Alice M. Smith
Roland S. Martin, a national award-winning and multifaceted journalist, syndicated columnist and CNN analyst, was the keynote speaker at the Jackson State University National Alumni Association’s (JSUNAA) 8th Biennial Conference which was held in New Orleans, Louisiana, June 2-5, 2011, at the Sheraton Hotel on Canal Street. Martin is the author of several books, namely Listening to the Spirit Within: 50 Perspectives on Faith; Speak Brother!: A Black Man’s View of America; and The First: President Barack Obama’s Road to the White House. He earned his Bachelor of Science degree from Texas A&M University in 1991, a 20-year member of the National Association of Black Journalists and a life member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. Martin was named by Ebony Magazine as one of the “150 Most Influential African-Americans in the United States.” He delivered his “Jackson State of the Art” speech with power and dynamite, bringing home many points about the high percentage of African-American alumni who attend historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and do not give back to their universities. Martin is a committed contributor to his alma mater and his message regarding giving back to one’s educational institution was very encouraging and persuasive.
The JSUNAA, armed with the slogan “Renewed Alumni: Preserving the Legacy, Embracing the Future,” was true to its words. The alumni, families and friends that attended the conference were representative of the strong evidence of the perseverance to sustain the mission and goals of the association and Jackson State University (JSU).
As a sign of goodwill, conference volunteers planned community events in New Orleans which were associated with the conference. The events included a service project with the Ronald McDonald House in New Orleans and a Job Fair in partnership with Job1 New Orleans. The volunteers provided valuable service to the community projects.
The opening session for the 8th Biennial Conference was held in the Waterbury Ballroom of the Sheraton Hotel. Terry L. Woodard, JSUNAA President, presided over the meeting. After his welcome, mistress of ceremonies, Tarita Benson Davis, Southwest Regional Vice President and conference chairperson, also welcomed everyone to the 8th Biennial Conference. There was a “Parade of Flags” which highlighted the six regions and members of the JSU National Alumni Association. The parade yielded an atmosphere of celebration with party-horns, dancing, Mardi Gras beads, alumni, family, friends and some of that good ole’ New Orleans second-line music by the Pin Stripe Brass Band. Dr. Carolyn W. Meyers, JSU President, greeted everyone in grand JSU style. The topical presenters included JSU’s very own Dr. John A. Peoples, Jr., JSU President Emeritus (The Historical University Overview) and Dr. Hilliard L. Lackey, III, JSUNAA Immediate Past President (A Historical Perspective of JSUNAA). The featured speakers were Dr. Charles K. Chiplin, English Professor for University College at JSU and Brittany Patton, JSU Pre-Alumni Council President. In a highly dramatic and riveting speech, Dr. Chiplin talked about the ongoing struggles of African-Americans in their quest for freedom and equality. Patton delivered a powerful message to alumni about their commitments and contributions to JSU.
The Panel Discussion: Engaging Alumni in Athletic Enhancement, a concurrent workshop, presented moderator, Robert Walker, Interim Athletic Director and panel participants, which included Adrienne Sweeney, JSU Compliance Officer and Ricardo Comegy, JSU Head Football Coach. The panel was asked a series of questions regarding the athletics department and their financial goals and objectives for JSU and the athletes.
The second concurrent workshop, Leadership Development, was presented by Dr. Dyrren Davis who represented an interactive and lively discussion on “Leadership: How to Persuade and Influence as a Leader.”
The Panel Discussion: For Your Health – “Health and Wellness in the African-American Community,” was conducted in the Waterbury Ballroom. Annette Johnson, Midwest Regional Vice President, was the facilitator and the panel participants included moderator, Dr. Earlexia Norwood, Family Practice, Board Certified Physician with the Henry Ford Health Systems (Detroit, Michigan); and JSUNAA 1st Vice President; Dr. LaToya Mason, Anesthesiologist, Assistant Professor of Anesthesiology at Baylor College of Medicine (Houston, TX); Dr. Davida Manor-Ward, Emergency Room Physician, Memorial Herman Hospital System (Houston, TX); Dr. Katrina Davis, OBGYN, Associate Professor of OB/GYN at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences and Director of University Women’s Clinic (Little Rock, AR); Dr. Paresh Ray, JSU Professor Prostate Cancer Research; and Ms. Angela Walker, a breast cancer advocate who is employed by a community based health organization in Chicago, Illinois that advocates for early detection. Walker is a five-year breast cancer survivor. Impressionably, the panel consisted of JSU alumni and affiliates.
The Meet the President Reception, hosted by the New Orleans Alumni Chapter, was held in the New Orleans Board of Trade Building. The food and camaraderie were fun and relaxing and Dr. Meyers enjoyed the festivities and food. She was very positive when expressing the advancements and opportunities of JSU and other historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs).
Regardless of the activities that were experienced the previous night, early Saturday morning found the Get Fit Part 1 folks ready, willing and able to exercise and focus on personal training, fitness and nutrition. This exercise event, led by Mia Trevillion Barney, Dr. Katrina Lackey-Davis and Mr. Dennis Davis, was held in the Southdown room of the hotel.
After all the physical activity and sweating, the alumni had their business meeting and breakfast which was led by Terry L. Woodard, National Alumni Association President. Gwen Caples, JSU Director of Alumni and Constituency Relations and JSUNAA Executive Director, announced that approximately $36 million had been raised for “The Campaign for Jackson State,” and alumni contributed $2.8 million. She mentioned that the fundraiser ends on June 30, 2011 and encouraged alumni to continue giving to JSU. She also talked about ways for increasing the JSUNAA membership that included the suggestion for early preparation for high school seniors.
Ted Ellis, Artist in Residence, is artistically gifted. He spoke eloquently about the history and purpose for art. Ellis was recognized as an artist of historical importance and several of his paintings are in the permanent collection of the DuSable Museum, McKenna Museum, The Free People of Color Museum and the Amistad Research Center. (For more information on his art, please visit http://www.tellisfineart.com).
The Saturday plenary session was a moderated discussion on the future of Historically Black Colleges and Universities. The panelists included Rhonda Cummings (Moderator), Dr. Carolyn Meyers, JSU President, Dr. Victor Okpolo, Chancellor, (Southern University of New Orleans), Dr. Betty Graves, JSU Associate Vice President of Enrollment Management and Dr. Hilliard L. Lackey, III, JSUNAA Past President. The panel of officiators answered questions from the audience explicitly and with expertise. Other concurrent workshops conducted in various areas of the Sheraton included Legal Issues for Alumni Organizations (presented by Mr. Michael Bruno of Bruno and Tervalon and Camelia Joseph of The Joseph Group), Building Your Financial Portfolio/Investments (presented by Mr. Donnell Carter, Primerica), Friendraising & Fundraising (presented by Evangeline Robinson, Executive Director of Institutional Advancement) and Get ‘Em While They’re Young: Alumni Orientation for Students (presented and moderated by JSU alumni and students: Nora Jones, Brittany Patton, David Robinson, Ranetta Goss, Raven Griffin and Lonnie Simpson).
The conference banquet was a sight to behold with the entertainment and delicious menu. Roland S. Martin, Keynote Speaker, Lydia Payne Monie, Mistress of Ceremonies and President (New Orleans Metro Alumni Chapter), Terry Scott, Master of Ceremonies and 1st Vice President (New Orleans Metro Alumni Chapter) and Robert Norwood, President (Detroit Michigan Alumni Chapter) really set the pace for a grand celebration. Scott, a comedian, really sported his wares as he entertained the audience and convinced us all that “he’s got jokes.” The entertainment was performed by the Culu Children’s Traditional African Dance Company and they are managed by Mariama Curry, JSUNAA Southwest Regional Board Member. The extremely tall stilts dancer held everyone’s attention in awe. He was an expert dancer and probably danced better than some with their natural legs. The dancers were absolutely beautiful in their colorful attire and put their hearts and soul into their dance rituals. Other entertainment included Kiana Day-Holder, Miss JSU 2004-2005. During the course of the banquet, Terry Scott, a member of the New Orleans Alumni Chapter, made the following check presentations to JSU: $2,500 to President Carolyn W. Meyers and $2,500 to Lydia Payne Monie (New Orleans Metro Alumni Chapter).
Annette Johnson and Terry L. Woodard presented awards to the chapters and Young Alumni Achievement Award honorees: Christen Scott (Memphis, TN), Rosalind E. Hal (Jackson, MS), Will C. Pugh (Duncanville, TX), Candace Elliott (Richmond, TX), Erin Mercer (Antioch, TN), Lauren Spinks (Chicago, IL), Leon D.E. Cole (Newport News, VA), Marlene V. Harris ( Loganville, GA) and Danyelle McKinney-Armour (West Bloomfield, MI). They were all successful alumni that graduated less than 15 years ago. The chapter awards were presented in the following categories: Membership (Tupelo), Student Recruitment (Metro Atlanta, Chicago, Nashville, Los Angeles), Public Relations (Metro Atlanta, Memphis, Chicago, Houston, Hattiesburg, Los Angeles) and Fundraising (Meridian, Houston). Dr. Derek Henson, JSUNAA 2nd Vice President, shared acknowledgements and the closing remarks were offered by the Master and Mistress of Ceremonies. Together, we sang the Alma Mater “Jackson Fair” by Pawley Hall.
As the old saying goes “all good things must come to an end” and there was no exception for the conference. On Sunday morning, Get Fit, Part 2 was in motion with Mariama Curry and her Culu Children’s Traditional African Dance Company and the participants enjoyed the rigorous and fun workout.
The Closing Prayer Breakfast was the finale for 8th Biennial Conference. Tarita Benson Davis presided over the breakfast which included inspirational messages from Reverend Barron Banks, JSUNAA Chaplain and Vera Watson, JSUNAA Mississippi Regional Vice President. The assembly enjoyed singing by the Golden Voices Community Choir Youth Ensemble, a group of only four, whose voices filled the room like a large choir in perfect pitch. After their performance, Davis thanked everyone for their participation and presented certificates and awards of appreciation. In closing, Terry L. Woodard encouraged all alumni to remain faithful and committed to JSU.
The JSU National Alumni Association Executive Committee would like to thank alumni and friends nationwide who worked tirelessly to plan a successful and productive 8th Biennial Conference.
Tarita Benson Davis, Conference Co-Chair
Lydia Payne Monie, Conference Co-Chair
D’An Carter, Conference Co-Chair
James Kelley Terry, Conference Coordinator
Local Host Committee Members
Volunteers, Presenters, Sponsors, Vendors
Alumni, Family and Friends
8th Biennial Conference Participants
Donald Richardson, Photographer
Anthony Dean, JSU Photographer
Keith Collins, JSU Photographer and Videographer
Sherman L. Jackson, Jr., Photographer
Sheraton New Orleans Hotel