Eckerd College’s Afro American Society hosted a “Sister Takeover” at the Dr. Carter G. Woodson African American Museum Feb. 23—connecting students with Black women leaders from the local community. At the two-hour networking event, influential women passed on advice, shared stories and met up-and-coming leaders.
Laughter and chatter dimmed as Circuit Court Judge Patrice Moore took to the lectern and invited Jacksonville native, junior biology student and current Eckerd AAS President Briana Hashim to speak. Briana introduced AAS’s theme for Black History Month 2023—“Renaissance,” a celebration of self-love, growth and community. She emphasized the importance of staying connected to your community and finding your people, saying, “No matter how small the world feels on campus, we are not alone.”
Bouncing off of Briana’s remarks, Judge Moore introduced the first of two panels, which included community leaders Kimberly G. Jackson, executive director of the Institute for Strategic Policy Solutions at St. Petersburg College–Seminole; Manitia Moultrie, vice president of the Earth & Environment Division at Golder Associates WSP USA Inc.; Deborah Figgs-Sanders, District 5 St. Petersburg City Council member; Erin Savage, principal of Lakewood High School; Pattye L. Sawyer, president and CEO of the Pinellas Opportunity Council; Terri Lipsey Scott ’04, executive director of the Dr. Carter G. Woodson African American Museum; Jenee Skipper, SHSM-C business assistance specialist for Pinellas County Economic Development; and Beverly Warren, Ed.D., Eckerd College’s vice president for inclusive excellence.
Panelists were asked about what advice they would give to their younger selves, how they overcame career roadblocks and how they found community. “I always owned the space I was in,” said Scott, who has had 27 years of experience in St. Petersburg city administration. “You belong wherever you are.”
Warren said events like this one are essential for students. “They are significant because in the limited landscape of diversity on campus, students may feel isolated,” she explained. “Events like these are an opportunity for African American students to connect with a community outside of Eckerd.” She went on to encourage all students to get involved in the St. Petersburg community and find their place.
As the evening came to a close, the event’s organizer, AAS club adviser and Coordinator of Inclusive Student Engagement Ann Sherman-White ’06, called AAS vice president and junior marine science and French student Ava McLeod to the lectern. Ava, who hails from Wylie, Texas, gave a passionate speech, thanking AAS and the community she has worked to build during her time at Eckerd.
“In the face of adversity and oppression, we become lawyers, doctors, business owners, parents, sisters, brothers and more,” Ava said. “At Eckerd, I have seen Black students squash stereotypes and become everything that white America says we cannot be. And through community connection and gatherings such as these, we will continue to break every box the world puts us in, together.”
The event ended with networking, hugs and pictures as students and mentors came together to celebrate Black excellence and leadership, strengthening essential community bonds and personal relationships.