Awards ceremony pays tribute to African American women in Champaign-Urbana

By Camille Murray

Lincoln Hall Theater was packed Saturday evening as students and community members gathered to honor local African-American women at the second annual Black Women Rock! Awards Ceremony.

The show was organized by EmpowerME, a student organization that aims to inspire minorities to help them empower both themselves and others.

Cindy Beasley, EmpowerME president and junior in LAS, brought the concept of the Black Women Rock! Awards to campus last year with the goal of inspiring and recognizing the accomplishments of successful black women in the community. The theme of this year’s award show was “50 Shades of Brown.”

“African-American women come in all shades. Some of us are lighter, some of us are darker,” Beasley said. “So we want to highlight the fact that although our skin tones might be different, we’re all black women that are doing positive things.”

There were a total of nine awards and 14 women nominated. Campus and community members were given the opportunity to nominate women for the awards in the fall. The nominations were then reviewed and selected by the board.

The highest honor given during the ceremony was the Black Women Rock Award, which was presented to Janice Mitchell, founder and executive director of the Urbana Neighborhood Connections Center. The Black Women Rock Award is given to a woman who is said to embody all the qualities of the other eight awards presented at the award ceremony.

“I’m one that can tell you I have no choice but to try to give back,” Mitchell said. “I have no choice but to try to give inspiration and motivation to others.”

The ceremony also showcased several musical, poetic and artistic performances. Endalyn Taylor, assistant professor of dance, was featured as the show’s motivational speaker and delivered a inspirational speech stressing the importance of self-love and individuality.

”What I’d like to convey tonight is that there is no greater power than self-validation,” Taylor said. “We don’t need to look anywhere else — learn to love what we see and then use the gifts we possess to do things that matter.”

Beasley believes the event will continue to become bigger and better in the future. She hopes the awards ceremony will help promote positivity in the black community and show appreciation to women whose success and hard work sometimes goes unnoticed.

“No matter your shade, no matter your color, you’re still a sister who matters,” she said.

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