At the end of Black History Month and the beginning of Women’s History Month, the Black Women Rock! awards celebrated black women’s accomplishments in the community.
In 2010, MU graduate Dreana Johnson began the event, inspired by the BET special “Black Girls Rock!”
The organization, now coordinated by senior Sirrah Joof, describes its mission as “honoring African-American women in Columbia who are making a difference through giving back to the community and who are roles model to young women.”
This year’s ceremony was hosted Saturday by Jessica Cooper and Steven Blakley and began with a tribute to Almeta Crayton, former city councilwoman and founder of the charity Everyone Eats, who died in October.
The ceremony honored eight women with awards for various accomplishments in the MU and Columbia communities.
Nadege Uwase, recipient of the Unsung Hero award, is the director and founder of the nonprofit Global Issues Leadership Development. She spoke about how reading has inspired her and how the MU committee helped her find her niche.
“I realized there could be a space for me and more importantly for people like me — women, black women, African women — and that space included success,” said Uwase, who is from Rwanda.
Sophomore Valencia Seuell created the campus women’s leadership organization ELITE and received the Young, Gifted and Black Award.
Seuell, after dedicating the award to both her mother and Beyoncé, advised black women to stay focused and don’t limit yourself.
“No matter how big your dream is or how small it is, you can do it,” she said.
Ebony Francis, a junior and the mentorship co-chairwoman of the National Association of Black Journalists at MU, received the Star Power award and described her passion for mentorship and inspiring younger women.
“There are people that try to undermine your intelligence and where you come from and who you are, but when you know your purpose and God’s will, it doesn’t really matter,” Francis said.
The Visionary Award was awarded to Simone McGautha, who plans to move to Dallas, Texas, to teach high school English after graduating this semester.
“Always reach back. Wherever you go in life, you have to bring people with you,” McGautha said, describing her passion for education.
Pamela Ingram, recipient of the Living Legend award, also works with children. She is the founder of the organization Granny’s House, which provides a positive place for children in the Douglass Park public housing development to spend time after school.
Patricia Mabengo received this year’s Humanitarian Award for her work with organizations like the African Students Association and Friends of the Congo.