dr. Adams was engaged with another person she was continually educating. 

To our honorees this evening, my mother Dr. Afesa Adams would say “congratulations,” and then she would say, “what are you going to do next?” Thank you.

Meligha Garfield: Thank you, thank you for those kind words. Her legacy is amazing here at the University of Utah. We should recognize that often, and so I just thank you for sharing those words. We always need to recognize that as far as Dr. Adams here at the University of Utah, so thank you.

Now into our discussion with the co-founders. Alex, I’m going to read the first introduction. 

I’m going to stop sharing my screen now we’re going to go to the panelists for tonight. Me and Alex are going to piggyback off each other and announce each co-founder. Here we go. 

Alright, first we have Alexis Baker, graduate student, Black Student Union graduate advisor, and the Black Graduate Association vice president at Florida State University. Alexis Baker (she/her) was born and raised in Utah. She graduated from the University of Utah in 2019 with a BS in Health Promotion and Education and a minor in African American Studies. She has had a passion for advocating for Black students and keeps activism and social justice at the forefront of everything that she does. Her goal is to leave every university she’s a part of a little better than when she arrived. Currently, Alexis is attending Graduate School at Florida State University where she will be receiving a MS in Higher Education in Spring 2021.

Alex Francis-Riggan: Okay and now we have Barbara Kufiadan (she/her/hers) she’s a graduate student at the University of Texas in Austin. Barbara Kufiadan is particularly passionate about diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) and its practice in both the public and private sectors. She has had experience evaluating these practices through professional experiences, field-research, and personal student advocacy at her previous institution: the University of Utah. Ultimately, she intends to pursue a career where she can utilize her passion for DEI to foster more opportunities, healthy work and life experiences, and bring awareness to the injustices and struggles of marginalized communities.

Meligha Garfield: Awesome. Awesome. Awesome. Next, we have Portia Anderson (she/her). Anderson is the director for administration and diversity, equity, inclusion at the College of Architecture and Planning. Portia is a first-generation college graduate that was born and raised in Chicago. She has been involved in equity and inclusion work for more than eight years in various capacities within higher education in areas such as residence life; student life; academic advising; and diversity, equity, & inclusion (DEI). At the center of her work, Portia is passionate about creating opportunities to enact justice, increase diversity, and practice equity in order to foster inclusion. She believes in empowering the voices of students of color so that they can contribute to sustainable institutional changes that positively impact their communities.

Alex Francis-Riggan: Next we have Romeo Jackson who is the assistant director of social justice at the University of Nevada Las Vegas and a PhD student at the Colorado State University. Hailing from the southside of Chicago and the grandchild of Gracie Lee Fowler, Romeo Jackson (they/them) is a first-generation, Queer, Black, Non-Binary Femme dedicated to intersectional justice and cross-movement building. Their research, writing, and practice explore Race/ism, anti-Blackness, and Settler Colonialism within a Higher Education Context with an emphasis on the experiences of Queer and Trans Students of Color. Romeo is committed to uplifting and empowering queer and trans people of color through a Black queer feminist lens and thanks Audre Lorde for keeping them grounded as a whole person in a world committed to tokenizing their identities for agendas not aligned with their politics.

Meligha Garfield: Vivian D’Andrade is an assistant director of student life at City University of New York. (Alright!) After eight years of working in non-profits, the U.S. Army Reserves, and higher education, Vivian D’Andrade (she/her) has gained breadth and depth in inclusive and operational excellence. She has designed global e-learning professional training courses on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) for NASPA and delivered 60+ data-driven and theory-informed workshops in-person and via virtual platforms. Vivian received her M.Ed. in Educational Leadership and Policy in 2018 from the University of Utah where her service and commitment to equitable futures touched multiple organizations across the campus. Her work continues to engage DEI, student advocacy, and college governance.

Welcome the panel, the co-founders of the Black Cultural Center. Let me stop sharing my screen and we’ll go to some questions for you all tonight. Alright.

So again, Alex, we’re gonna piggy back off of each other. We’re gonna do this thing! We’re gonna do this thing! So the first question I have for you all is, what have you been up to since co-founding the Black Cultural Center? This was a story, so what have you been up to since then? 

We can go in our order; we can start with Alexis.

Alexis Baker: Alright. Hello, everyone. I’m so happy to be here and sit in a zoom room of such iconic movers and shakers. I’m just really blessed and happy to be here with all of you. So as far as your question Meligha, what am I up to now? I am currently in Tallahassee Florida finishing up my master’s degree. They just announced graduation, and we will be having an in-person ceremony, so I’m very excited about that — April 18th — and I’ll be done. I’m just currently working with students here in university housing. I’m working with the student government of university housing and doing programming and implementing diversity and inclusion initiatives that haven’t been here, and just looking for a job, so if anyone has any plugs let me know. 

Meligha Garfield: I like that. I like that. Next, Barbara, what have you been up to since co-founding the Black Cultural Center?

Barbara Kufiadan: I have been also in graduate school, so I decided to continue my education along with Alexis getting a master’s in public affairs. I’m at the LBJ school at UT Austin and still continuously doing diversity, equity, and inclusion work internally trying to make sure that our processes and everything are more diverse and having a more diverse student population. I’ve been working with the Center for the Study of Race and Democracy under the directorship of Dr. Peniel Joseph, and we’ve been doing a lot of social justice research. So that’s been a key aspect of my graduate program as well as working for the Teacher Retirement Systems of Texas where I serve as a diversity, equity, and inclusion intern there. I also recently started an Instagram page called Black Grad Girl (@blackgradgirl) to inspire other Black girls who are thinking about going to grad school and just to give more tips and tricks about all the stuff no one told me about before I went to grad school. I’m like, I wish someone would have told me this so I’m very excited to share that insight. Also like Alexis, just looking for a full-time opportunity in diversity, equity, and inclusion once I graduate in May, so also if you have a plug, please let me know and keep us in mind. 

Meligha Garfield: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Alright, Portia, what have you been up to? Making big things out here in these streets?

Portia Anderson: Where have I been? I’m still here at the University of Utah! Hi, everyone. Good evening. It is so great to see all your lovely faces. Since co-founding the Black Cultural Center, I have obviously been here at the University of Utah and Salt Lake City. The work never stops so just continuing to grind it on out. I was in the Center for Ethnic Student Affairs for about one year after and then transitioned over to the College of Architecture and Planning. So there,  I have been very heavily busy with, you know, kind of just changing our diversity, equity, and inclusion practices for faculty hiring staff hiring. Then I remained involved with advising the Black Student Union — until the lovely Shauvana Munster joined — with my co-advisor JaTara Smith. That was a fun journey for an additional year. Thank you, BSU! Being involved in the community, supporting the students, supporting the center in any way that I could while still being on campus. 

Meligha Garfield: Alright. Romeo, what have you been up to? Doing it big? Doing it big out there?

Romeo Jackson: First and foremost, I’ve been minding my business, okay, and drinking my water, okay? That’s first and foremost! In addition to that, after I graduated from the University of Utah I moved to Vegas — University of Nevada Las Vegas to be the lesbian gay bisexual transgender queer and gender program coordinator. I got a fake promotion like two months ago, so now I’m the assistant director for social justice, kind of overseeing our outreach, education, and mentorship programs. I also decided to start a PhD program in the middle of a pandemic, because I clearly don’t love myself in that way. So I’m excited to be doing that under the leadership of Dr. D-L Stewart. Yeah, that’s kind of a high point. I bought a couch! This is my first real couch. I feel like a real adult now that I bought a couch, so I feel like I’m growing a bit in that sense too. 

Meligha Garfield: All right, last but not least Vivian. 

Vivian D’Andrade: Hi, everyone! Since graduating from the U, I moved out to Boston to be a coordinator of diversity, equity, and inclusion at a small liberal arts college there. I wrote DEI curriculum and managed a training calendar. Then I made my way home to New York City — where I’m from — to serve within the CUNY system, which is an amazing community college system in New York. My work is really still about DEI — surprise, surprise — student advocacy, and also college governance. I will be starting my PhD in urban education this coming Fall.

Meligah Garfield: Awesome. Awesome. You all are doing amazing things. What’s the next question?

Alex Francis-Riggan: Seriously! I’m so inspired by what everyone’s doing. I’m like, “I gotta up myself, okay?”Okay, so in the planning phase of the BCC when did you guys realize that you were working on something so much bigger than yourselves? Vivian, let’s start with you and then we’ll go backwards. 

Vivian D’Andrade: You know in reflecting on the process, I think first as a Black woman, and I think also as a Black queer woman, my life has always been about something more than myself, right? My mom is on this video today, and I definitely want to attest that she raised me to, you know, be thinking about my life in proximity not only to my family but to my community as a Black woman and also history. So I think that I’ve always just had that type of consciousness, and when Barbara and Alexis invited me to be part of such an amazing project. I knew that this was gonna be something that wasn’t just about what’s happening on lower campus versus upper campus. It wasn’t gonna be something that I physically got to enjoy knowing that I would graduate, so it was something that I felt connected me to feature Black communities on campus and also of course a great legacy. It wouldn’t have been possible if it weren’t for our collective legacy of resilience and resistance. 

And I think that’s so important to share that the Black Cultural Center was not a University of Utah, you know, inspired event.They just came up with it and some board meetings meetings, right? It was a group of Black people who were struggling, who were marginalized, who were excluded from so many tables, and we decided to make our own table. We, you know, over brunches and after-hours meetings and strategizing, really created something that just connected us so broadly to so many people, and I think will forever now that it has been institutionalized.

Alex Francis-Riggan: Thank you for that reflection. That is so powerful. I love the connection, you know that you’ll have forever, because you were part of this, to future communities. Romeo?

Romeo Jackson: Yes, I think I’ll start with my grandma Gracie Lee Fowler who passed in December of 2019 and who embodied a sort of generosity that I never understood. I was, you know, I remained perplexed by, you know, my grandmother grew up in the Jim Crow South and had a capacity for love and generosity and care that is inspiring. It’s aspirational still, because I ain’t that girl, that way, you know, my default position. I also, as a Black queer person, felt the call to make the Black Cultural Center had attention to Black queer people’s experiences, you know? We’ve always been involved in Black liberation. We’ve always been at the forefront of Black liberation.

I have to shout out Lex and Bar, you know, this really is their baby, and I think they invited us along the way. It was always bigger than me. I think as a graduate student, I was learning how to transition from being maybe the student leader to supporting student leaders, and this provided a masterclass in that on how to step back, shut up, do the research, and support to bring in Black women right who really had vision of what the Black Cultural Center could be at the University of Utah. 

Alex Francis-Riggan: Beautiful, Romeo! Thank you. Okay, and Portia?

Portia Anderson: For me I would echo what’s already been said, but I mean, it really does start with the foundation of where I’m from. It starts with what my vision and passion and values are. Experiences supporting Black students at the University of Utah in a predominantly white state (Utah) you know, it was very important to kind of listen when Barbara and Lex approached me and talked about their experiences on a daily basis just knowing the struggle of what it is to navigate the campus knowing that I also came from, you know, an area where obviously there was more diversity, but I still went to a predominantly White institution. Just knowing that was the key — the importance of knowing that there were people before us right that also advocated for this — but in the present time of what we were experiencing it was critical for me to act. I couldn’t just sit there and not do anything even if it was: “okay, let’s come up with a research list who we’re gonna call. Okay, what can I do to help?”

It really just was inspired from these two beautiful individuals, Barbara and Lex, and it was always bigger than all of us. But especially in that moment, is when I realized “okay, well, we’re doing this. So let’s jump on, and get it done.” There were no doubts in my mind that this wasn’t going to come to fruition — at some points it felt like that — but I was mentored and taught better than that, so I knew just with the faith that we had, the determination, the resilience that this was going to come to pass. 

Alex Francis-Riggan: And it did, and it’s beautiful!I love the BCC. Okay, Barbara, we’ve heard a lot of praise about you, so tell us you know? When you realize that this was bigger than yourself?

Barbara Kufiadan: I realized it was going to be big because Alexis said…first, when I first met Alexis, she said, “I want to have a Black cultural center on campus.” I said, “a what…a what? How do you think this is about to happen?” It was just bigger than I ever, ever thought. I couldn’t fathom the idea of it happening to begin with, and so I think throughout our time of activism on campus and journeying together and really going through the struggle together — finding a sister in that struggle — and just really understanding that we were people who wanted to make the experience better.

It didn’t matter how long it took. It didn’t matter how many letters you had to write. It didn’t matter how long we had to sit at Presidents Circle. It didn’t matter what we had to do. We would just always make sure that the experience was better for Black students to come, and I think that’s what matters the most to me. That’s what kept us going throughout the entire moment, and I never once thought of it just being for students. I think that’s why you see that this has been such a collective is that we always thought about who are the faculty who can advise us throughout this experience, who are the graduate students we want to give us advice, who are the staff?

I always said I wanted it to be for students, faculty, and staff, and the community like the greater Salt Lake community. I think that it has served its purpose as that, but to be honest, I think that starting in 2017 when stuff kind of got really rough on campus and it just felt like we were living through hell with a whole bunch of racism happening and it just being abrupt and abrasive in our faces like that, I think that really propelled the sense of “we have to do this. We have to make this bigger.” So from the beginning, it’s always been this huge idea that I didn’t think was fathomable, but it’s been great and I’ve always known that I can be bigger than us. We never got to really enjoy it, it’s always been for others, and I think that’s what honestly kept us going. 

Alex Francis-Riggan: Thank you for that, Barbara. Okay, Alexis, when did you realize that it was bigger than yourself?

Alexis Baker: Well, I guess first I just want to echo what everyone else has said. I think y’all summed it up very beautifully, probably better than I could have. I guess the first thing that I remember actually having written down, “we need a Black cultural center,” was at the town hall meeting in 2015 and that happened after everything at Mizzou was going down. And, you know, the University of Utah said “okay, let’s have this town hall meeting. We’re gonna have a march. It’s gonna be great.” I don’t think anyone was prepared for the activism that happened that day. That was the day that myself and the president of the BSU at the time first spoke, “we need a Black cultural center. That’s what we need.”

I don’t think it was really real until I met Barbara, and Romeo, and Vivian, and Portia, and we sat in a room with a blank word document and we were just like, “okay, what do y’all want?” And they looked at me and Barbara, and we were like, “okay let’s get this going.” Dr. William and Paula Smith also helped us with what we needed to put into that document, and it turned out to be — what y’all? — like a 30-page document proposal that we literally slept on the President’s desk and was like, “hey, let us know in a week what you want to do because we’re ready.”

I just think in moments like that, that’s when I realized okay, like this is a big deal. The fact that we are in the President’s office every week. The fact that the President knows our first and last name and what our majors are based on just like the ruckus that we caused them. Throughout the timing there, that’s when I realized alright like, “it’s go time” and then just bring it full circle to the end. Being there and at the ribbon cutting and speaking, I was like, “dang, this is something that I feel like almost can’t be repeated again,” because it was just such a special moment and it was a huge win for the whole Black community at the University of Utah. Like Barbara said, this wasn’t something that we just wanted for the BSU. This is something we wanted for every single Black body at the University of Utah, and just to see that it still gives me chills to this day. I am tearing up just talking about it. 

Alex Francis-Riggan: Thank you. I love it. I think that your guys’ good trouble came to fruition. Look at it now, right? The BCC is here, and you guys had amazing contributions, so thank you so much.

Meligha Garfield: Yes, and Alexis you kind of talked about student activism. The next question we have is what are your thoughts on student activism being an integral part to shaping institutional change? Are there any advice or words of wisdom you would give to students who are trying to shape this change?

Alexis Baker: I think something that was said to me and Barbara a lot while we’re at the University of Utah was that students have a lot of power, and in that moment I was like, “dang, yes, but students shouldn’t be the only ones fighting for these things. I didn’t understand; this should be the work of everyone,” but now that I’m in this paraprofessional role working with BSU here at Florida State, I see what they meant. Students really do have a lot of power, and a lot of the time students don’t realize it, or know what to do with it, or how to even just navigate it. In all reality, you can get whatever you want. You really can. You just got to be strategic, and you got to be connected, and you have to know who you’re working with and how that system works. 

Unfortunately, because systems of higher education like universities are not built for Black people. It’s hard for us to figure out what that navigation looks like, and thankfully me and Barbara had people in our corner all across campus who could break that down for us. I think that’s what’s important. If any student, any Black student, on any campus wants to be an activist, you have to understand your university, and you have to know who your allies are. Your real allies. I think from there you can have whatever you want as long as you’re strategic. 

Meligha Garfield: Right. Barbara, what are your thoughts on this?

Barbara Kufiadan: Yeah, I would say a similar thing. I think mentorship is the most important aspect. I don’t think that we would have had the courage to be able to say or do most of the things we did if it wasn’t for Black professors who really let us know — who poured into us. For example my very first Black professor ever was Dr. Smith, and he poured into me and really let me know that I can be successful at the University. It was still small things — you know, like having a Black advisor like Portia constantly letting you know that you can do these things — is what really helped us as students to find the courage to say, “here’s our 30-plus, page document of a proposal for building, and I don’t care if you have to build it from the ground up, but here you go. Make it happen.” I think that came from just knowing that as students your experience is very important; you spend your money at this institution, and you spend a lot of time, and you’re actually there for a degree.

In all of that, I know that there were nights where Lex and I had been crying or had been tired. I still have PTSD from some things and just really trying to navigate those raw feelings in the moment when you’re trying to coordinate with other student groups. I think that’s something I would say for sure: coordinate with other student groups. Coordinate with other Black faculty and staff that you may not know. There’s people like Tasha who really sat down and laid out the hierarchy for us; she told us exactly who was who, who we needed to talk to for what. So we really had connections, and a whole bunch of departments just based off of us trusting Black faculty and staff to really guide us and give us a history of stuff that we didn’t know about in the past. 

I would say, first, get your history because it’s really important to know what happened before you came. A lot of the things that students are working on are things that students from years ago have asked for, but maybe weren’t able to really put them into fruition. Know what happened, what went wrong, fix that, trust in the people that you have on campus, and get a group of people who are passionate alongside you to make things happen.

I didn’t think I would see [the BCC]. I didn’t think I would step foot in it, and it happened. I would say, “there’s nothing too big ever. Just continue to push for it.”

Meligha Garfield: Love that message! Love that message. We will go with Portia. What are your thoughts as far as student activism? 

Portia Anderson: I would say student activism has been pivotal. When you know the history of student movements on campuses, those have been the forefront of what gets the institution to actually change. So I would say it’s critical, but as Barbara and Lex pointed out, students can’t be the only ones doing the work. 

For students, I would say to ensure that you have people that can support you, people that can  listen to you — not just speak and give advice. That was something that was very key in this process: actually listening to students. I know the question was advice to students and activism, but to professionals, to people in this room: believe students. Listen to students. When a student is telling you that they’re overworked, believe them. When a student is telling you that they’re having a good day, believe them. When a student is telling you that they’ve had a racist comment towards them mentioned in a classroom, believe them. Because all of these things add up to their experiences, and we have to be comfortable with being uncomfortable, right? 

Student activism looks so different depending on the students and the bodies that are doing the labor. We have to be comfortable with knowing that is pushing us in a better way for change. Students don’t just get into activism for the sake of causing havoc on a campus. They’re doing it because they are feeling some type of way, so it’s critical to believe them and to listen. 

Meligha Garfield: Fire! Alright. Romeo, what are your thoughts as far as expanding this conversation on student activism?

Romeo Jackson: Well, I first have to thank Portia for being a model around what it means to sacrifice as Black staff. You know, staff occupy precarious positions in the university, right? We don’t have tenure as a shield. We don’t have academic freedom as a discourse to shield us from our critiques of the institution itself. Many of us don’t have unions or a collective body to protect us, and I’ll say now, as a full-time staff member whose job is literally built-in to help develop student activists and student leaders, that Portia modeled a certain level of vulnerability in risk-taking that is under acknowledged not only at the U, but in our field at large. Portia could have been fired at any moment without cause, and we all would have been out here, right? I have to give Portia her praise for modeling around what that means.

I also want to start with the cost of student activism, because I think it’s all cute and flashy after the fact, right? It’s like, “we got the Black Cultural Center,” but I was applying for jobs, writing a thesis, and applying for a PhD program simultaneously. That was happening. I was publishing my first academic article in a peer-reviewed journal and it was exhausting. It came at a great cost, so my message always to student activists is to find the balance. Find the rest, and find your people. The work I did with these four powerful Black women was impossible without them. It was the only way to get through the University of Utah with a degree. Alone it would have been impossible. I came here to get a degree, so that was important.

I, too, want to echo what everyone else has said. It remains troubling to me that student activism must be the catalyst to transform institutions of higher education. Troubling in the sense of the cost that students pay not only financially but mentally and emotionally for institutions that report to serve them. So fight on! Find your coalitions. Learn to identify power; power dynamics are super important. (I’m getting very tasky.) Build in self-care plans into your goals, right? Make self-care, community care a goal that you work towards as you build power. Okay, I’ll shut up beforeI get on my soapbox for real!

Meligha Garfield: And last but not least, Vivian.

Vivian D’Andrade: One, of course, is I was to echo everything that the other co-founders have said, but I think Romeo really speaks to a point that I hope to drive home. What we were able to achieve collectively wasn’t just about brainstorming and researching and, you know, writing something monumenta. It was about supporting each other, right? At the very core it was, like Barbara and Lex said, we really just sat down with them and was like, “thank you for having us. We feel honored to be a part of your vision. What do you want?” We had various respective responsibilities in making their vision come true. Yes, it was about mentorship, our own individual approaches to being paraprofessionals and professionals at the time, but it also was just about being in community. I think that’s what being in community with folks really is about.

I think I would advise other students who similarly have big goals that you might feel are unattainable to just start with your own community. Then I would also echo the strategy. Recently, I was reflecting on strategy and risk — the keywords of the night — when I was at the University of Utah. In the two years that I was there working on my master’s program with Romeo, I think I had to have at least like 10 different internships and committee assignments and many of them overlapped. I was, like, hustling! One of the beautiful things that I reflect on often is everybody else was hustling too, right? I knew that Barbara and Lex were at Presidents Circle all day. Romeo would go in and relieve them, and I would swoop in at three o’clock with Portia and be like, “so you thought you were finished but actually here are the additional things.” 

Somehow we had this really emergent and organic awareness of each other, and we didn’t sit down and say, “okay, Vivian you go infiltrate corporate and foundation relations” and “Romeo, you go tackle Gender Studies.” It just happened. We followed our passions wherever we felt drawn to, and we were staging transformation or interventions in every room that we were a part. I think the brilliance about this strategy is that by the time the institution got our 30-plus, page proposal with the 350k budget request, they never saw it coming based on five disparate Black people making noise and rallying, you know, the crowds and various offices and smaller projects. The brilliance in our strategy was we were doing all that and keeping them pretty busy with all of that. Meanwhile, we were planning — plotting to some extent.

The thing I learned the most is — I want to be like, “know your enemy,” but I can’t think of a better way to say it. There were so many people and senior leadership at the University of Utah who were not only against the Black Cultural Center, they were personally and professionally against each and every one of us. They stopped us from getting certain internships on campus or defamed our characters. They really tried to exclude us, and they didn’t want us to be a part of the President’s Anti-Racism Task Force. They were like, “well, why do all five of you got to be there? Aren’t two of you enough?” I think that the brilliance is that we out maneuvered Power. We were able to do so many things on so many different levels, because it was just about being a community with each other and supporting each other. Like Portia supporting me in various meetings where I’m risking it all to hold a mirror up to some particular White women’s faces and say, “no, you are the problem. Specifically you, and how you handle your business and run your division. That’s problematic.” We were just there for each other and vice versa, so I think community strategy and knowing your enemy. 

Alex Francis-Riggan: That’s amazing. Thank you for sharing, you know, the tidbits on how you did that. I like “know thy enemy.” I feel like that really encompasses it. Okay, so our next question — please answer briefly — what would you like to see from the BCC in the next couple of years, and also what about other BCCs in the PAC-12 and across the country? We’re gonna start with you again, Vivian. 

Vivian D’Andrade: Briefly, I would just like to see it continue to be a platform for both resilience and resistance, right? That is what created the center. That’s what we hope is embedded in all of its goals for whomever it’s supporting: faculty, staff, students, and community members alike. Despite it being institutionalized, which is great, we hope that the funding keeps coming and the institutional support keeps coming. We hope that it still remains a hub for academic resistance, structural change, and transformation.

Alex Francis-Riggan: Thank you so much for that. Romeo?

Romeo Jackson: Yeah, I think the Black Cultural Center needs like five more staff members, so let’s get it locked and loaded! Let’s get to it, right? One or two people cannot serve an entire diverse Black population. Always more stuff, more human resources, more financial resources.  But as I reflected in the blog, you know, I think it’s not by chance that it’s Black women and Black queer people that helped create this center and really drove it home. For me, my hope is  that the Black Cultural Center always becomes a place of intersectional possibilities, to think about the various ways that — in my case — Black queer and trans people have been excluded from institutionalized Black spaces and higher education. Our voices have been marginalized in the service of some other vision, and so how do we continue to do that not only programmatically but through our advocacy through coalition building with the LGBT Resource Center and through groups on campus? What is super important to me is whoever works at the Black Cultural Center has a firm commitment to the liberation of Black people even when it’s inconvenient to the institution and perhaps themselves, right? I think what is shared between all five of us is that this work was deeply inconvenient, and yet we did it. It was not easy or fun always, so it came at a great cost, and I hope whoever the professionals in the building [are, they] always inconvenience themselves in the institution and service of that mission.

Alex Francis-Riggan: Thank you Romeo. I agree with the staffing. We’re gonna have a conversation later, okay? Portia, let’s hear it!

Portia Anderson: For me, I would say that I mean, I obviously want to see the BCC continue and sustain the work that they’re doing currently. By that, I mean the BCC is supported by the institution, the BCC is supported by the state, the BCC is supported by others across the nation. 

I like to say that this BCC is unique in comparison to BCC’s across because it serves the populations of the entire Black community. That is something that I think in the research that the students, Barbara and Alexis, did was to find out cultural centers are the most one of the most vulnerable spaces on a college campus. [They’re] vulnerable for many different reasons. Vulnerable because budget can be snatched; those are the places where budget is typically could be smashed from first. So just to see this space be sustained is an act of resistance. The Black community, I would say, have it in our blood to be resistant, um, but also to thrive. I want the BCC to thrive.

I want it to be a space where people are welcomed; they can be their full selves. I, most importantly, want to see it sustained and supported, so that is definitely a need in order to sustain you can’t talk about sustainability without talking about money. Those two things can not not be in the same sentence! [We need to do] whatever we need to do to continue to support, but Meligha, know that space is not just on your burden. It’s everyone’s work, and so let’s all do this work to keep it here. 

Alex Francis-Riggan: Absolutely. Thank you, Portia. Okay, Barbara, what would you like to see with the BCC in the next couple of years?

Barbara Kufiadan: I think the BCC, or the vision of the BCC, really stood as a place for all of us as we needed a place to breathe. I was tired. I couldn’t be in certain spaces. I personally didn’t feel super comfortable in CESA. I needed the space to breathe as a Black student and as a Black woman, and I hope that is encompassed in this BCC. I hope that it continues to serve as a place for Black students to just say, “you know, what I’m tired today; I’m just I cannot deal with what’s going on. Someone said something to me in class. I’m just really having a tough day,” and I hope that [the BCC is] maybe the first place that they think about going to retreat, to be with other Black students who can lift them up, to be with other faculty and staff who can lift them up as well.

I hope that it continues to serve as that and also a connection for alum as Vivian said. You know, creating this BCC gives all of us a tie to the University of Utah forever, and I think that we would always want to support and to help Black students in whatever shape and form that looks like. I hope that it serves also as a place for alums to connect with students that are currently there.

Lastly, in terms of the Pac-12, I hope I’m not sure if there’s another I think there’s one BCC in the Pac-12, or two, but I feel like there needs to be more connection. I know that initially as I was reaching out trying to figure out where were the BCCs in the Pac-12, I believe there’s one at USC and one at Oregon. That was just a way that I was able to connect with someone in the Pac-12 and say, “well, how did you guys do it, and can you help us?” or “can you give me some form of document of what your structure looks like?” So I hope that BCCs in the Pac-12 are able to come together and share that information and also to create more BCCs. We know that we need Black cultural centers in order for students to stay on campus. We need a place for them to feel comfortable on campus, so I really hope that there is an effort — a conference, something. I’m giving you more work, Meligha. I hope that you’re able to put these things together, and we will always be here to support.

Alex Francis-Riggan: Perfect. Thank you, Barbara. I like the idea of more connection in the Pac-12! Okay, Alexis, what would you like to see?

Alexis Baker: Yes, this is a very interesting question, because this is actually something that us five thought about in writing the proposal. So you know, if you get the proposal out and turn it to one of those addendums, we have a one-year plan, a three-year plan, and a five-year plan. All of those talk about every single thing that everybody has touched on already. We’ve talked about staffing. We talked about having student staff in there. We talked about having more money to have these things in there. I mean, I think we’ve written the blueprint, and Meligha if you need that emailed to you, I will email it to you as a reference.

I would like to see the BCC outgrow that space, and us need a building. A lot of great things could be done with it, and I just hope to see it grow and see it thrive as Portia talked about and just see it employing more Black people on campus because these bills are high. 

And as far as the Pac-12, I will say that moving to the South has broadened my horizons. BCCs here are few and far between. We have one here at FSU but literally, it’s an empty building. No one’s there, no one staffs it, and that’s probably one of the only ones in the NCAA just because, you know, it’s the South and they don’t care about Black people out here. I just hope to see the Pac-12 continue that initiative to see this growing because we do matter. We need these spaces and, you know, it’s a needed commodity on campus for students to thrive.

Alex Francis-Riggan: Thank you so much Alexis. I agree. I want to see it in new construction, right Meligha?

Meligha Garfield: I would love it!

Alex Francis-Riggan: Yeah, of course! Of course. 

Meligha Garfield: Definitely agree as far as the staff. As you all know, we had JaTara leave, and it’s just myself, but we’re doing it. I’m working with Dr. Paula Smith right now, but yeah…[laughs] We’re trying to do what we’re trying to do, but we’ll get some things done and we’re working at it. Thank you all as far as in those responses and answering those questions beautifully!

Now, I would like to turn it over. I have a surprise for you all! We’re going to turn it over to Danyelle White from Lucid.

Danyelle White: Hey, everyone! As a University of Utah alum and also BSU alum, y’all are just really inspirational to me, and I’m really grateful for what you’re doing for future generations of University of Utah’s students. But also as the chair of Lucid Software’s Racial Justice Committee, I’m honored to be here to award the University of Utah Black Cultural Center Co-Founders — so Alexis Baker, Barbara Kufiadan, Portia Anderson, Romeo Jackson, and Vivian D’Andrade — for your community involvement, your leadership, your influence and achievement in creating the Black Cultural Center at the University of Utah. Without your commitment, we wouldn’t have a Black Cultural Center that seeks to holistically enrich, support, and advocate for faculty staff and students through Black-centered research, culturally-affirming educational initiatives, and service. 

Meligha Garfield: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. You all have made tremendous contributions to this institution and we will continue to praise you. This award as you’ve seen is to all of you. I will get your mailing addresses, and I’ll send this out to you as your own personal award. Thank you!

As well as we’ll have a plaque here in the Black Cultural Center that will have your names as the co-founders of the Black Cultural Center. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. 

Alright. We’ve also talked about the makings going into the Black Cultural Center, but I also have a special tribute to the people that really put in some work after the Center was here. The two people, Dr. Paula Smith (if you could turn on your camera) and JaTara, I have a personal message for you.

Alright, JaTara, I have this personal award for you. The Big Daddy! Dr. Paula Smith, I have one for you as well.

I thank you both for all the work that you have done at the Black Cultural Center, because the work still continues. The work still continues, and you have been a tremendous help in helping me navigate the institution but also making sure that the Center sustains as far as institutional planning and that we move forward with everything that we do for the years to come.

JaTara, my personal message to you is that, I want to thank you. I know we’ve had some rough times, some of here and there, but I knew that we were in this together and that we were doing things amazingly. And so I just wanted to thank you for all the hard work that you have done here at the Black Cultural Center. You are dearly missed, and I’m not even talking about just the workload! You brought a certain vibe to the Center. You brought students, you brought life, and I appreciate you so much, so much, and so I thank you for all the work that you’ve done. I know you moved on; you’re a program manager doing your thing here at the University Utah! Moving up; doing your thing! You have a future ahead of you here in higher education and you’re doing amazing work, and we will continue to pay homage to you as well. And that is why your name will also be in the center as far as in the inaugural work here in the Black Cultural Center. 

The message that we have here on the award is:

“In appreciation for your support and commitment toward the success of the Black Cultural Center in its Infancy. Your hard work in helping the center find its niche and support in its infancy will be remembered for decades to come!”

You were the inaugural coordinator of the Black Cultural Center, and I appreciate you. I love you and much respect.

Now, Dr. Paula Smith. I got you one too! I just want to say thank you for everything that you have done: the conversations that we’ve had — the continued conversations — as we meet regularly every month as far as strategic planning for the Center. You are my guidance. You are, as Dr. Villarreal has stated, a tremendous voice and making sure that the Center is up running. That we’re still good. That we’re doing strategic planning. That we’re staying on course. Alexis, I know you mentioned the proposal now. Dr. Paula Smith told me, “Meligha, are you following the proposal? What are you doing? We gotta do this!” So we have been looking at the proposal. We’re doing things. We’re trying to make sure. It’s a slow process, but we’re making sure that it gets done. I just want to thank you, Dr. Paula Smith, for everything that you do. Everything. You are amazing, amazing, amazing, amazing, and the work that you’ve done — even before I came here — the stuff that you did in the Center to make sure that it was adequate for me to work that it was good to go once we arrived. I appreciate you, and we will continue this work and this fight for the Black Cultural Center. I love you dearly, thank you so much. 

I’m not trying to cry. I’m not doing anything right now, but we’re gonna go on to the next thing right now! I’m gonna take two minutes. We’re gonna just do a two-minute break. I like to have bio breaks in this program, actually a song break — just one song — and then from there we’ll go into the awards. The heavy hitters of tonight  and honoring those faculty and staff. Thank you so much. We’ll be back in just a second.

Welcome back folks, this is the second annual Black Faculty and Staff Awards. I’m Meligha.

Alex Francis-Riggan: And I’m Alex!

Meligha Garfield: Yes, we are going now into our special moments of the Awards — the Black Faculty and Staff Awards. Do know there was a nomination process; we had over eighty votes for every single person that was nominated tonight! Over eighty people nominated to you, so keep that in mind — that the glory is here! Eighty people nominated you, and I’m not talking about overall, everybody together, but each and individual person had eighty people nominate you. This is amazing, amazing work that you all are doing. This speaks tremendous volumes! 

Alright, we’re gonna go into the awards categories. We’re gonna read off the categories, and then for each category we’ll play a special message from each of the awardees. Then after that video for that person, we’ll have the person come up and speak here. You have about a minute, essentially, to give an acceptance speech for your award.

Alright, here we go. The first award is the Marcus Garvey Black Star Excellence Award.

The Black Star Line which operated from 1919−1922 was a shipping line incorporated by Marcus Garvey, the organizer of the Universal Negro Improvement Association, and other members of the UNIA. The shipping line was created to facilitate the transportation of goods and eventually African Americans throughout the African global economy. It derived its name from the White Star Line, a line whose success Garvey felt he could duplicate. Black Star Line became a key part of Garvey’s contribution to the Back-to-Africa movement. It was one among many businesses which the UNIA originated, such as the Universal Printing House, Negro Factories Corporation, and the widely distributed and highly successful Negro World weekly newspaper.

It is with great gratitude that I present the Marcus Garvey Black Star Excellence Award for those new faculty and staff to the University of Utah who have stepped up to the plate and helped build and broadcast the University of Utah in a positive light.

Here are the awardees. 

[Video of Dr. Ariel Blair plays.]

Ariel Blair: How do you motivate people? What are issues of power? What are issues of groups and teams? How do you develop a good team? Then I also teach International Management. I go by Ariel Blair, but students will sometimes see Barbara show up in the systems because that’s my legal name, but I choose to be called Ariel. I’m an assistant professor (lecturer) of management in the David Eccles School of Business. 

I am the daughter of Jamaican immigrants. So, I have a sort of my heart in Jamaica and my head is here, you know, I cross cultures that way. I’ve lived in a number of different countries. I’ve spent time in Japan. I’ve lived in Spain for a number of years as I mentioned. I’ve lived in Thailand. 

I had wanted to end up in Utah. (I have family in Utah. My partner’s here.) So I actually strategically left Utah and went to California and commuted back to get my doctorate, because in academia, oftentimes the institution where you get your degree, you can’t then go and teach there. 

I’m interested in innovation and innovation across cultures. How do you help teams and groups to be more innovative? One of the things we know about that is diversity contributes to better decisions and better ideas. That’s really what I try to do in my teaching in my work is to get people to think differently and that’s what leads to that innovation. 

Look for community and ask for help, because people here are incredibly generous, incredibly helpful as long as we know that someone needs something. 

Meligha Garfield: Alright! The first awardee of the night is Dr. Blair. Here is your award if you can see it.

Ariel Blair: Wow. 

Meligha Garfield: Basically, the Marcus Garvey Black Star Excellence Award is for new faculty and staff of the University of Utah who have stepped up to the plate and helped build and broadcast the University of Utah and a positive light. Dr. Blair, do you have any messages? 

Ariel Blair: I don’t know if I have any messages, but I have a huge thank you to, first of all, everybody who’s put this together tonight. It’s been a wonderful, wonderful learning experience for me, especially to get to know so many wonderful graduates who I don’t know, and how much that you did that I didn’t recognize. This has been fabulous, and I know how much hard work many of you have put into making this come to be, so thank you for that! Other than that I just, you know, I believe that my research as I said is in the value of divergent thoughts, minority descent, and the importance of marginalized voices to innovation. 

I just appreciate every single person here for all that you bring and in helping me to do what I need to do to help my students, so that’s really it! I guess, also, a thank you to my parents who would be very, very pleased to know that I have made it into this place after all the sacrifices that they made so that I could be where I am. Then finally to my Jim Bay who mentors me and supports me those days when — I know some of you have talked earlier about the days when — you just think you can’t take it anymore. He’s always there and encouraging me and reminding me that I make a difference and that the students appreciate me. Thank you all!

Meligha Garfield: Awesome! Alright here is our next awardee for the Marcus Garvey Black Star Excellence Award. 

[Video of JaTara Smith starts playing.]

JaTara Smith: And I was in the middle of my master’s program at Penn State, and I kind of just thought to myself one day like, “what else is out there?” I am JaTara Smith. I am currently the academic program manager for the Masters of Public Administration Program here at the University of Utah. 

I was at a point where I wanted to explore what else was out there. A friend of mine had moved out here and worked at the ski resort and kind of made a life here for herself, bought a house, started her job here at the U. And she was like, “hey, just apply and see what happens.”

So I help students navigate the ins-and-outs of what they can do in the future, what they can do now to be better leaders. The one word that I would use to describe myself is “ambitious.” As a  first-generation student, I pretty much had to figure it all out on my own. My mom would tell you that I made sure that she did her taxes early, so I could do my FAFSA. I applied to 13 schools, got accepted to all of them, got scholarships from pretty much all of them. This was just at the age of 17 that I was figuring this out, but I knew that I had a great purpose and I wanted to fulfill that purpose, so I did whatever was necessary to get there.

Explored new ideas and don’t be afraid to learn new culture, new understanding. Find your people, your place — whether it’s a park. There’s lots of it: hiking, mountains, kayaking. Find that one thing that makes Utah special for you. 

Meligha Garfield: All right and again, congratulations JaTara! You got two awards tonight. You’re doing your thing! Congratulations, again, for getting the Marcus Garvey Black Star Excellence Award. Do you have a few words you would like to say?

JaTara Smith: So Meligha knows that he has to ask this question because um, I’m not really good about talking about myself, and I’ll do my best to not get all choked up. Meligha, I appreciate our time we had together in the Black Cultural Center and fostering what it could be and how we could grow that together. 

I am very thankful and very blessed for the opportunity that I’ve had to be — I don’t know if it was Lex or Barb —  but a mover and a shaker here in Utah. There were times where I really wanted to give up and go back home to Texas and live my life, but I really found a purpose to be here in Utah and to continue to grow and see the possibilities that I have here — especially in higher education. When I started this education journey, I always thought I was going to medical school and that was going to be it. I was going to be Dr. Smith, but I’ve had so many other folks in my corner that have shown me the importance of other doctors and what I could be and I foster all of that. 

I appreciate those that came before me here in Utah. Of course, shout out to my mom (she’s on here!) because she has really just taught me what it is to be a strong, powerful Black woman and to go after what I want. I appreciate it. Thank you very much!

Being a part of this award ceremony last year on the back end, it was phenomenal to be able to celebrate those that are doing such great work, and I’m proud to be one of those folks that are doing the work now, of course, just in a different capacity — not the BCC — but Meligha I got your back you just let me know when and where!

Meligha Garfield: Thank you, so much. Again, as I already stated earlier, you’re amazing so just keep up the work. Do your thing! You’re doing big things out here in these streets. Alright, so, Alex, I’m gonna give it over to you for the next award category. 

Alex Francis-Riggan: Okay, so I will be presenting the Madam C.J. Walker Resource Award. Madam C. J. Walker was born December 23, 1867 was an African American entrepreneur, philanthropist, and a political and social activist. Eulogized as the first female self-made millionaire in America, she became one of the wealthiest African American women in the country, “the world’s most successful female entrepreneur of her time,” and one of the most successful African-American business owners ever.

Walker made her fortune by developing and marketing a line of beauty and hair products for Black women through Madame C.J. Walker Manufacturing Company, the successful business she founded. Walker was also known for her philanthropy and activism. She made financial donations to numerous organizations and became a patron of the arts.

It is with great joy that I present the Madam C.J. Walker Resource Award for those individuals who have strengthened community-engaged learning experiences and opportunities tied to civic engagement, and also foster stronger partnerships with the local community and the University of Utah. 

Meligha Garfield: All right, let’s do it. Let’s show the first awardee. 

[Video of Dr. Valerie Flattes starts playing]

Valerie Flattes: “You need to go beyond what I did.” He said, “I don’t have anything.” He said, “I want you to have something, and you need to go beyond,” and ever since he said that to me. I was like, “okay,” you know? And I hit the books hard.

I’m Dr. Valerie Flattes. I’m an assistant professor and also a nurse practitioner who specializes in geriatrics. What led me here is school. I wanted to go back to school to get my bachelors and my master’s, and I was gonna go back up to Montana as a nurse practitioner, but I decided to stay, teach, and get my doctorate of philosophy degree. I’m the only one in my family right now that has this degree and first person in my immediate family to continue on and get a nursing certificate or nursing diploma.

There’s a lot of work to do here around equity and diversity and inclusion, and I’ve been doing that pretty much since I came here in 1995. People would tell me at different times I’m very candid. I tend not to follow the mainstream. I think people would say that I was unique and I was real. I think that’s what they say. I was always a champion for students, that I really cared about my students, and I was their best cheerleader. 

Alex Francis-Riggan: Congratulations. Dr. Valerie, would you like to say a few words? 

Valerie Flattes: Hi! Yes, thank you so much. I am very appreciative of receiving the award and looking forward to even spending more time especially at the BCC and being a mentor and a cheerleader again for students. I love it, and I love teaching. Thank you.

[Video of Jacquée Williams starts playing.]

Jacquée Williams: I advise students who are interested in the faculty-led programs that are through the college as well as students who are in the college and want to go on affiliate exchange programs or even to the Utah Asia Campus in Incheon, South Korea.

My name is Jacquée Williams, and I’m a learning abroad coordinator here at the University of Utah. 

So, when I was in graduate school I made a list of places I wanted to go, and Utah happened to be on there. As I was applying for jobs, I saw that one was open, and I thought it would be a great opportunity because I was going there for “tourist reasons,” but to actually work there and immerse myself in the environment would be a great opportunity. After doing a couple of interviews, I really liked the U because, one, it is a commuter school which is what I went to as an undergrad as well as it’s a research university. They’re a lot of opportunities that I thought I could be involved in. 

When students come back from their program, I make sure that they have the necessary resources to transition effectively back into U.S. culture. Some of the advice that I would give is, one, just to make sure that you get to know the different populations at the U. Obviously, work with certain people and certain students, but be able to be aware of what’s all available at the U.

I’ve had students that have been around — I’ve met them in their sophomore year and they’ve graduated, so I think I have an individual impact on students. They touch base with me when they’re leaving saying, “thank you, it was a great opportunity.” Things like that. I feel like with students, especially being part of different organizations that I’m in, have offered me the opportunity to really reach out and show students that, you know, certain things are possible that they otherwise didn’t think were possible, and that there are great opportunities to take advantage of. 

Alex Francis-Riggan: Congrats, Jacquée! Do you want to stay a couple words? You don’t have to say many.

Jacquée Williams: Alex is saying that because she knows I don’t like speaking! I do want to thank everybody who nominated me and as well as everyone who organized this. I like that I got the Madam C.J. Walker award, because she’s bomb! I’ve been learning about her since I was little. I think what I said in my video’s pretty much what I would say in this statement of connecting with different cultures and populations.

I especially want to thank Alexis and Portia. Without those two, I wouldn’t even have started to touch base with the different communities on campus, and they really helped me find my way and find my different people to make my experience here at the U better. I just really enjoy working with so many other organizations like the Bennion Center, Alternative Breaks, and being able to meet students from all over and connecting with them and being a part of their lives and listening to the amazing accomplishments as we saw earlier on this is a really great experience! 

Alex Francis-Riggan: Thank you, and congrats to you both! 

Meligha Garfield: Next, we have the Malcolm X Award of Social Justice. Malcolm X, born May 19, 1925, was an African-American Muslim minister and human rights activist. To his admirers he was a courageous advocate for the rights of Blacks, a man who indicted white America in the harshest terms for its crimes against Black Americans; detractors accused him of preaching racism and violence. He has been called one of the greatest and most influential African Americans in history for his emphasis on Pan-Africanism, Nlack self-determination, and Black self-defense.

X is credited with raising the self-esteem of Black Americans and reconnecting them with their African heritage. He is largely responsible for the spread of Islam in the Black community in the United States. Many African Americans felt that Malcolm X articulated their complaints concerning inequality better than did the mainstream civil rights movement.

In the late 1960s, increasingly radical Black activists based their movements largely on Malcolm X and his teachings. The Black Power movement, the Black Arts Movement, and the widespread adoption of the slogan “Black is beautiful” can all trace their roots to Malcolm X.

It is with great respect that I present the Malcolm X Award of Social Justice for those individuals who have fought for justice in terms of the distribution of equal access, opportunities, and privileges within our campus and greater community. whose body of academic work (e.g., articles, books, creative works) and life promote or exemplify the area of social justice in modern life.

Here are our awardees. 

[Video of Laurence Parker starts playing.]

Laurence Parker: “They should walk in victory and not be afraid.” We’re living in some tough times now around any critical, race-type work. I’m Laurence Parker, and my position here at the University of Utah is I’m a professor in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy and I’m also one of the associate deans in the Honors College. 

I conduct research on looking at critical race theory and policy enactment and applying critical race theory to the K-12 context and the higher-ed context. I also teach in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy, and I also teach in the Honors College. I think the third thing I do is that I work on administration issues, particularly for the Honors College, around student services and helping out students.

There’s been an expectation of a normalization of failure for many kids — particularly Black and Brown kids. I think that’s wrong, and I think that we need to disrupt that normalization that we’ve all been used to from institutions, the individuals. 

I like Afro-punk music, and I like listening to the ways in which the music is moving from it’s punk roots to African basis in the music. Be Mindful of where you’re at and where this institution is at in the place of higher education. Also, be true to yourself, and also be connected in terms of  relationality with the students because that’s really where the bottom line is in terms of making this universe today go. 

Meligha Garfield: Alright. And with that, we want to congratulate Dr. Parker. Unfortunately, he could not be here tonight because he had to undergo surgery, but he’s recovering. He’s doing well. He’s at home doing this thing. He’s excellent, but we wanted to  take just a second — a moment — of silence, because I know he probably would have said something here tonight.

Alright, thank you. Thank you, all. That was our first awardee of the Malcolm X Award of Social Justice! Here is our next awardee. 

[Video of Asma Hassan starts playing.]

Asma Hassan:  Harry Potter, K-dramas and bobba drinks, and pad thai. I love food.

My name is Asama Hassan. I am a program manager at the Bennion Center. It’s a literacy access program. We work with a lot of Title I schools in the Salt Lake area, so I really enjoy what I do. However small or large way, I hope I can leave something that others benefit from. With my work at BFSA, it’s creating systems, so whoever joins later they’re not starting from scratch they can continue to improve and transform it. Same thing with the program that I lead, Utah Reads, every year we’re working on making it better for tutors, better for the community and the students that we work with. My main advice would be first, you know, when you’re interviewing see what the culture is like in that particular department because every department varies. Once they are here, I would say find your community. Don’t feel like you have to do everything on your own because it’s really hard [and it’s easy] to feel isolated, especially as a Black person. I would say find your community, because that is something that really helped me working at the U. I hope that when I do leave there are things that I’ve left that people can benefit from even when I’m not here. 

Meligha Garfield: Asma, this is for you! Congratulations of achieving and getting the award of Malcom X Award of Social Justice. Your work is amazing in the Bennion Center. You’re doing amazing things, but also in the community. I’ve heard your name around the streets. I want to congratulate you on that, do you have any words? 

Asma Hassan: Hello everyone, I’m just so honored to be receiving the Malcolm X Award. I think that’s so awesome! I’m just so happy. There’s just a lot of powerful voices and people in our history and in this virtual room today as well, so it’s just great to be part of this. I hope I can match up to it. This is only the beginning. [I’m] just super grateful to everybody who nominated me. I can’t believe there were so many people. I don’t even think I know that many people on campus, so that’s wonderful! Thank you, everyone!

Meligha Garfield: We everywhere; we are everywhere! Yes, alright here is the next awardee for tonight’s next award category. I’m gonna turn it over to Alex.

Alex Francis-Riggan: Okay, so now we have the Maya Angelou Award of Innovation. Maya Angelou, born April 4, 1928, was an American poet, singer, memoirist, and civil rights activist. She published seven autobiographies, three books of essays, several books of poetry, and was credited with a list of plays, movies, and television shows spanning over 50 years. She received dozens of awards and more than 50 honorary degrees. Angelou is best known for her series of seven autobiographies, which focus on her childhood and early adult experiences. The first, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, tells of her life up to the age of 17 and brought her international recognition and acclaim.

Angelou was an actor, writer, director, and producer of plays, movies, and public television programs. In 1982, she was named the first Reynolds Professor of American Studies at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. She was active in the Civil Rights Movement and worked with Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. Beginning in the 1990s, she made around 80 appearances a year on the lecture circuit, something she continued into her eighties. Angelou was respected as a spokesperson for Black people and women, and her works have been considered a defense of Black culture.

It is with great joy that I present the Maya Angelou Award of Innovation for those individuals who have used creativity appropriately to develop new or improve processes, methods, systems, products, or services and encourage others to do the same. This award is given to those who make innovation a priority among team/faculty members and encourage reasonable and calculated risk taking and as a result improve the university and make U of U a better place to live and work.

[Video on Dr. Paula Smith starts playing.]

Paula Smith: I think my impact is probably more subtle than a lot of other people’s impact because my impact is more at the individual level than at the system level. 

So my name is Paula Smith, and I am an associate professor in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy. For me what that means is that I am also a prevention researcher. Actually my husband applied for a position at the University of Utah, and he was a little skeptical about coming to Utah. I told him how beautiful Salt Lake City was, because I had been here before. My one word would be “helpful.” I go out of my way on a daily basis and, you know, I consider it part of my life’s work just to be helpful to people to make sure that people can access the resources that they need that they can enjoy the benefits of being at a place like the University of Utah. 

At the U specifically, I think the impact that I’ve had is on individual people and helping people be more successful than they would have been otherwise. Every year, I grow too many vegetables and I give them away to older folk at my church. Anybody who asks can come over can and pick collard greens, so we’ve got Georgia collard greens growing here in Utah! Anytime anybody wants any, you know, vegetables but particularly I grow a lot of collard greens. In terms of getting [the BCC] started and maintaining it over the years, make sure that we’re helping other people, that we’re lifting other people as we become more successful…that we’re also helping other people. 

Alex Francis-Riggan: Congrats, Dr. Smith. I’m so proud! Do you want to say a couple words? 

Paula Smith: Yeah, I just want to say thank you to everybody on the nomination. We’ve been here for such a long time, and I’m just so happy of all the people that I’ve met, the people that I have supported, the work that I’ve been able to do here at the U and in the community. I especially want to thank my mother who is getting ready to turn 90-years old in a couple of weeks. She is just fabulous and sassy. She is so funny to me, and I also want to thank my husband and my family. I think my mother-in-law is actually in the audience here! I just want to thank everybody for allowing me to be me and allowing me to help you. Thank you!

Alex Francis-Riggan: Thank you Dr. Paula. And the next awardee.

[Video of Katy Riney starts playing.]

Katy Riney: Favorite genre of music will probably be jazz. I was raised on jazz and classical music. I am Katy Riney, and I am the clinical office manager of the Counseling Center at the university. Actually, a friend brought me to the University of Utah with my thinking of how can I help more? 

I was not born in the United States, but I’ve embraced a lot of cultures and have been in a lot of cultures. My dad, before he passed, he spoke nine different languages. My basic duties are to make sure everything at our front desk is running smoothly to help students get the mental health that they need whether it be anxiety-driven, whether it be more distress, whether it be grades, whether it be “I’m failing” or “I haven’t been to class. I’m afraid to go to class.” My job is to make sure that when they enter they have a safe place. 

I would use the word “generous” [to describe myself]. Generous from the heart, from the mind, from the soul. I’m a very generous person. I love giving of myself. For me, it is a sense of satisfaction that I was able to help someone. I know I can’t help everybody, but if I can help one person that makes me feel good that gives me a warm fuzzy. Just the impact of someone saying “thank you,” because I heard them. That’s what’s important. 

Alex Francis-Riggan: Congrats. Would you like to say a couple words? 

Katy Riney: Sure, I am totally totally honored to receive this. I really am. I’m honored to be recognized for the person that I am and that who I am resonates with other people. One of the things that Maya Angelou has said, I mean, I love her. I love her work. I love her, but she always says, “love recognizes no barriers.” And she goes on to say, you know, “you have to get to that hope,” but I consider my ability to arouse enthusiasm with my team, with the Counseling Center, with students that part of the love. I just want to thank those that put this program together and those that nominated me. 

I know I have family on. I just want to say thank you, family, for being here. They’re on from across the nation to see me receive this honor. I am really grateful and honored. Thank you. 

Alex Francis-Riggan: And thank you so much for the work that you do at the Counseling Center. It’s very very important. Thanks.

Katy Riney:  Thank you. 

Meligha Garfield: Alright, let’s get on to the last category of tonight! The James McCune Smith Award the Veneration. Dr. James McCune Smith, born April 18, 1813, was an American physician, apothecary, abolitionist, and author. He was the first African American to hold a medical degree and graduated at the top of his class at the University of Glasgow in Scotland. After his return to the United States, he became the first African American to run a pharmacy in this nation.

In addition to practicing as a doctor for nearly 20 years at the Colored Orphan Asylum in Manhattan, Smith was a public intellectual: he contributed articles to medical journals, participated in learned societies, and wrote numerous essays and articles drawing from his medical and statistical training. He used his training in medicine and statistics to refute common misconceptions about race, intelligence, medicine, and society in general.

He has been most well-known for his leadership as an abolitionist: a member of the American Anti-Slavery Society, with Frederick Douglass he helped start the National Council of Colored People in 1853, the first permanent national organization for blacks. Frederick Douglass called Smith “the single most important influence on his life.”

It is with great honor and anticipation that I present the highest standing award of this evening. This, the James McCune Award of Veneration, is for those individuals who are awe-inspired by dignity, wisdom, dedication, and excellence at the University of Utah. 

Now, the reason why this is the highest standard is because these individuals have been at the university for several years. They’re not new; they’ve been around the block I should say. So this award recognizes superior performance specifically related to the university’s four major strategic goals: promote students’ success to transform lives, develop and transfer new knowledge, engage communities to improve health and quality of life, and ensure long-term viability of the university. 

These two individuals exemplify these four goals. They are amazing people doing things big, and I mean big! Here are the last awardees for this evening. 

[Video of Dr. William Smith starts playing.]

William Smith: There are two titles in my life that I’m proud of: husband and father. I’m William Smith, and I’m a full professor in the College of Education and the Department of Education, Culture and Society. I also have a joint appointment in Ethnic Studies as a full professor of African-American studies. My wife was finishing her PhD, and I was already a professor at Western Illinois University, so we wanted to go to a place where we might have the opportunity to work at the same institution or some place that had neighboring universities. 

You know, my father was a bodyguard to Martin Luther King Jr. who appointed him as Chief of Security for Operation Breadbasket, which became operation PUSH. My mother was a Chicago public school teacher, so she kind of influenced me very pro-Black. She had books all over the house. She had a little library in her house. I read those books, and I was influenced by the Civil Rights Movement and what was going on during that time. 

I get to talk about the issues that I’m doing as far as my research. There’s a lot of publications on racial battle fatigue now, so that’s influential in the learning process for students, and I get to invite some of those scholars into our class to talk about their research. Manhood, scholarship, perseverance, and uplift and those are essential cardinal principles that I try to live by. I try to help others as I would as others have helped me. Football and baseball were very prominent in my life, and I think those are key factors why I’m here today. 

Meligha Garfield: With that as this is the highest honor, [claps] We have your ward here as well, but Dr. Smith, do you want to provide some words for us this night?

William Smith: Well, first I want to thank everybody all the people who nominated me — the people who voted for me. I really appreciate this. I appreciate getting the award named after a Smith. I’m gonna see if I’m related to him! I didn’t graduate at the top of my class but I did graduate in the top 99%, so at least I graduated. You know, I said in the video that my mother is probably the biggest influence on me. I want to thank my mother for what she instilled in me — the values — everything. I really appreciate her and I found a woman like my mother — I wasn’t looking for my mama — but I found a woman like my mother to be my wife. As I said, the the two highest titles, greatest titles that I hold are husband and father. I really try to do my best at those.

Lastly, I’d like to say that I’m just happy to see all the faces on the screen and all the awardees and all the people who made an impact. Barbara, you know, when she was in my class her freshman year and she was my little project. I said, “hey, Barbara you look like you should be a Delta.”

“What’s a Delta?”

Alexis, you know, and they were like twins — always together. I saw one and saw the other one, so those are the type of people that when you’ve been here 22 years you get to be around. Then Porita, my home girl, and Romeo, from Chicago. Portia is just dynamic! Steve Bell, all these people that are on the screen and in the audience, I just want to thank all of you and thank the people who are in the audience from all over the country. I know I have some family members on there, so thank you again. 

Meligha Garfield: Thank you thank you thank you for that message. I will I want to live up to that message of being a father and a husband. Yes! Alright, here we go! The last awardee for the night.

[Video of Nona Richardson starts playing.]

Nona Richardson: I think people would say, you know, what she was engaged, she really cared about not only her student athletes, but how the students on campus, you know, we’re connected too. 

Hi, Nona Richardson, executive senior associate athletic director, senior woman administrator, Office of Equal Opportunity Title IX liaison. I was contacted by someone here on campus six years ago, about a potential opening that may be a thing. So via that I had the opportunity to look into University of Utah, it’s membership in the Pac-12, it’s location in Salt Lake City, and how the teams are doing, you know, in the Pac-12 at that time frame as it was still early in the process. My biggest responsibility is I oversee all of our student athletes’ support services. We’ve got various areas within the department from academics, strength conditioning, sports medicine, nutritionists, psychologists, all the sport programs. I work with the directors in each one of those areas so make sure that we’re providing the services to our student athletes that we promised them in the recruiting process, because the true measurement of success is that our student athletes leave here say, “you know what, if I had to do it all over again, I’d return to the University of Utah.”

I was a student athlete, you know, at Michigan State University. I was a coach at a number of different institutions, and now I’m an administrator, so I have had the opportunity to actually be in the roles that our coaches and our student athletes are currently in. Your campus family is a family that can have the biggest impact with, so make sure that you are connected to various entities so they can pick the brain. You got people who have been here for 30 years, we’ve got people who’ve been there for 30 minutes, you know? They’re all gonna have different viewpoints of how they see things here at the University of Utah or within Salt Lake City Valley itself. 

Meligha Garfield: With that again, [claps] I gotta give the props, got to give the props. Nona, do you have any words?

Nona Richardson: Oh, Meligha. I cannot tell you how touched I am by receiving the James McCune Smith Award. First and foremost, thank you to the Black Cultural Center. Thank you to the Black Faculty and Staff Association, Utah Museum of Fine Arts, Lucid, and EDI. I also like to thank members of the Athletic Department and in particular, Mary Chris Finnigan. Mary Chris Finnigan is a director of academic services in the Department of Athletics. She is the one who organized this whole crew to nominate me for this award, so I am so thankful to all of them because they are who I serve in conjunction with our student athletes. They often tell me, “Nona, you don’t take enough credit for what you do,” and that is because it’s not about me. It’s about them so that is my measurement. My measurement is their success, and seeing the successes that we have had within our department over the last couple of years has been paramount to me. I appreciate my peers recognizing what they see in me, but again, I’m gonna turn it back on them and turn it on our student athletes. My mom would take me to marches, you know, and so I’ve got a little bit of that in me, but I want to pull out more of that in me so I can even help more so my student athletes and my staff. Until we get to that part, I want to just say thank you, again, very much. Together we rise, so thank you. 

Meligha Garfield: Alright, alright, thank you so much. And with that folks, this is the conclusion of the Black Faculty and Staff Awards. But before then, I would like to give a couple of thanks. If you have a wine glass or not — I’m in the Black Cultural Center so we don’t do liquor in here, we do water — we’re gonna raise your glass and do a toast. Then, we’re gonna do some thanks, so first raise your glasses up.

Thank you all for all the hard work that you do here in the community. Do know that your work never goes unnoticed and that people are always watching. There’s always a silent majority that is always watching and making sure that you succeed and supporting you. I’m one of those people, and I love you, I respect you. Understand that your work transcends, not only the University of Utah but the state of Utah as well as the country. You are amazing people. You are amazing people. Thank you. Alex, do you have any words?

Alex Francis-Riggin: I do. I just want to say my heart is so full with the achievements of the people that we have recognized tonight, and I am just so excited to take this energy that I have and put it towards BFSA, to put it toward every aspect of my life. I hope that everyone else was as touched as I was by tonight’s event, so cheers. 

Meligha Garfield: Cheers. Alright, and with that I just want to say that this show didn’t just take me. There was a community behind this program, and I just want to pay some homage to those people that actually put in the work. First and foremost, all the videos that were produced here in this program were produced by an amazing, up-and-coming videographer. His name is Jerome, a Black videographer here in Utah. His work is amazing, amazing, and you can follow him on our social media, so you can follow him just go to our social media. But his name is Jerome. He’s an up becoming videographer, Black videographer. He’s worked with myself as well as the Utah Museum of Fine Arts and made sure that we got these videos crafted for you all tonight, so I’m gonna thank you Jerome for all the amazing work that you have done today. You’re amazing, you’re amazing, you’re amazing! Your work here does not go unnoticed, and we’ll definitely be in contact with some partnerships in the future. 

Second, I want to thank the Utah Museum of Fine Arts. Without your help, we wouldn’t have this program today, so I want to thank you so much for investing in us. Also our partnerships that we had here as far as the exhibit and the future things that we’re going to be doing in the future, so I thank you for everything that you have done. Please support the exhibit, Black Refractions:   Highlights from the Studio Museum in Harlem, which is at the Utah Museum of Fine Arts until April, so you can attend that. It has some beautiful showings there.

Next, I want to say thank you to the Black Faculty and Staff Association. Again, another organization that usually just goes unnoticed, because we don’t really know [about them], but they’d be doing amazing things, amazing things. It is led this year by Alex and Dr. Paula Smith. Both of you are amazing individuals! You’re [amazing] doing work, as well as the rest of your executive team over there. Thank you so much. Also, thank you for providing the food to some of the awardees tonight as well as the other Black faculty and staff that attended tonight. Thank you so much you’re doing amazing things!

I also want to say thank you to Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion, our team overall that the Black Cultural Center is under. Leading the charge, Dr. Mary Ann Villarreal, you are doing amazing things. I appreciate you and all the work that you’ve done and also helping us craft this program tonight, so thank you! As well as our marketing team helping me as well. Thank you, all!

Oh, I see Whitney put the IG of Jerome’s work (@jeromebarbourjr_). Yes, follow that the IG on Instagram! Thank you, Whitney. Amazing.

Lastly, I want to thank Lucid for sponsoring the award for the co-founders. Then on top of that the words that I would like to say, as far as to the co-founders, thank you for coming tonight because you didn’t have to come tonight. I appreciate all that you have done and helped shape the center to what it is today. Again, I’ve said this to Portia in the award ceremony last week, but without your work, I wouldn’t have a job here today. Literally! Literally, I would not have a job, so I thank you for coming tonight. Again, like I said, we will have the plaque in the Black Cultural Center with your names as well as with Dr. Paula Smith and JaTara.

Thank you so much! Thank you, and that is all folks! It’s Friday. It’s the last event that the Black Cultural Center put on for Black History Month. I’m taking a sabbatical. Bye! [Laughs]

Dr. Paula Smith, you had something?

Paula Smith: Yes, I just want to encourage everyone to, please, pull out your wallet, donate money to the Black Cultural Center. You know, we need your funding. The George Floyd Memorial Fund is gonna be something else, you know, it’s gonna be lit! But we need money, so please support even if it’s just a small amount, any amount helps. Thank you. 

Romeo Jackson: Okay, period, Dr. Smith, like period!

Meligha Garfield: Thank you. Oh and then a last mention as well — I know Portia mentioned her earlier,but also I want to just pay homage as well — to Shauvana Munster. You’re doing amazing work here at the U as a new advisor to the Black Student Union. Do know that we are watching, and maybe next year you’ll be on here!

Thank you so much. We’ll see you next time.

Marcus Garvey Black Star Excellence Award


The Black Star Line which operated from 1919−1922 was a shipping line incorporated by Marcus Garvey, the organizer of the Universal Negro Improvement Association, and other members of the UNIA. The shipping line was created to facilitate the transportation of goods and eventually African Americans throughout the African global economy. It derived its name from the White Star Line, a line whose success Garvey felt he could duplicate. Black Star Line became a key part of Garvey’s contribution to the Back-to-Africa movement. It was one among many businesses which the UNIA originated, such as the Universal Printing House, Negro Factories Corporation, and the widely distributed and highly successful Negro World weekly newspaper.

The Marcus Garvey Black Star Excellence Award is presented to new faculty and staff of the University of Utah who have stepped up to the plate and helped build and broadcast the University of Utah in a positive light.

Ariel Blair

Ariel Blair
Assistant Professor (Lecturer)
David Eccles School of Business

I’m interested in innovation and innovation across cultures. How do you help teams and groups to be more innovative? One of the things we know about that is diversity contributes to better decisions and better ideas. That’s really what I try to do in my teaching in my work is to get people to think differently and that’s what leads to that innovation.

I believe that my research is in the value of divergent thoughts, minority descent, and the importance of marginalized voices to innovation…I just appreciate every single person here for all that you bring and in helping me to do what I need to do to help my students…I guess, also, a thank you to my parents who would be very, very pleased to know that I have made it into this place after all the sacrifices that they made so that I could be where I am. Then finally to my Jim Bay who mentors me and supports me those days when — I know some of you have talked earlier about the days when –you just think you can’t take it anymore. He’s always there and encouraging me and reminding me that I make a difference and that the students appreciate me. Thank you all!

JaTara Smith

JaTara Smith
Academic Program Manager
Masters of Public Administration Program

The one word that I would use to describe myself is “ambitious.” As a  first-generation student, I pretty much had to figure it all out on my own. My mom would tell you that I made sure that she did her taxes early, so I could do my FAFSA. I applied to 13 schools, got accepted to all of them, got scholarships from pretty much all of them. This was just at the age of 17 that I was figuring this out, but I knew that I had a great purpose and I wanted to fulfill that purpose, so I did whatever was necessary to get there.

I am very thankful and very blessed for the opportunity that I’ve had to be a mover and a shaker here in Utah. There were times where I really wanted to give up and go back home to Texas and live my life, but I really found a purpose to be here in Utah and to continue to grow and see the possibilities that I have here — especially in higher education…I appreciate those that came before me here in Utah. Of course, shout out to my mom (she’s on here!) because she has really just taught me what it is to be a strong, powerful Black woman and to go after what I want. I appreciate it. Thank you very much! Being a part of this award ceremony last year on the back end, it was phenomenal to be able to celebrate those that are doing such great work, and I’m proud to be one of those folks that are doing the work now!

Madam C.J. Walker Resource Award


Madam C. J. Walker, born December 23, 1867, was an African American entrepreneur, philanthropist, and political and social activist. Eulogized as the first female self-made millionaire in America, she became one of the wealthiest African American women in the country, “the world’s most successful female entrepreneur of her time,” and one of the most successful African-American business owners ever.

Walker made her fortune by developing and marketing a line of beauty and hair products for black women through Madame C.J. Walker Manufacturing Company, the successful business she founded. Walker was also known for her philanthropy and activism. She made financial donations to numerous organizations and became a patron of the arts.

The Madam C.J. Walker Resource Award is presented to individuals who have strengthened community-engaged learning experiences and opportunities tied to civic engagement and fostered stronger partnerships with the local community and the University of Utah.

Valerie Flattes

Valerie Flattes
Assistant Professor (Clinical)
College of Nursing

There’s a lot of work to do here around equity and diversity and inclusion, and I’ve been doing that pretty much since I came here in 1995. People would tell me at different times I’m very candid. I tend not to follow the mainstream. I think people would say that I was unique and I was real…I was always a champion for students, that I really cared about my students, and I was their best cheerleader.

Thank you so much. I am very appreciative of receiving the award and looking forward to even spending more time especially at the BCC and being a mentor and a cheerleader again for students. I love it, and I love teaching. Thank you.

Jacquee Williams

Jacquée Williams
Learning Abroad Coordinator
Learning Abroad Office

I think I have an individual impact on students…I feel like students have offered me the opportunity to really reach out and show [them] certain things are possible that they otherwise didn’t think were possible, and that there are great opportunities to take advantage of.

I do want to thank everybody who nominated me and as well as everyone who organized this. I like that I got the Madam C.J. Walker award, because she’s bomb! I especially want to thank Alexis and Portia. Without those two, I wouldn’t even have started to touch base with the different communities on campus, and they really helped me find my way and find my different people to make my experience here at the U better. I just really enjoy working with so many other organizations like the Bennion Center, Alternative Breaks, and being able to meet students from all over and connecting with them and being a part of their lives and listening to the amazing accomplishments…this is a really great experience!

Malcolm X Award of Social Justice


Malcolm X, born May 19, 1925, was an African-American Muslim minister and human rights activist. To his admirers, he was a courageous advocate for the rights of Blacks, a man who indicted White America in the harshest terms for its crimes against Black Americans; detractors accused him of preaching racism and violence. He has been called one of the greatest and most influential African Americans in history for his emphasis on Pan-Africanism, Black self-determination, and Black self-defense.

X is credited with raising the self-esteem of Black Americans and reconnecting them with their African heritage. He is largely responsible for the spread of Islam in the Black community in the United States. Many African Americans felt that Malcolm X articulated their complaints concerning inequality better than did the mainstream civil rights movement.

In the late 1960s, increasingly radical Black activists based their movements largely on Malcolm X and his teachings. The Black Power movement, the Black Arts Movement, and the widespread adoption of the slogan “Black is beautiful” can all trace their roots to Malcolm X.

The Malcolm X Award of Social Justice is presented to those who have fought for justice in terms of the distribution of equal access, opportunities, and privileges within our campus and the greater community and whose body of academic work (e.g., articles, books, creative works) and life promote or exemplify the area of social justice in modern life.

Laurence Parker

Laurence Parker
Professor, Department of Educational Leadership and Policy
Associate Dean, Honors College

They should walk in victory and not be afraid.” We’re living in some tough times now around any critical, race-type work…I conduct research on looking at critical race theory and policy enactment and applying critical race theory to the K-12 context and the higher-ed context…There’s been an expectation of a normalization of failure for many kids — particularly Black and Brown kids. I think that’s wrong, and I think that we need to disrupt that normalization that we’ve all been used to from institutions, the individuals.

Be Mindful of where you’re at and where this institution is at in the place of higher education. Also, be true to yourself, and also be connected in terms of relationality with the students because that’s really where the bottom line is in terms of making this universe today go.

Asma Hassan

Asma Hassan
Utah Reads Program Manager
Bennion Center

However small or large, I hope I can leave something that others benefit from…My main advice would be…don’t feel like you have to do everything on your own because it’s [easy] to feel isolated, especially as a Black person. I would say find your community, because that is something that really helped me working at the U. I hope that when I do leave there are things that I’ve left that people can benefit from even when I’m not here.

I’m just so honored to be receiving the Malcolm X Award. I think that’s so awesome! I’m just so happy. There’s just a lot of powerful voices and people in our history and in this virtual room today as well, so it’s just great to be part of this. I hope I can match up to it. This is only the beginning. [I’m] just super grateful to everybody who nominated me…Thank you, everyone!

Maya Angelou Award of Innovation


Maya Angelou, born April 4, 1928, was an American poet, singer, memoirist, and civil rights activist. She published seven autobiographies, three books of essays, several books of poetry, and was credited with a list of plays, movies, and television shows spanning over 50 years. She received dozens of awards and more than 50 honorary degrees. Angelou is best known for her series of seven autobiographies, which focus on her childhood and early adult experiences. The first, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, tells of her life up to the age of 17 and brought her international recognition and acclaim.

Angelou was an actor, writer, director, and producer of plays, movies, and public television programs. In 1982, she was named the first Reynolds Professor of American Studies at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. She was active in the Civil Rights Movement and worked with Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. Beginning in the 1990s, she made around 80 appearances a year on the lecture circuit, something she continued into her eighties. Angelou was respected as a spokesperson for black people and women, and her works have been considered a defense of black culture.

The Maya Angelou Award of Innovation is presented to individuals who have used creativity appropriately to develop new or improve processes, methods, systems, products, or services and encourage others to do the same. This award is given to those who make innovation a priority among team/faculty members and encourage reasonable and calculated risk-taking and as a result, improve the university and make U a better place to live and work.

Paula Smith

Paula Smith
Associate Professor
Department of Educational Leadership and Policy

I go out of my way on a daily basis and consider it part of my life’s work to be helpful to people, to make sure that people can access the resources that they need so that they can enjoy the benefits of being at a place like the University of Utah…At the U specifically, I think the impact that I’ve had is on individual people and helping people be more successful than they would have been otherwise…In terms of getting [the BCC] started and maintaining it over the years, make sure that we’re helping other people [and] we’re lifting other people as we become more successful.

I want to say thank you to everybody on the nomination. We’ve been here for such a long time, and I’m just so happy for all the people that I’ve met, the people that I have supported, the work that I’ve been able to do here at the U and in the community. I especially want to thank my mother who is getting ready to turn 90-years old in a couple of weeks. She is just fabulous and sassy. She is so funny to me, and I also want to thank my husband and my family. I just want to thank everybody for allowing me to be me and allowing me to help you. Thank you!

Katy Riney

Katy Riney
Clinical Office Manager
University Counseling Center

I love giving of myself. For me, it is a sense of satisfaction that I was able to help someone. I know I can’t help everybody, but if I can help one person that makes me feel good that gives me a warm fuzzy. Just the impact of someone saying “thank you,” because I heard them, that’s what’s important.

I am totally, totally honored to receive this. I really am. I’m honored to be recognized for the person that I am and that who I am resonates with other people. I love [Maya Angelou], but she always said, “love recognizes no barriers.” And she goes on to say, you know, “you have to get to that hope,” but I consider my ability to arouse enthusiasm with my team, with the Counseling Center, with students, that part of the love.

I just want to thank those that put this program together and those that nominated me. I just want to say thank you, family, for being here. They’re on from across the nation to see me receive this honor. I am really grateful and honored. Thank you.

James McCune Smith Award of Veneration

Dr. James McCune Smith, born April 18, 1813, was an American physician, apothecary, abolitionist, and author. He was the first African American to hold a medical degree and graduated at the top of his class at the University of Glasgow in Scotland. After his return to the United States, he became the first African American to run a pharmacy in this nation.

In addition to practicing as a doctor for nearly 20 years at the Colored Orphan Asylum in Manhattan, Smith was a public intellectual: he contributed articles to medical journals, participated in learned societies, and wrote numerous essays and articles drawing from his medical and statistical training. He used his training in medicine and statistics to refute common misconceptions about race, intelligence, medicine, and society in general.

He has been most well-known for his leadership as an abolitionist: a member of the American Anti-Slavery Society, with Frederick Douglass he helped start the National Council of Colored People in 1853, the first permanent national organization for blacks. Frederick Douglass called Smith “the single most important influence on his life.”

The James McCune Award of Veneration is for individuals who are awe-inspired by dignity, wisdom, dedication, and excellence at the University of Utah.

William Smith

William Smith
Professor, Department of Education, Culture and Society
Professor, Division of Ethnic Studies

Manhood, scholarship, perseverance, and uplift. Those are essential cardinal principles that I try to live by. I try to help others as I would as others have helped me.

I want to thank everybody, all the people who nominated me, the people who voted for me. I really appreciate this. I appreciate getting the award named after a Smith. I’m gonna see if I’m related to him! I didn’t graduate at the top of my class but I did graduate in the top 99%, but at least I graduated. You know, I said in the video that my mother is probably the biggest influence on me. I want to thank my mother for what she instilled in me: the values and everything. I really appreciate her and I found a woman like my mother — I wasn’t looking for my mama — but I found a woman like my mother to be my wife. As I said, the two highest titles, greatest titles that I hold are husband and father. I really try to do my best at those.

Lastly, I’d like to say that I’m just happy to see all the faces on the screen and all the awardees and all the people who made an impact…I just want to thank all of you and thank the people who are in the audience from all over the country. I know I have some family members on there, so thank you again.

Nona Richardson

Nona Richardson
Executive Senior Associate Athletic Director
Senior Woman Administrator, Office of Equal Opportunity Title IX Liason

Your campus family is a family that can have the biggest impact with, so make sure that you are connected to various entities so they can pick the brain. You got people who have been here for 30 years, we’ve got people who’ve been there for 30 minutes, you know? They’re all gonna have different viewpoints of how they see things here at the University of Utah or within Salt Lake City Valley itself.

I cannot tell you how touched I am by receiving the James McCune Smith Award. First and foremost, thank you to the Black Cultural Center. Thank you to the Black Faculty and Staff Association, Utah Museum of Fine Arts, Lucid, and EDI. I also like to thank members of the Athletic Department and in particular, Mary Chris Finnigan. Mary Chris Finnigan is a director of academic services in the Department of Athletics. She is the one who organized this whole crew to nominate me for this award, so I am so thankful to all of them because they are who I serve in conjunction with our student-athletes.

They often tell me, “Nona, you don’t take enough credit for what you do,” and that is because it’s not about me. It’s about them, so that is my measurement. My measurement is their success, and seeing the successes that we have had within our department over the last couple of years has been paramount to me. I appreciate my peers recognizing what they see in me, but again, I’m gonna turn it back on them and turn it on our student-athletes. My mom would take me to marches, you know, and so I’ve got a little bit of that in me, but I want to pull out more of that in me so I can even help more so my student-athletes and my staff. Until we get to that part, I want to just say thank you, again, very much. Together we rise, so thank you.

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