NOVA’s 2022 Black History Month in Closing

March 4, 2022

NOVA thanks the many contributors, presenters, logistical personnel, students, faculty, staff and attendees who have made Black History Month memorable. Representation is important, and this year NOVA showcased viewpoints, chronicled important events in history and inspired internal and external audiences to reach higher.

NOVA was proud to host many presenters during the month of February. Events were produced by students, faculty and staff in person and in virtual and hybrid formats. Kicking off the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion’s signature “Spotlight” events, NOVA welcomed, Angela Harrelson and Paris Stevens, the aunt and cousin of George Floyd for a discussion on justice in the African American community. Further events that helped shaped this year’s celebration of Black History Month included the “4 Poets” reading and discussion, a historical look at the “Freedom Riders,” performances of “Hip Hop and the Blues,” a look into the international lens of diplomatic relations from Ambassador Joseph Huggins, and a discussion of the incredible positive benefits of historically black fraternities and sororities making up the “Divine Nine.”

Please see a brief review of some of this month’s events:

Aunt and Cousin of George Floyd Encourage ‘Walking the Walk,’ Keeping Momentum Going
Angela Harrelson and Paris Stevens provided powerful remarks on the legacy of their family and justice in the Black community. Ms. Stevens and Ms. Harrelson are the co-chairs of the George Floyd Global Memorial, and it has become a museum of sorts—a place of hope, healing, support and a communal place of belonging.

Angela Harrelson, Floyd’s aunt, was a military veteran who served as a captain in the U.S. Air Force and is also a registered nurse. She spoke upon knowing Floyd as a young child. His family called him ‘Perry.’ She recalled her nephew as a youth and how he loved his family, his community and wanted to make a better life for his family.

“I draw my strength from people,” said Harrelson. “When Perry was killed, a lot of people around the world came to show me their love. Strangers showed me support. People from different languages, languages I couldn’t even speak. It was a dark place. I was angry, confused. And the people kept showing up and telling me ‘I care.’ What happened for me was their love became my nutrition to feed my strength to go on. That’s what happened.”

Stevens, also a nurse, spoke fondly of her cousin and how he made everybody feel special. She offered insights about her work with Harrelson and how young people can become involved in advocacy. She spoke of her children and how this may affect them.

We need to keep walking the walk,” said Stevens. “This isn’t just a moment in time, this is a movement, a momentum to keep going and keep striving to get justice.”

4 Poets: A Reading and Discussion
NOVA’s Office of Diversity Equity and Inclusion invited four of the region’s most acclaimed poets to NOVA. The celebrated lineup included poets Tara Campbell, winner of multiple grants and awards for her writing; Teri Ellen Cross Davis, poetry coordinator for the Folger Shakespeare Library; Dr. Tony Medina, the first professor of Creative Writing at Howard University; and Kim B. Miller, a NOVA alum and the current Poet Laureate of Prince William County.

After an introduction from Dr. Kress, each of the poets was introduced and read a sample of their work, their readings alternating between familial concerns, the anxiety and challenges presented by bigotry, to an emotional selection of haikus from Ms. Miller that touched on everything from identity to freedom. After their readings, they engaged in a lively, often humorous discussion about their experiences with poetry, their advice to aspiring poets (“read read read!” advised Ms. Davis), and how the DC/MD/VA region is particularly welcoming to the arts.

Freedom Riders, a History
Josephine Mourning, President of the Prince George’s Chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, a civil-rights organization established by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., presented a historical discussion about the “Freedom Riders,” courageous individuals who fought racial segregation in the south. One of the famous ones was that of the late US Congressman, John Lewis. Ms. Mourning has done guest speaking events at Bowie State University for Black History Month, and was a prior keynote speaker for the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.

Hip Hop and the Blues Experience

NOVA welcomed blues singer Carly Harvey and rapper/DJ combo Raw Poetic and Damu for musical performances. NOVA President Dr. Anne Kress, who introduced the artists for the evening and invoked the words of jazz legend (and Raw Poetic’s uncle) Archie Shepp: “The Black experience in music has become something else, as much poetry as it is musical expression. And tonight’s performance will bring this powerful observation to life.” The performances were followed by a discussion about music and some of the challenges faced by African American musicians today

Diversity in Diplomacy with NOVA Board Member and Former Ambassador Joseph Huggins - “Talent Without Opportunity Is Wasted.”
NOVA board member and career diplomat, Ambassador Joseph Huggins, spoke about trends in international relations throughout his decorated 30-year career in State Department service and the push for impactful representation in American foreign policy. He said, historically, diplomacy has been carried out by white males, and that the way diplomacy was done in the past is now passé as 80% of the world consists of people of color and 50% women. He said that Former Secretary of State Gen. Colin Powell understood that diversity, equity and inclusion was an absolute necessity to diplomacy, and he was one of the first secretaries of state actively putting DEI into action. 

When he left his role, though, things started reverting to the old ways. “The more things change, the more they stay the same,” he said. “The State Department is currently on the right path. I will not be there to see the change, but I am excited for young people to join,” said Huggins. Posed with the question of what made him realize he wanted to pursue this high-profile field, he replied that, as a seven-year-old, he would watch the trains go by and think, “When I am grown, I want to travel.” His interest carried into high school and college. He found mentoring relationships that helped him. He said his professional mentor asked him, ‘What do you want to do?’ and Huggins replied, “In ten years, I want to be in your job.” His mentor then was able to help him create a roadmap for success. When asked how NOVA faculty and administrators could “demystify” the foreign service for students and help them succeed, he suggested that students should gain an understanding of political and cultural issues. “I had to get used to cultures I wasn’t used to.  Learn the culture as much as possible.” Also, the foreign service exam is difficult, and many don’t pass it the first time, he said. But if you stay on top of world issues, you will eventually get there.

“Divine Nine,” the Impact of Historically Black Fraternities and Sororities
In the closing days of Black History Month, Dr. Felicia Blakeney organized and led an event in conjunction with the Annandale Campus DEI Committee and NOVA’s Government and Community Relations Committee on the impact of historically Black fraternities and sororities in higher education and in politics. The virtual event featured nationally recognized panelists who are leaders in various sectors, including elected officials, higher ed., research and religious leaders.

Distinguished panelists included: Hon. Robin Kelly, U.S. Congresswoman (IL), member of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc.; Dr. Belle Wheelan, president of SACSCOC and former Virginia secretary of education and former NOVA president, member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.; Hon. Ronald Watson, Maryland state senator, member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc.; Ms. Allison Pulliam, national partnership director for independent strategic research collaborative, member of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc. and the Rev. Dr. Kevin D. Miller, pastor, Carter Community AME Church, Queens, NY, Member of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc.

Voices of representation are so crucially important to NOVA, and for each culturally inclusive months that the college celebrates there are contributors that graciously offer their view points. Please see below messages from faculty, staff and students on what Black History Month means to them. 

“President Barack Obama and Martin Luther King, Jr. saved my life. They taught me about fairness, equality, bravery, and apathy. They are very intelligent historical figures in world history, ever to exist.”  - Anne Park, Liberal Arts '24

“Black History Month is a time to remember the great black people of the USA that fought against racism and for equality, such Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Muhammed Ali and Malcom X.” - Mohammed Fares

“Black History to me has a meaning that runs deep into my soul being an African American. I'm proud to say that I am an African American and was part of Rev. King's dream. As a great great great granddaughter of a former slave that sat with great great great granddaughters of former slave owners, I’m prouder to say my father’s father’s last name was Todd as in Mary Todd Abraham Lincoln s wife who was my Father's great grand-aunt, which makes Abraham Lincoln my great great Uncle. Thus, I am proud to be an American. Every month is Black History Month for me.” - Deborah Humphries

“When I look at what Black History Month means to me, I reflect on where we've come and where we're going.  I look at my personal journey because I realize I stand on the shoulders of many who fought and many who lost their lives so that I could have the freedoms and opportunities I have in life today. I do not take that lightly. I realize that my life could be drastically different. I will continue to pave the way so that young people who come up behind me can stand on my shoulders based on barriers I break and doors I continue to open as we move forward in this journey.” – Dr. Sabrina Ricks

To view past recorded events, please contact Ed Aymar, communications coordinator in the Office of Diversity Equity and Inclusion at To see again the list of all NOVA’s Black History Month events, please click here.

The Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion works in collaboration with all facets of NOVA to elevate the acceptance of different ideas, values, beliefs, abilities and perspectives while also advancing equity as aligned with the College’s Mission and Strategic Plan. It helps to create and sustain a more inclusive and accepting College community.

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