African American Studies majors, minors honored at graduation event

Jerome Coenic, senior in LAS, receives the Richard & Mildred Barksdale Academic Excellence Award at the African American Studies and Research Program building, 1201 W. Nevada St., during their Year-End Celebration from Assistant to Director Carla Bloom Mo Beck Diefenbach

Jerome Coenic, senior in LAS, receives the Richard & Mildred Barksdale Academic Excellence Award at the African American Studies and Research Program building, 1201 W. Nevada St., during their Year-End Celebration from Assistant to Director Carla Bloom Mo Beck Diefenbach

By Ebonique Wool

Conversation and laughter filled a small room at the African-American Studies and Research Program building, 1201 W. Nevada St., as audience members and award winners gathered around a table of chicken wings, fruit and vegetables.

The student and staff award winners sat expectantly in chairs waiting for the ceremony to begin.

The African American Studies and Research Program held their 2007 Year-End Celebration in honor of graduating majors, minors, faculty and program award winners.

“I wanted to come and show my support to people who’ve won an award,” said Serena Keys, senior in LAS. “(This event) gives us a chance to celebrate with each other for things we have accomplished. It’s very uplifting.”

Her friend, Christina Carney, senior in LAS, won the Undergraduate Research Paper Contest with a 40-page research paper on the topic of public policy regarding welfare and stereotypical language used to describe black women in congressional debates.

“It was great (winning this award) because I’ve never applied for a scholarship or award before,” Carney said. “And this year I also won a $20,000 scholarship to study abroad.”

Carney, who is minoring in African American studies, appreciates the diversity of ideas and learning methods the program provides.

“This program pushes you to think beyond the box,” Carney said.

Other awards given were for academic excellence, community involvement, and other academic contributions to the program as a whole.

Arturo Hernandez, senior in LAS, won the Doris Hoskins and John Lee Johnson Community Linkage Award for his work within the community.

Nominated by his boss from the Boys and Girls Club, Hernandez has worked with both Latino and black children in the community to help engage them in positive after-school activities.

“I’ve made a lot of sacrifices in the past two years,” Hernandez said. “It’s good to see people who’ve benefited from it. I also get letters form the kids. It’s nice to get some recognition.”

His mother, Laurdes Hernandez, came from Chicago to support her son at the ceremony.

“I’m very proud, of course,” she said. “I try to see everything he does. He’s very special to me.”

Along with the pursuit to recognize students for their academic accomplishments, Sundiata K. Cha-Jua, director of the African American Studies and Research Program and associate professor of history, said the ceremony also “(helps) build community among the majors and minors and connect them to the faculty and staff.”

Though the turnout was lower in 2007 than in previous years, Cha-Jua said he appreciates the mixed diversity and joviality of the crowd.

“I can see they’re enjoying themselves,” Cha-Jua said. “You know we have the best food.”