Dr. Menna Demessie ’02 Wins Black Music Action Coalition Social Impact Award

The honor was one of two major awards the Cleveland-born scholar activist received this week

September 28, 2023

Office of Communications

Dr. Menna Demessie
Dr. Menna Demessie '02 pictured at the 2023 Black Music Action Coalition gala
Photo credit: Courtesy of Dr. Menna Demessie

On September 21, the Black Music Action Coalition (BMAC) awarded Dr. Menna Demessie ’02 with the organization’s prestigious Social Impact Award. 

Dr. Demessie—a member of Oberlin’s Board of Trustees and the Senior Vice President and Executive Director of Universal Music Group’s global Task Force for Meaningful Change (TFMC)—received the honor at the 2023 BMAC Gala. Other BMAC Social Impact Award winners include Emmy-winning actress-singer-songwriter-producer Keke Palmer and Emmy-winning producer Jesse Collins.

Established in June 2020 by Universal Music Group Chairman and CEO Sir Lucian Grainge, the TFMC takes a multi-pronged approach “to amplify and expand UMG’s current programs, devise new initiatives and support marginalized communities in the ongoing fight for equality, justice and inclusion,” according to its website. 

Dr. Demessie joined UMG in December 2020. Under her leadership, the label group has implemented trust-based philanthropy that centers unrestricted donations to nonprofits servicing the Black community and other marginalized groups across the nation and globe. With criminal justice reform as the founding focus priority, UMG has also prioritized organizations standing in the gap of racial disparities in music, public health, voting, education, and more.

“There has always been a blueprint for positive, substantial change,” Dr. Demessie says, “and our resources go further when we educate ourselves on the leaders, organizations, and communities making this change and supporting them.”

Prior to joining UMG, Dr. Demessie spent a decade running the Center for Policy Analysis and Research for the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation (CBCF). While there, she completed the first empirical and qualitative study analyzing the instrumental role Congressional Black Caucus members played in U.S.-Africa foreign policy through the analysis of African congressional caucuses in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Born in Cleveland, Ohio, Dr. Demessie graduated with honors from Oberlin, with a double major in economics and law & society. As senior class president, she also gave a commencement speech. She later earned a joint PhD in public policy and political science from the University of Michigan. Dr. Demessie is also currently on adjunct faculty for the University of California Washington Center and the University of Michigan, where she teaches courses in race and ethnic politics, American government, political advocacy, and Black Lives Matter, and mentors several college students and policy interns.

In addition to her award from the BMAC, Dr. Demessie also received a Black Star Award from African Communities Together during a ceremony held on September 28 in Washington, D.C.

For more information on the Black Music Action Coalition 2023 Gala, read a recap in Variety.

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