Black Girls Rock program honors black students, faculty

A cappella group Voices of Freedom perform during the Black Girls Rock program event in the Rome Ballroom on the UConn campus in Storrs, Connecticut on Thursday, March 3, 2016. (Rebecca Newman/The Daily Campus)

Every chair in Rome Commons was filled during the Black Girls Rock program on March 3. The group honored the contributions of female African American undergraduates, graduate students and faculty to the University of Connecticut community.

The UConn National Council of Negro Women hosted the event. Groups such as the African American Cultural Center, the African American Alumni Council, Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Sisters Inspiring Sisters and National Council of Negro Woman-Hartford Section were represented. More chairs had to be brought into the back of the room for the extra attendants.

The night opened with a poem titled, “To Be a Black Woman and Alive,” performed by Bree’ana Johnson and Geofanne Anderson. The poem touched on how black men turn their noses up at black woman, and how resilient and defiant black women are, simply by existing.

Johnson said that she was inspired by the Black Entertainment Television program, “Black Girls Rock,” and was determined to start a similar program at UConn.

“The turnout and the amount of melanin in the room is wonderful. It’s great to be able to get acknowledgement for the accomplishments that the campus hasn’t been privy too,” Schneider Jean-Baptiste, 8th-semester business administration major, said.

The event included performances by Voices of Freedom, Nubian Foxes and Alyssa Hughes. A capella group Voices of Freedom sang, “Hallelujah, Salvation & Glory,” which filled the room with wonderful mixing harmonies. Hughes performed a slam poem, then she sang about police brutality accompanied by a bongo and guitar player. Dance group Nubian Foxes also contributed by dancing a lively African and Caribbean dance.

The keynote speaker was Jamilah Lemieux, editor of EBONY Magazine. Lemieux frequently appears on Huffington Post, MSNBC and Al Jazeera America.

Lemieux addressed various issues, such as the recent controversial trailer for the Nina Simone movie and the lack of equal female representation in the new “Ghostbusters” movie. In the films, Zoe Saldana plays Simone in blackface, and the one black female ghostbuster works in the New York City metro, while the three white members of the team are scientists.

Lemieux also repeated the belief that, black men, and white men and women, owe something in their lives to a black woman. She stressed the importance of inclusion, including black transwomen, black disabled women and black gay women, among other groups.

Over a brief dinner intermission, groups mingled and watched a Black Girls Rock video made by Troy Brice featuring black UConn female students expressing why they rock, and black UConn male students supporting the women in their lives.

“It’s great to have the support to celebrate ourselves and who we are,” Justin Walters, a sixth semester electrical engineering student said. “Whether you’re black, white, Puerto Rican, any race, it’s important to celebrate where you come from."

The program awarded Legends, Game-changers and Rockstars awards to faculty members, graduates and undergraduates. The qualified nominees and winners were awarded for their work in academics, volunteerism and activism.

Lemieux and all the speakers shared positive and negative moments. Giggles, tears, hugs and snickers were shared through the night.

“It’s a privilege to be here,” said Isaiah Mohammed, eighth semester management information systems major. “We’re here to make a difference, especially minorities. UConn invested in the right individuals.”


Claire Galvin is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at claire.galvin@uconn.edu.