Contributions of Black Women Honored
A group of college students from all over the Boston area gathered to celebrate the importance of black women to their lives at the Eleventh Annual Celebration of Black Women hosted by the Harvard Black Men’s Forum (BMF).
The formal event, held at the Cambridge Marriot on Saturday evening, honored Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), who was chosen as the Celebration’s 2005 Woman of the Year. The BMF also celebrated the accomplishments of seven black Harvard females—Sheila R. Adams ’05, Angela A. Amos ’05, Dareema Jenkins ’05, Chinwe S.E. Kpaduwa ’05, Onyinye D. Offor ’05, Helen O. Ogbara ’05, and Stella A. Safo ’05.
According to BMF President Kwame Owusu-Kesse ’06, the Celebration’s purpose was “to recognize and honor the contributions black women have made to Harvard and society at large.”
Amidst the glitz and glamour of the ceremony, Waters delivered a keynote address while members of the BMF presented awards to each of the seven student honorees.
Ogbara said she felt honored not only to be selected, but also to be among such a talented group of recipients. Jenkins and Safo also spoke of the mutual admiration among the honorees, noting that their friendships dated back to freshman year.
The celebration began with a short introduction, followed by a dinner and entertainment featuring Jennifer Hudson, an American Idol finalist, as well as poetry readings and presentations by Harvard undergraduates.
The Master of Ceremonies, Baratunde R. Thurston ’99, a former Crimson editor-turned comedian, lead the ceremony with witty introductions of both the Woman of the Year and other tributes to black women.
The first annual Celebration of Black women took place in 1994 as a modest ceremony in the houses of Harvard and according to Owusu-Kesse has flourished since its inception. “The Celebration has grown with each year while the spirit and purpose behind it has remained unaltered—honoring women who have redefined the face of excellence, women of distinction, and agents of empowerment,” he said.
A Friday night prelude to Saturday’s main event included a dinner and discussion panel featuring Vanessa E. Jones, a columnist for the Boston Globe, Marla Fredericks, an assistant professor of African and African American Studies at Harvard, and Kim Williams, an assistant professor of Public Policy at the Kennedy School of Government.
The panel entitled “Raise Your Voice! Black Women as Agents of Change,” discussed the present state of the Black Female activist. Both Fredericks and Williams spoke of a difficulty of setting a unified black women’s agenda and called on the audience for some suggestions.
Female undergraduates were quick to brainstorm several pressing issues, including domestic violence, rape, poverty, and AIDS.
Several BMF members worked together to coordinate the effort to honor and advance black women, including Steven K. Ridgill ’06, Zachary D. Raynor ’05, and Tracy “Ty” Moore II ’06.
While Raynor flew in his mother from Texas for the tribute, all the BMF members who organized the event spoke about the importance of black women in their lives.
Owusu-Kesse said that it is through black women that he “learned the importance of respect, humility and independence.”
He added that the celebration should extend beyond the College. “The Celebration of Black Women resonates far beyond the gates of Harvard, and long after this evening concludes,” he said.
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