I’m thrilled to participate in any facet of celebrating the African-American and Multicultural Affairs Office since I would not be where I am or who I am without it. My experience with the African-American and Multicultural Affairs Office is a precious blend of part journey, affirmation, and testimony. Every program, organization, and event developed from the office helped me to thrive in one way or another. Every aspect of my AAMA experience I use every day. My journey began with SOAR, which bonded me to a group of women who became my support and family for the next four years, many of whom I still keep in contact with today. My first Kwanzaa Ceremony will always remain incredibly special to me. Reverend Scott asked me to read the poem “For My People” by Margaret Walker. This moment forever changed the way I would see myself. In fact, during the recitation of “For My People” I discovered that I indeed had a voice. Had Reverend Scott not asked me to do that one thing I was deeply terrified of, I would not have developed the confidence that I inevitably did on that day. I can still recite portions of that poem from memory.
As with any college student, those four years between high school and the real world can be bewildering, chaotic, and curious. The great part of graduating from Mary Baldwin with the Office of African-American and Multicultural Affairs indelibly woven in the fabric of your college journey is that you are firmly grounded in a supreme understanding of who you are internally, spiritually, and professionally. There was no doubt upon my exit from Mary Baldwin that I would shine, accomplish every desired goal, and seize my place next to the other accomplished women of color who like me came to Mary Baldwin hopeful as well as inquisitive, and graduated expectant and ready for whatever the future held. When I met for the first time the ladies who would become my role models: Shanice Penn, Ranyn Herbert, and Shuntae Poe, I couldn’t quite put my finger on what it was about them that I knew made them special and remarkable. I now know from experience exactly what it was: Reverend Scott’s participation in the very shaping of our core strength as women.
For the incoming woman of color who is wise enough to take advantage of all that the African-American and Multicultural Affairs Office has to offer, there is much that awaits her: power, distinction, sisterhood, and understanding. She will graduate with the tools required to make it in a world where distinguished women of color are not few, but ones with a keen grasp of their potential. Thanks to AAMA, that woman can discover herself through acting, poetry, liturgical dance, singing, advocacy, student leadership, culture, and history. The recipe she creates for her successful passage through her years at Mary Baldwin can be abundantly colorful and rich. AAMA has gone far beyond what it ever had to do for women like me. This is seen in the continuum of women who graduate from Ajani, renewed and wonderfully collective in their view of what it means to be a sista. The African-American and Multicultural Affairs Office has given Mary Baldwin ten years, however it gives the women who need it, grow from it, and treasure it a lifetime more. Reverend Andrea Cornett-Scott birthed an era and no anniversary could ever sufficiently express the gratitude that not only we have, but the gratitude our daughters will have and theirs after them.
Dara Moore ’02
Acquisitions Editorial Assistant
American Chemical Society
Well first when I went to Mary Baldwin the Office was called the Office of African-American Affairs and Multicultural Understanding. Rev. Cornett-Scott was just a director and we were the second class to do the Kwanzaa Celebration. My first year there was no Libations, Greater Things Dance Ministry, Caribbean Association, Kuumba Players, or Umoja House. That Office has exploded under the guidance of now Vice President Cornett-Scott.
I can honestly say that I would not be the successful woman I am today had I not taken full advantage of the AAMA. While at Mary Baldwin I was heavily involved in the office. I was Vice President of Black Student Alliance, an actor in Kuumba Players, a member of the First Umoja House, a dancer in Greater Things, a writer in Libations and an Ajani graduate. Upon graduating from Mary Baldwin I helped start the Black Alumni Network and the Newsletter: Blackberry. I learned so much about who I was as a woman, and a woman of color, because of the AAMA.
This office taught me not only to embrace my own and other’s cultural differences, but to notice how similar we are also. In these times in America where tolerance is at an all time low, I look back on the lesson I learned by being a part of AAMA and reach inside and look for understanding and not judgment. I try to help the students who I have worked with to reach back and find their history and to write the stories, sing the songs, and dance the dances of the past. I was taught that if we do not know our past, how can we know our future.
AAMA encouraged me to begin my spiritual journey. It was nice to be given the opportunity to learn and grow spiritually by having Anointed Voices of Praise and Greater Things Dance Ministry. Those two organizations not only taught me how to praise God in an open and unashamed way, but also allowed others just to be in His presence in quiet worship. The spiritual foundation that I received has helped me grow not only myself, but to become a leader in my home church where I have led a woman’s discipleship class.
Black Student Alliance (BSA) and the Umoja House taught me about black leadership in America. America has made great strides in equality, but the battle is far from over for both women and African Americans. BSA and the Umoja House taught me that it is my duty to make sure that the voices of my people are heard; not with just anger and hurt but with a clear plan articulated to all. These organizations taught me to speak with a confident elegance that would have people listen. I can now proudly stand up for what I believe in and not be intimidated.
When Libations and Kuumba Players were founded they were a way for me to express my creative and artistic nature. Kuumba Players offered an outlet for student playwrights, actors, directors, and production hands to share in the commonness of African-American thought and life. The plays offered up conversation that led to understanding and healing. Libations let the minorities on campus express themselves openly without ridicule and it was a place to display poems, short stories, and art. Again bringing discussion and healing.
I have been so privileged to be a part of Mary Baldwin University who in turn allowed me to grow in comfort and safety in the African-American and Multicultural Affairs Office. I know that ten years seems like a long time, but it is merely a moment compared to how far we have left to go in the area of racial understanding. I am so glad to have been a part of this dynamic and valid office. If you want to know what my proudest moment was, it was May 2002 when I was not only a Mary Baldwin graduate, but an Ajani graduate. That I had taken the time to serve Mary Baldwin by serving in the African-American and Multicultural Affairs Office.
Ayesha Hawkins ’02
Assistant Director of High School Operations
The Princeton Review
“I am because we are and since we are, therefore I am complete.” -African Proverb
If I could sum up the African-American and Multicultural Affairs Office in one sentence, it would be just that. I remember the first time I ever heard that quote. I heard it on my first day on campus as I sat in the opening ceremonies for Project SOAR in the fall of 1998. I didn’t quite understand it at the time, and little did I know that very quote would come to mean so much to me over the next few years.
The campus was in a very transitional place when I arrived. To me, it seemed calm, welcoming, and inclusive. However, the upper-class women who were so vocal and instrumental in the creation of the office just a few years before were very quick to caution me and the other first year students that race relations on campus had not always been so calm. They were concerned and wanted us to be aware that things could easily go back to the way they were before if we weren’t careful. That’s why the Sankofa bird is such an important symbol in African-American culture. You’ve just got to know where you’ve been in order to know where you are going. I remember being at Project SOAR and seeing the absolute excitement and joy the upper-class women had in being reunited with each other after the summer months. It was also so heartwarming to see how much love and respect they had for each other and for Rev. Andrea Cornett-Scott. Although we were new, they made us feel like family on the first day. It was my first time away from home, but somehow I knew I would be okay.
The first club I got involved with was the Anointed Voices of Praise Gospel Choir. At this time, AVP was only in its second year of existence. In addition to AVP, the other minority based clubs on campus at the time were the Black Student Association, Minority Women in Unity, and Latinas Unidas. During the time I was there, the office began to grow. SOAR was bigger each year. With new recruitment efforts such as minority recruitment weekend, and a minority recruiter on the admissions staff, the number of African-American and Latina women being admitted to Mary Baldwin was increasing tremendously each year. New clubs were being formed; Libations, Greater Things Dance Ministry, and Kuumba players. More and more women of color were being elected into the top student leadership positions on campus. It was an exciting time for the office and for the African-American and Latina community. We had a voice, we were speaking, and we were definitely being heard.
One tradition in particular that is special to me is the Kwanzaa celebration that is held each year. Kwanzaa, a “coming of age” tradition for the African-American freshman, was started by my class (2002). The most special part of Kwanzaa to me was the Unity Circle. As a freshman you start on the outside of the circle and each year you work your way in until your senior year when you are finally at the center. Another tradition that was especially memorable for me was the Ajani Ceremony. Ajani is a Swahili word that simply means “she who overcomes all struggles.” Ajani celebrates the graduating seniors and all of their achievements and their dedication to the office. I remember being at Project SOAR and looking around and seeing all the faces of the other incoming freshman. And then four years later at my Ajani ceremony, I remember doing the same thing. And while some faces were missing and some had been added, it was so wonderful to me to be celebrating my last days “in class and on field” with the same women with whom my journey began.
During my four years at Mary Baldwin, the Office of African-American Affairs and Multicultural Understanding, as it was called then, was my backbone. Rev. Cornett-Scott is an inspiration to all young women. She is a woman of great integrity, vision, courage, and strength. She encouraged us to step out of comfort zones and to always reach for more. She taught us never to settle and accept the status quo. She nurtured us back to health when we were sick, she ministered to our spirits when we were weak, she cried with us, laughed with us, she shared our joys, our fears, our dreams, and our deepest pains. She was sister, auntie, mama, pastor, and friend. She made sure that we became leaders, and of course that we left with our “cultural integrity intact.” And although we left Mary Baldwin University as women, to Rev. Cornett-Scott, we’ll always be “her girls.”
The ten year anniversary of the office is a time of great celebration. Not only a time of celebration, but it teaches us a couple of lessons. The first is that in the face of great adversity, perseverance will triumph every time. And the second lesson is truly the first lesson, for it’s the first lesson learned by all African-American and Latina women when they begin their matriculation at Mary Baldwin. And that lesson is simply “I am because we are, and since we are therefore, I am complete.” It is this principle that has brought us thus far, and it is this principle that shall lead us home.
Congratulations to the Office and to Rev. Cornett-Scott on a decade of excellence.
Lynnette Daughtry ’02