Jessica Rankins Parker ’07

The Black Excellence Dinner and awards ceremony hosted by the
college’s Black Student Union has become a beloved tradition, and
so even though the ongoing global COVID-19 pandemic precluded
gathering in person the celebration continued. Given the format, the
fifth annual event didn’t include a banquet, but the online ceremony
featured student performances and recitations, and recognition of
two alumnae and a treasured mentor.

Dr. Kristina Kyles-Smith ’04 of Perry Hall, Maryland, and Dr.
Jessica Rankins Parker ’07 of Mason, Ohio, both received
Kujichagulia Alumni awards (named for the second principle of
Kwanzaa, meaning self-determination). Kyles-Smith is executive
director of Two Rivers Public Charter Schools in Washington, D.C.,
and Rankins Parker is a neurologist specialized in headache and facial
pains while teaching medical students at the University of Cincinnati.
The Black Student Union also presented its Sankofa award (the name
derived from the Akan people of Ghana, expressing the importance
of sharing knowledge from the past) to Vanessa Greene, who was
director of the Center for Diversity and Inclusion at Hope, where
she was on the staff from 2003 until becoming chief executive
director of the Grand Rapids African American Health Institute
(GRAAHI) this past November.

Please visit the college’s YouTube channel to view the event, which
includes the presentations as well as reflections by Kyles-Smith,
Rankins Parker and Greene

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