‘Black Panther’ Becomes Top-Grossing Superhero Film of All Time in U.S.

Photo: Professor Herb RuffinHerb Ruffin, Chair of African American Studies department, shared his thoughts on Marvel’s Black Panther.

Herb Ruffin is an associate professor of African American History and chair of the African American Studies department in the College of Arts and Sciences. In the Introduction to African American Studies in Social Sciences course, Ruffin has taught students about African American representation in Marvel and DC Milestone comic books. He recently shared his thoughts on the record breaking film.

The Life and Legacy of Linda Brown Thompson (Feb. 20, 1942 – March 25, 2018)

Photo: Linda BrownLinda Brown Thompson visited Syracuse University in 2004 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Brown v Board of Education. The professors who invited Brown to campus offer their thoughts on her historic life and legacy.

By Professors Paula C. Johnson and Linda Carty

In 2004, we had the privilege of welcoming Linda Brown Thompson to Syracuse University as the SU and Syracuse communities commemorated the 50th anniversary of the landmark case Brown v. Board of Education. We wrote about the iconic social justice case then. Now, sadly, we write to commemorate Linda Brown Thompson and mourn her passing earlier this week. Linda Brown was the named plaintiff in the historic lawsuit that outlawed racial segregation in public schools in the United States and led to the dismantling of racial discrimination and other barriers to equality across U.S. society. We feel that at this moment in U.S. history, when we are witnessing rapid institutionalization of the rollback of civil rights gains, from the right to vote without intimidation to the right for equal educational opportunities for all, and the attempts by too many national leaders to return this country to that dark era of racial apartheid and injustice, it is time to celebrate what Linda Brown Thompson meant to the Civil Rights Movement.

Brown and her sister came to Syracuse in April 2004 to attend the conference “Brown through the Ages: A 50-Year Commemoration of Brown v. Board of Education.” They were keynote speakers at the program. Despite her iconic status as an advocate for racial equality and justice, she was remarkably humble as she shared the experiences that led her family to join the lawsuit that collectively became known as Brown v. Board. Linda Brown was born in Topeka, Kansas. She was the oldest of three sisters. When she entered elementary school in Topeka, she was forced to walk seven blocks across railroad tracks and take a bus to a school several miles away, despite the fact that an elementary school was located just four blocks from her home. Because of her skin color, this 7-year-old young black child was prohibited from attending Sumner Elementary School, which was designated by law for white children only.

The situation in Topeka was replicated across the United States. African Americans actively resisted the unequal and dehumanizing effects of racial segregation, which sought to instill feelings of inferiority in black communities and a sense of racial superiority among whites. In 1950, the NAACP sought African American parents to challenge the system of racial segregation in public schools in a class action lawsuit. Rev. Oliver Brown’s daughter’s experience and the parents’ determination to fight segregation put them at the forefront of the legal action. Linda was in the third grade at the time. There were 12 other plaintiffs in the lawsuit, from Virginia, South Carolina, Delaware, and Washington, D.C. Thurgood Marshall, legal counsel for the NAACP and later Supreme Court justice, led the legal effort. In 1954, a unanimous U.S. Supreme Court declared that “separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.” It overturned the infamous 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson case, which had upheld the doctrine of “separate but equal” in public accommodations and other societal institutions and facilities, and had justified “Black Codes” and “Jim Crow” laws.

The case was widely heralded by communities of color. However, it also instantly was met with racist recalcitrance. Some school districts, notably in Virginia and other southern states closed their public schools rather than integrate them. Private schools for whites proliferated in these areas, and families who could afford to send their children out of state did so. Brown was the gauntlet that demanded an end to inequality, disparate treatment, and unequal resources for schoolchildren of color. Brown ushered in more community activism, court cases, and legislation that outlawed discriminatory practices, not only in education, but also opening up a broad spectrum of public and private societal institutions.   

As we remember Linda Brown’s life, we also deplore the failure of U.S. society to live up to the promise of Brown. In fact, American society has not only reneged on the constitutional mandate of Brown, but has moved decidedly backwards. As Prof. Sheryll Cashin recently stated on NPR, “In 1954, there were no black students in majority white schools.” After a period of gradual progress, she reports that we have “lost 50 years of progress” in the commitment to end school segregation. Instead, we currently have massive re-segregation of school systems across America, particularly in urban areas, which is directly linked to racial discrimination in housing and employment. Prisons grow while schools close and the incarceration rates of black men and women continue to skyrocket. Prof. Cashin describes this as the “intersection of race, geography, and poverty.” When we hear calls to “make America great again” we must never forget that this is a reference to a past that was never great for many whose ancestors built this country.

However, we must also remember that Linda Brown never stopped fighting for the ideals embodied in the case that bears her name. She became an educator herself, and was devoted to providing the necessary educational foundation to young children in the Head Start program. She joined lawsuits in the 1970s to challenge the re-segregation of public schools in Tokepa. Linda Brown did her part to transform American society and challenge us to live up to its vaunted ideals. The Brown decision and her legacy are far ranging. The legacy of Linda Brown can be seen wherever young black girls and other children of color insist on their right to quality educational opportunity. Her light burns brightly in Little Rock, in Soweto, in Chibok, in Afghanistan. May the Ancestors welcome her home. May she rest in peace. May we not rest until her work is done.

Paula C. Johnson is Professor of Law and Co-Director of the Cold Case Justice Initiative.

Linda Carty is Associate Professor in the Department of African American Studies.

They are members of the Democratizing Knowledge Collective at Syracuse University.

Acclaimed political commentator Angela Rye delivers 33rd annual Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration keynote speech

Photo: A chorus sings at the MLK celebration eventDuring this year’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration on January 28, keynote speaker Angela Rye, introduced by OTHC Scholar and SU Class Marshall Gerald Brown ’18, delivered a theme, “From Intention to Impact.” She told the crowd that the fight for equality can only be won by working together. Rye closed her speech with a fiery challenge, “If you want to honor Dr. King’s legacy, don’t just dream—work. If you want to honor Dr. King’s legacy, don’t just say woke—work woke. If you want to honor Dr. King’s legacy, don’t just fight for equality—fight for equity. If you want to honor Dr. King’s legacy, don’t just pursue justice and love, pursue power and love. All power to the people.”

Watch Rye’s complete speech:

2018 Martin Luther King Celebration from Syracuse University News on Vimeo.

OTHC Leadership Program Launched

Photo: OTHC scholars at CBT 2017The Our Time Has Come Scholarship (OTHC) program provides much needed scholarship support to help deserving African American and Latino students meet the financial costs of their Syracuse University education.

Now, the Office of Program Development is expanding the program to provide a leadership development and training program to give students an extra edge as they graduate and enter the working world.

“This is a new component of what we do for our scholars,” says Angela Morales-Patterson, assistant director of alumni and donor engagement. “Our goal is to provide monthly training sessions that will help students be more marketable and more successful in the workplace when they leave Syracuse.”

Jessica Santana ’11, G’13 was an OTHC Scholar as an undergraduate in the Whitman School of Management before earning a certificate of advanced study and a master’s degree from the School of Information Studies (iSchool).

“The OTHC scholarship was an important resource during my time at SU,” says Santana, who lives in New York City. “It helped ensure my academic success by granting me a scholarship that helped reinforce my focus and commitment to education.”

Santana, who started her professional career in accounting and technology, departed a global accounting firm to cofound her own startup, New York On Tech. Its mission is to prepare the next generation of technology leaders by creating pathways for students to thrive in technology and innovation. This is why she considers the new leadership component of the scholarship so vital to Syracuse University students.

“I’m excited for this new component of the program,” says the entrepreneur. “I think this will give them the opportunity to gain the skills necessary to thrive in their careers before they graduate and enter the workforce. The mentorship program will help build their social currency, which is very important in today’s job climate.”

The program launched in November with a session on impact development assessment. The December session featured Don Vassel ’89, who discussed “Impacting Communities of Color at Work”; and Maria Melendez ’89, who presented “Keys to Success for First-Generation College Students.” Vassel is CEO of the 100 Black Men of Atlanta, and Melendez is a partner in the law firm Sidley Austin LLP. These sessions happen monthly, and upcoming speakers include Vaughn Irons ’97, Founder & CEO, APD Solutions, Evelyn Carter’90, Division Manager Community Affairs, Wegmans; Jena Burgess ’09, author and professional development consultant. If you would like to be a speaker for the OTHC Leadership Program, please contact Angela Morales Patterson at

“Our scholars are already very successful students,” says Rachel Vassel ’91, assistant vice president for program development. “They have an average 3.6 GPA and are active in the campus community. This is about getting them ready to lead in the workplace, teaching them the basics of how to network, and to provide information about different industries and career choices.”

Help support the scholarships or volunteer to be an OTHC scholar mentor today.

SU Giving Day raises thousands for the Black and Hispanic Undergraduate Endowed Scholarship Fund

Photo: OTHC scholarsExpectations for Syracuse University’s first-ever day of giving were high, and the Orange community exceeded all of them. By all accounts, the Boost the ’Cuse effort on October 17 was a resounding success.

Our black and Latino alumni joined thousands of other alumni, parents, students, faculty, staff, and friends of Syracuse University to make gifts during SU’s 24 hours of giving to ensure future generations of SU students have access to a world-class education.

Launched with an initial goal of 1,870 donors, the day’s results were nearly double, as 3,568 donors raised $1,769,780. This included a generous $500,000 challenge made possible by Life Trustee Daniel A. D’Aniello ’68 and his wife, Gayle.

The Black and Hispanic Undergraduate Endowed Scholarship Fund in the Office of Program Development received $9,000 from 135 donors, which does not include the matching prize of $5,000 won for beating the participation rate goal set.

Additionally, the Black-Hispanic Undergraduate Endowed Scholarship was rewarded for the 44th gift along with several other funds across campus.

“Receiving the Our Time Has Come Scholarship has taken an incredible burden off my family and has given me renewed purpose to devote time to my studies,” says Maia Wilson ’19, an English and textual studies major. “The Program Development team offers an amazing support system so it’s an incredible motivation to know I have people who believe in me and want to see me succeed.”

“We are so honored to see that our black and Latino alumni care about and feel a connection to current students and want to help,” says Rachel Vassel ’91, assistant vice president for the Office of Program Development. “Coming off the heels of our successful Coming Back Together reunion we know our community has the capacity and compassion to ensure SU remains an affordable option for students of color.”

Collectively, these gifts are helping SU soar to new heights, as donors supported the part of SU they love most. Gifts came from all 50 states—and from countries as far away as Uruguay, Sweden, Oman, and Japan. Everything received support, from scholarships to school and college dean’s funds to units like Syracuse University Libraries and Syracuse Athletics.

View a thank-you video and check out the reaction to Boost the ’Cuse on social media.

You can still contribute to the Our Time Has Come Scholarship and make a difference.

Latino/Hispanic Heritage Month continues through October 15

Photo: Latino/Hispanic Heritage Month parade on Einhorn Family WalkThe Office of Program Development, in collaboration with the Office of Multicultural Affairs, is celebrating Latino/Hispanic Heritage Month with a number of events.

The celebration kicked off on September 15, during the Coming Back Together reunion, with a parade on the Einhorn Family Walk, which runs from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications complex to the Goldstein Alumni and Faculty Center. Participants included alumni, students, and children from the Syracuse City School District.

On September 23 in Goldstein Auditorium, School of Education exercise science professor Luís Columna was honored with the Trailblazer Award in recognition of his tireless commitment to the values of Syracuse University and his continued support of Latino students and alumni. José Pérez L’07 was also honored, receiving the Distinguished Alumni Excellence Award for his exemplary leadership, selfless acts, and dedication to the University’s Latino community.

On October 3, the University welcomed Latino/Hispanic Heritage Month commemorative speaker Edgardo Miranda-Rodriguez, who gave a presentation in Bird Library. Miranda-Rodriguez is the writer and creator of the critically acclaimed and best-selling graphic novel La Borinqueña. Through his studio Somos Arte, his client roster includes Marvel, Columbia University, and Atlantic Records.

Latino/Hispanic Heritage Month events continue through October 15. If you’re on campus, you’re invited to join us. For the full calendar of events, visit the Office of Multicultural Affairs website.

Invest Syracuse to focus on additional scholarship opportunities

Photo: Students sitting together on the Shaw QuadSyracuse University recently announced Invest Syracuse: Advancing Academic Excellence and the Student Experience, a $100 million initiative to provide all students with a distinctive, world-class learning experience that prepares them for professional and personal success.

With a focus on enhancing the University’s commitment to access and affordability, a dedicated fundraising campaign will raise $40 million over the next two years to fund undergraduate scholarships to create new opportunities for promising, high-achieving students and provide an exceptional student experience. Alumni support, and the support of others, makes it possible for high-achieving students, regardless of economic background, to attend Syracuse University.

Our black and Latino alumni know that many students of color need additional scholarship opportunities not only to attend the University, but also to thrive during their college experience and participate in transformative research and academic immersion experiences. Chancellor Kent Syverud addressed this particular need during his speech at the Coming Back Together (CBT) dinner gala on September 16.

“Currently, the Our Time Has Come endowment can only fund scholarships for 20 percent of the students who are qualified for the award,” Chancellor Syverud said. “With your help, we will fund the rest of those promising students who deserve the same opportunities to succeed. This, friends, is where we need your help.”

Syracuse University’s dedicated fundraising team, which includes Adrian Prieto in the Office of Program Development, pursues the University’s ambitious fundraising goals. At CBT, Chancellor Syverud announced more good news for scholars of color.

“Generous donors have made it possible to announce a new $250,000 matching gift for the Our Time Has Come – Invest Syracuse Scholarship,” Chancellor Syverud said. “It is our hope that you will add your generosity to theirs and that we will add $500,000 to the scholarship fund to help talented black and Latino students attend and graduate from Syracuse University.”

“We are so proud that the administration at our University understands the unique challenges that can sometimes impact our black and Latino students’ ability to attend Syracuse University,” says Rachel Vassel ’91, assistant vice president for program development. “Not only do they understand, but they also are willing to do the hard work necessary to ensure that these needs are met. It is through efforts like this that we can ensure our kids and future generations of black and Latino children can come to bleed Orange like those before them.”

Learn more about Invest Syracuse and look for a letter from the Office of Program Development this fall asking you for your philanthropic support for the Invest Syracuse campaign.

CBT 2017 wrap-up

From the banners and signs hanging high above the campus streets to the buzz and chatter coming from hundreds of alumni and friends, Coming Back Together 2017 (CBT), held September 14-17, was a rousing success.

The number of CBT attendees reached an all-time high in 2017. Eight hundred registrants returned to campus for the triennial reunion—the 12th since its inception in 1983—more than double the attendance in 2014. CBT is an opportunity for black and Latino alumni to reunite for a good cause, supporting the Our Time Has Come (OTHC) Scholarship for black and Latino students.

There was no escaping the enthusiasm around CBT, with events such as the CBT Celebrity Basketball Classic, a charity basketball game at Henninger High School; the Athletes’ Roundtable at the Carmelo K. Anthony Center; the lecture given by journalist Soledad O’Brien; and networking and educational opportunities, including multiple industry workshops. There were also cultural and social events, like the alumni book signing with Taye Diggs ’93 and other alumni authors. The CBT Opening Reception was graciously hosted by Chancellor Kent Syverud and Dr. Ruth Chen and set the tone for the weekend.

“CBT this year was just amazing. It exceeded our expectations,” says Jesse Mejia ’97, who served as a co-chair for CBT 2017. “It felt so phenomenal to have folks I had never met tell me what a great time they were having. Alumni were particularly pleased with the balance between professional development and social activities.”

Mejia says CBT 2017 was a transitional event because it followed the departure of Larry Martin, longtime vice president for program development. Rachel Vassel ’91 was appointed assistant vice president for program development last October. Based on feedback from a listening tour, Vassel and the team in the Office of Program Development (OPD) created exciting new events that included not only the CBT Celebrity Classic, but also the Chancellor’s 5K Run/Walk/Roll and the CBT Career Fair.

The dinner gala, the reunion’s signature event, featured Dave Bing ’66 as the keynote speaker and was a sold-out affair. The gala brought into focus one of the primary functions of CBT—donations for the OTHC scholarships that benefit black and Latino students. OPD reached a milestone with CBT 2017. During the gala, Vassel announced that for the first time $1 million was raised in scholarship funds.

“On behalf of the entire team, we want to thank our engaged, talented, and generous alumni for their belief in our effort to support black and Latino students at Syracuse University,” Vassel says. “One million dollars will help us to increase the size and number of OTHC scholarships for the many students with financial need.”

OTHC Scholars Malcolm-Ali Davis ’18 and Leslie Sanchez ’18 served as student co-chairs for CBT 2017. They were on hand for the announcement of the fundraising total and described the reunion as an amazing experience. “This is one weekend that we will cherish and remember for the rest of our lives,” they said. “More than anything, we enjoyed sharing stories with a great number of the alumni who attended, as well as being able to say to those who generously give to Our Time Has Come, ‘Thank you for giving back so that we can move forward.’ This entire weekend and its lasting memories were truly made possible by the power of collective giving, which shows that the more we all participate in the process of giving, the greater our impact will be and the more lives we can change.”

“I would be remiss if I did not express how grateful I was to have closely worked with Rachel Vassel and the Office of Program Development over the past several months,” says Gwynne Wilcox ’74, the other CBT co-chair. “To see how they engaged other Syracuse University staff at CBT and how all hands were on deck to handle the multitude of demands as the reunion progressed was wonderful to witness. The SU staff were all so committed to making sure that the needs of the alumni were met and they exuded enthusiasm about CBT.”

Wilcox agrees with Mejia that CBT far exceeded expectations. “I truly believe we made a larger impact upon the broader SU community this time around,” Wilcox says.  “I always knew that CBT was a special and unique reunion for black and Latino alumni, but this CBT highlighted for me the depth of the passion and commitment of our alumni of color to CBT and SU. We can bottle that passion and commitment to do even more for CBT, each other, the students, and SU next time.”

The bar is set high for the next CBT when it arrives during the University’s sesquicentennial celebration in 2020. View the Our Time Has Come video broadcast during the CBT dinner gala that outlines the importance of the scholarship fund. Be sure to check out Facebook to see all the photos and videos, including live streams and other highlights. Couldn’t make it to campus, but want a keepsake? CBT 2017 gear is still available through the SU Bookstore. Lastly, please contribute to the Our Time Has Come Scholarship fund.

Actor-singer Taye Diggs ’93 returns to campus for Coming Back Together book signing

Photo: Taye Diggs ’93
Entertainer Taye Diggs ’93

Most people know Taye Diggs ’93 as an award-winning actor and singer, but when he participates in this week’s Coming Back Together reunion for African American and Latino alumni, he will do so as a best-selling author.

Diggs is the creator of Mixed Me! (2015) and Chocolate Me! (2011), children’s books that address issues of race and identity. On Saturday, Sept. 16, he will discuss and sign copies of both books from 12:30-2:30 p.m. in Goldstein Auditorium. That his longtime friend and former classmate Shane Evans ’93 illustrated them gives the event added significance. Read the full story on the College of Arts and Sciences website.

Get involved: CBT engagement opportunities

Graphic: Southside Art Mural Project logo

There are a multitude of programs, educational and enlightening workshops, entertainment, and numerous activities during CBT weekend. Because of this, we wanted to take a moment to highlight some of the events that will allow you, our returning alumni and friends, to connect and engage with our black and Latino students. Our young scholars are excited to meet you and gain the insights and knowledge that will propel them forward as they graduate and go out into our cities and communities.

Community Service Project

Graphic: APD solutions logo

On Thursday, September 14, we have a community service project that will take place on the city’s Southside. Join Vaughn Irons ’93, author of the Southside revitalization plan and CEO of APD Solutions (the key organizing partner of the Southside Art Mural Project) and artist London Ladd ’06 to prepare a mural for the project.

From 2:30-4 p.m., volunteers will focus on mural prep, which includes staging setup, clearing the adjacent storage area, painting the base coat on the two walls, and putting up the project sign.

If you indicated interest in this event, in the coming days you will receive an email from the Office of Program Development asking for confirmation of your participation. RSVPs will be used to make transport and work plans, so be sure to respond.

Chancellor’s 5K Run/Walk/Roll

Friday, September 15, this 5K benefits the Undergraduate Black/Hispanic Endowed Scholarship. Your $10 registration goes directly to this scholarship, which is a part of the Our Time Has Come Scholarship Fund! Register online; onsite registration begins on the Quad at 6:30 a.m.​ The run begins at 7 a.m. at Archbold Gymnasium.

Alumni/Student Breakfast Mixer

On September 15, from 8-10 a.m., this informal breakfast is a low-key way to hear from our students, what they are doing, and how we can enhance their college experience by offering real-world advice. The Office of Multicultural Affairs, the Black Leadership Network, Friends of Syracuse, and LANSU host this mixer, which takes place in the Goldstein Alumni and Faculty Center.

Latino/Hispanic Heritage Month Parade and Reception

Also on September 15, the LHHM Committee invites alumni to attend the opening ceremony for Latino/Hispanic Heritage Month. All alumni and students are encouraged to bring the flag of their country. The LHHM program starts with a parade on the Einhorn Family Walk at 11 a.m., followed by a celebration gathering in the Schine Student Center’s Panasci Lounge at 11:30 a.m. This event will include the reading of the LHHM Proclamation.

Community Folk Art Center Open House

Saturday, September 16, we encourage you to head to the Community Folk Art Center (CFAC) Open House, located at 805 East Genesee Street. The event runs from 4:30 to6:30 p.m.

A treasure located in the heart of the Syracuse community, CFAC values its role as a vibrant cultural and artistic hub committed to the promotion and development of artists of the African Diaspora. CFAC’s mission is to exalt cultural and artistic pluralism by collecting, exhibiting, teaching, and interpreting the visual and expressive arts. Public programming includes exhibitions, film screenings, gallery talks, workshops, and courses in studio and performing arts. A proud unit of the Department of African American Studies at Syracuse University, CFAC is a beacon of artistry, creativity, and cultural expression engaging the Syracuse community, the region, and the world.