Campus News

This Week in Photos: In Celebration of Returning Black Alumni

February 4, 2021

Yvonne Gay

A man speaks into a microphone at a podium.
Ishmael Beah '04 delivers a Convocation Lecture.
Photo credit: Yeven Gulenko

Author Ishmael Beah ’04 returned to Oberlin College in 2010 to discuss the publication of his New York Times best-selling book, A Long Way Gone, Memoirs of a Boy Soldier. Four years later Beah’s visit to Finney Chapel took place after the publication of Radiance of Tomorrow, A Novel, which would go on to become another best-seller. Beah’s visits to campus serve as inspiration for this week’s photo series.

Throughout the years Black alumni have given lectures, performances, and master classes at Oberlin. We invite you to relive some of these events.

View these experiences on  Oberlin’s Flickr page.

A performer blows into a trumpet.
Theo Croker '07, a jazz trumpeter, composer, producer, and vocalist, returned to Oberlin in 2010 to perform at the dedication of the Bertram and Judith Kohl Building. Croker is a Grammy Award nominee, three-time Echo Award nominee, and Theodore Presser Award recipient. Photo credit: Roger Mastroianni
A woman wearing a head wrap speaks bows her head in front of a podium.
Johnnetta Cole ’57, a longtime friend of the college, has given several talks in Finney Chapel, including this one in 2012. Cole gave the commencement address in 1995 and Baccalaureate speech in 2015. She also served as a guest speaker in the inauguration of presidents Nancy S. Dye, Marvin Krislov, and Carmen Twillie Ambar. Cole was the first Black woman president of Spelman College. She also served as director of the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of African Art. Photo credit: Dale Preston '83
An elderly man gives a speech in front of a podium.
In May 2010, The Rev. James Lawson Jr. ’57 was the keynote speaker at the Black Family Appreciation Ceremony in Warner Concert Hall. Lawson gave the Baccalaureate speech in 1982, and came back to campus in 2014 to hold a minicourse on nonviolent conflict at Afrikan Heritage House and a Convocation Lecture at First Church. A close associate of The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Lawson organized workshops on nonviolence during the civil rights movement. Last year, he spoke at fellow civil rights activist and U.S. Representative John Lewis's funeral. Photo credit: John Seyfried
An ensemble gives a performance on a large stage.
Oboist Toyin Spellman-Diaz '94 and bassoonist Monica Ellis '95 are founding members of Imani Winds. They are shown here performing on the 2014 Artist Recital Series in Finney Chapel with their acclaimed ensemble and longtime collaborator, pianist Gilbert Kalish. The Grammy Award nominated group has performed at Carnegie Hall, the Lincoln Center, and the Kennedy Center, to name a few. The ensemble includes Jeff Scott, associate professor of horn in the Oberlin Conservatory of Music. Photo credit: Walter Novak
A woman gives a lecture.
Umra Omar ’06 discusses how and why she founded Safari Doctors during a STEM in Color symposium in 2017. The organization delivers primary medical services and health education to remote areas of Kenya. Umra was named a CNN Top 10 Hero of 2016 and the UN in Kenya Person of the Year in 2017. Photo credit: Walter Novak.


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