The outside of a historic townhouse with a sign that says \"VCU Department of African American Studies\"
The Department of African American Studies presents the Black History in the Making Awards to outstanding students each year. (File photo)

Founder of Black History in the Making Awards urges newest recipients to fight for truth

Daryl Dance, who started the awards in 1983, says, “Many of the major victories in African American history either began with college students or were joined and supported by college students throughout our nation.”

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Thirty-two Virginia Commonwealth University students received Black History in the Making Awards Tuesday night, and the woman behind the awards was there virtually to celebrate them.

Daryl Dance, Ph.D., professor emerita of English at VCU, established the awards in 1983 to recognize outstanding Black students at the university. The Department of African American Studies in the College of Humanities and Sciences holds a celebration to give out the awards each year. Recipients are typically chosen based on criteria such as academic excellence, service to the university or community, and intern, professional or work experiences that place them at the forefront of their careers. Dance served as a faculty member in the Department of English at VCU in the 1970s and ‘80s and was the acting coordinator of the African American studies program in 1983 and 1984.

“When I was coordinator of African American studies way back before most of you were born, I decided that in addition to celebrating the remarkable ancestors who have brought us so far on our journey, we would spend one evening of Black History Month celebrating the students on our campus who were already beginning to make history,” Dance said.

Dance gave the keynote address via video conference during the ceremony and urged students to be “truth warriors” and fight to restore honesty and integrity in society.

“There is still much work to do,” Dance said.  “Honorees, despite your brilliant creativity, courage, talent and attainment, you must prepare yourself to deal with the lies that threaten the very fabric of American society.”

Dance started the speech with a discussion about her grandfather, Winston Bell. She said college students have always played a key role in civil rights and social change. Her grandfather was no different. He was a student at what would become Virginia State University.

“On November 25, 1887, Bell and five other students broke campus regulations and boarded a train to Richmond where they went to the capital, demanded a meeting with the governor and appealed to him to retain the college’s black president, John Mercer Langston,” Dance said.

Bell was eventually expelled from the university for protesting Langston’s removal as head of the college, but Langston went on to become the first Black congressman from Virginia. Dance said Bell and the students have been lost in history, but students today can follow Bell’s example.

“Many of the major victories in African American history either began with college students or were joined and supported by college students throughout our nation,” Dance said.

She said the Black History in the Making Awards continue the tradition. The awards are a way to honor the nation’s history and recognize future leaders. Dance said Black history makers are no longer battling dogs, firehouses and segregationist governors, but a lack of truth among leaders.

“I challenge you tonight to commit to being a warrior of truth, to commit to seeking, defending, promulgating, rewarding and celebrating truth,” Dance said.

Award winners by major

Jayla Davis       

African American Studies

Brandon Tweedy         

Anthropology (Spanish minor)

Céline Aziza Kaldas Anderson

Art Education

Sierra “Susu” Johnson

Art Education

Tahlia Hightower         

Art Foundation

Ajana Dechelle Bradshaw

Art History with concentration in Museum Studies

Kaija Bratcher 

Biology/Forensic Science

Chelsea Philpot            


Lisa Graves      


Justin Cockrell

Craft/Material Studies - concentrating in fiber

Candace Wilkerson     

Ed.D. in Leadership

Takeya McLaurin

Ed.D. in Leadership

Walter Jeffries


Christine Singleton


Kayla Lundy    

Fashion Merchandising

Jessemia Meekins       

Forensic Science – Forensic Chemistry

Chastyn Smith

Integrative Life Sciences/Forensic Science

Kyree Fisher    

Graphic Design

Raechel McDonald     

African American Studies/Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies

Maya Perkins

Master of Health Administration

Nyah Graham 


Raven Porter

Mass Communications with an emphasis in public relations

Rachel Keys     

Kinetic Imaging

Niyah Ahmad

Photography and Film with a concentration in Film

Arrington Evans           

Political Science

Chimdindu Ohayagha

Counseling Psychology-Ph.D.

Faith Redd       

Digital Journalism

Raquel Jones  

Science-Professional Science

Derek Brown  

Public Administration

JaQue Patterson          

Homeland Security Emergency Preparedness

Te'ah Washington       

Criminal Justice

Oscar Kemp    

Social Work