Black Women Rock!
GSU's Annual Celebration of the Achievments and Contributions of African American Women
Governors State University will celebrate the 4th annual Black Women Rock on Feb. 27 at 6:30 p.m. in the Center for Performing Arts. The night, a celebration of the achievements and contributions of African American women in the GSU community, will feature music dance, and tribute performances by local artists, including a performance by the 2015 US Finals Champions, Exclusive All Star Dance Team from Park Forest.
Vivian Covington, mayor of University Park, will be in attendance to present the Coretta Scott King Award. Mayor Covington received the award in 2015.
Sheree Sanderson, Assistant Dean of Student Life, said, “Each year, Student Life looks around the university and looks for an African American woman, particularly a faculty person or a leader on the outside, who embodies the spirit of what Coretta Scott King stood for.” This year’s winner is a faculty member who has yet to be notified.
Sanderson, who has been involved in BWR since its inception at GSU, views the event as an invaluable opportunity for African American women to reach across color lines and invite others into their experience. Hand in hand with the celebration goes a teaching opportunity.
“The whole concept is about helping others understand our culture and appreciate the things that we do. It’s really not only just us celebrating each other. It’s about embracing and understanding the culture of what black women are able to achieve and how they’ve had to achieve it. It’s a teachable moment,” Sanderson said. “This is the essence of what black history is about, and we have made a conscious effort to reach out and be diverse across campus, so we have people presenting and not all of the people are African American. We want to be inclusive. We open it up to everybody.”
This year, 35 women have been nominated in 14 categories, and the winners will be announced during Saturday’s event. Unlike the Coretta Scott King Award, category nominees are aware of their nominations.
Dominique Hunt, a sophomore in the Business Administration program, has been nominated for Student Athlete of the Year. Hunt, a member of last year’s inaugural freshman class who lives on campus and is a student worker, said that she feels encouraged by her nomination.
“I work hard. I’m practicing. For someone to acknowledge that, it makes me want to continue to work hard,” she said. “To me, I feel like it gives the students motivation to continue to do better, to strive harder, when we are working hard and they acknowledge that.”
LaTonya Holmes, Cohort Advisor and Coordinator for New Student Programs, has been nominated in two staff categories. She sees BWR as an opportunity for African American women to elevate one another.
“This gives us an opportunity to say we have women who are black, who are strong, that we can lift up. I think that’s what’s really great about Black Women Rock,” she said
Holmes has a long history with GSU. She received her undergraduate and Masters degrees from the university, and with the exception of a small hiatus in 2007, has been on campus in one capacity or another since 1996.
Ricca Louissaint, the AmeriCorps VISTA in Student Life and a triple-nominee this year,
said she sees BWR as a chance for African American women to be seen and appreciated, and she embraces it as a platform for diversity.
“Our experience, oftentimes, has been that we are excluded from receiving recognition from larger platforms and other venues,” Louissaint said. “Some women may not know why it’s here but just feel glad to be a part of it.”
Black Women Rock is a free event, and is open to the public.