The Charger Blog

Chargers Host Empowering Event to Recognize and Celebrate Black Women

The University’s Black Student Union recently hosted a “Black Girls Rock” luncheon to recognize the achievements of members of the University community while offering inspiration, support, and a fun way to bring Chargers together.

March 30, 2023

By Renee Chmiel, Office of Marketing and Communications

Two students posing for a photo.
The luncheon brought together students for a celebration of Black women. Both paintings are by Secora Chambers ’23.

For Ariana Eastwood ’23, celebrating and empowering other Black women is important. She wanted to create opportunities for her fellow Chargers to do just that, and she was inspired to help organize an event on campus to recognize Black women.

President of the University’s Black Student Union, Eastwood and her fellow members of the BSU recently hosted the “Black Girls Rock” luncheon on campus. While it was open to all Chargers, it was a special way to celebrate the voices and achievements of Black women at the University.

“We don’t always get to see a lot of people who look like us in one setting, and this was a great place to highlight Black women,” explained Eastwood, a forensic science major. “I hope they left feeling inspired.”

Two students posing for a photo.
Several students were recognized for their achievements.
‘You deserve to feel good’

Rev. Odell Montgomery Cooper served as the event’s keynote speaker, sharing her story and words of inspiration with Chargers. Executive director for Interruptions: Disrupting the Silence, a nonprofit focused on exposing structural racism and mental health inequities, Rev. Cooper is a podcast host and author who discussed the importance of resilience.

“Why are we resilient?” she asked. “Because we choose to be. Because you deserve to be. But you don’t own being the ‘strong Black girl.’ That’s not yours. If you need help, say so. Life is yours, and it’s important to be resilient, to learn how to pivot.”

This is something Rev. Cooper is intimately familiar with. From overcoming stuttering and low self-esteem as a youth to losing her son to gun violence as an adult, she has faced many challenges and tragedies. Now, as a public speaker and advocate, she is committed to using her own experiences and wisdom to foster healing.

Now pursuing her doctorate, Rev. Cooper has, she said with a grin, “found her smile again.” She encouraged Chargers to think of a time when they were happy and to remember how it felt. She urged them to keep in mind that they will have more times like that.

“We can feel bad so often we think that’s normal,” she said. “It’s not. Don’t own it. Don’t let the pressure we face in life eat at or destroy you. You deserve to feel good.”

Rev. Odell Montgomery Cooper speaks at the Black Girls Rock luncheon.
Rev. Odell Montgomery Cooper speaks at the Black Girls Rock luncheon.
‘It’s okay to ask for help’

The luncheon featured many smiles and moments of celebration. Several Chargers received awards, including for achievements in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) and for leadership.

“I was very excited to give out these awards,” said Aaron Brooks ’24, vice president of the BSU and a marketing major. “I love seeing people’s surprised faces when they receive them. I hope they see that all their accomplishments are recognized and that they matter. I hope they see the support system here.”

The event was also a celebration of art and performance. Kiana White ’24, a business management major, delivered a powerful spoken word poem, and Secora Chambers ’23, a marketing major, presented her art. Ophelie Rowe-Allen, Ed.D., vice president of student affairs and dean of students, was grateful to have been a part of the event.

“I am proud of the work the Black Student Union is doing on campus,” she said. “This year marks their 50th year in existence. The Black Girls Rock event is one way they are learning how to build their self-confidence and empower each other as women. They are learning not to settle for anything less from the messages from the various performances and the keynote speakers each year.”

The event ended with a performance by Kemily Henry ’25, who left Chargers with the lyrics, “I am a super woman” – a moving and fitting way to conclude the luncheon with a message of empowerment.

“A lot of weight rests on women – and there’s a lot of pressure we face as Black women,” said Eastwood, the BSU president. “I hope everyone here understand that it’s okay to ask for help. You don’t always have to be the strongest person.”

Members of the Black Student Union executive board pose for a photo.
Members of the Black Student Union executive board with Rev. Odell Montgomery Cooper (fourth from right) at the event.