BHM 2016, A Look Back: Distinctions

This post serves as part two of a three part honorarium to Black History Month 2016 and the Black greatness that exuded during this month alone. IUPUI Doctor Lands $1.1 Million Grant

The National Science Foundation’s CAREER Award is among one of the most prestigious awards offered in support of young scientists and junior faculty. It signifies an exemplary a2l12uJWR0W1T59wcontribution by teacher-scholars through exceptional research, outstanding education and the overall integration of the two.

Lisa M. Jones, Ph.D., an assistant professor of chemistry and chemical biology in the School of Science at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis has secured the $1.1 million award funds for her work in the study of cell membrane proteins in their native cellular environment. The grant will be used to further the development and study of protein misfolding as it occurs naturally in cell membrane tissues. Prior to Jones’ approach, proteins have been studied predominantly under sterile laboratory conditions. Protein folding attributes to an array of human disorders such as cystic fibrosis, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

The grant itself is intended to promote the enhancement and education of our future doctors and scientists. Moreover, the funds will be utilized to support state-of-the-art research facilities and training for IUPUI undergrad and graduate students as well as students of Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

“My goal,” she says, “is to not only to teach students about research but also to provide them with information that I know from personal experience is generally lacking for underrepresented minorities in science.” Contact with a variety of working scientists as well as career counseling will also be a direct result of the newly acquired research funds.

This is a huge win for women and minorities in STEM and a timeless example of “each one, teach one” as we continue to help guide and build one another.

Tumbles and Nae Naes and Dabs, Oh My

Earlier in the month, Sophina DeJesus, was just an everyday college athlete – competitive, charismatic, and the culmination of years of training and practice. After an unconventional, hip hop inspired floor routine that helped her UCLA Division I gymnastics team defeat their conference rival Utah, the 21-year-old sociology major became a social media sensation. Video of the routine has racked up over 28.5 million view on Facebook.

web.sp_.3.17.gym_.wrap_.AW_-640x560The college senior, and an all-American in the bars, participated in the floor exercise for her first time this season on February 6th; she scored an impressive score of 9.925. Points are generally awarded for technical accuracy and execution, so by definition it was a stellar routine but her intermittent dance moves were all the craze. The crowd and her teammates were left chanting and suggesting perfect 10s as her score.

Sporting blue box braids and a radiant smile, Sophina’s success as a gymnast already transcends old notions that black girls and their bodies are too powerful and strong to successfully portray the style and grace of traditional gymnasts, ballerinas, and figure skaters. Her song selection and the incorporation of hip hop dances like the whip, nae nae, and the dab—made popular by another powerhouse Black athlete, NFL Panthers’ quarterback Cam Newton—further celebrate her race and personal pride in its culture [as it disrupts the norms of other typecast cultures].

Sophina is of African American and Puerto Rican descent and comes from a strong family, deeply rooted in Black history. Her grandfather, Webster Moore, was a Navy veteran and an academic counselor at Cal State Northridge. He helped Angela Davis become the first Black professor at UCLA during the unsettling years of the Civil Rights Movement.

Home Depot: A Woman’s Work

We often take for granted the idea that hard work pays off; too often the light at the end of the tunnel is too dim to seem attainable. But, for Ann-Marie Campbell, her future has always been bright and she’s stayed true and dedicated to her work since her formative years. Earlier in the month, she was named the Executive Vice President of US Home Depot stores.

Ann-Marie started her career at Home Depot almost three decades ago as a cashier while she attended Georgia State University where she earned a degree in philosophy and her Master’s in business administration. She’s held various managerial roles within the corporation over the years, all culminating to her newest position in which she’ll head up the company’s three US operating divisions – comprised of about 2,000 stores and nearly 400,000 associates.

As if spawn from a line of modern Madame C.J.s, Ann-Marie attributes her work ethic and inspiration to her grandmother who turned a roadside business in Kingston, Jamaica into a multi-million dollar company. Raised under the tutelage of such a maven, the apple didn’t fall far from the tree.

As she has stated, it is imperative to build the confidence of women, in business and otherwise. Her message to the young women she mentors is simple: “Be bold. Be you.”

Clearly these are words that Ann-Marie lives by.

Black Dancers, White House

This year marked the last BHM the Obamas will spend as residents in the White House. As part of the month’s celebrations, FLOTUS Michelle Obama hosted a day of dance and discussion to highlight the contributions that African American women have made in the dance world.

Fifty-one young female dancers of color from local companies were invited for a day filled with dance workshops, history and culture. They spent time training and connecting with iconic leaders in dance, including Judith Jamison (Alvin Ailey), the legendary Debbie Allen, Virginia Johnson (the Dance Theater of Harlem), and hip hop choreographer Fatima Robinson.

Each of these women’s gifts and talents have played pivotal roles in shaping the possibilities of African American women in dance; they’ve each made it abundantly clear that this is an industry where our women can excel and flourish.

In a panel discussion, a variety of topics including self-confidence, health, hard work, and overcoming adversity were touched upon. The women stressed the importance of breeding the next generation of excellence and encouraged the young students to be the change this country and world needs.

A bit of Michelle Obama’s parting words were: “Looking out at these beautiful, talented young women, I know that we have the power to keep reaching higher and defying the odds, and achieving those firsts, and seconds, and thirds, and hundreds, and thousands until a black principal dancer is no longer a cause for headlines, and our children are limited only by the size of their dreams and their willingness to work for them.

Keep soaring, young woman - Black GIrl, Fly!

**honorary mention goes to the resilient Misty Copeland

Through writing, New York native, Bri.L, has produced a creative voice that speaks for the sake of her mind and heart. Her poetry is a raw reflection of the world’s culture - telling stories that embody life, consciousness, acceptance and more – from unpredictable perspectives. At an early age, putting pen to paper became a way for her to heal, to evoke, to love and she’s been left to write ever since. For more on how she tells it, visit | IG: @Bri_Bossy