This year the awards ceremony was held at the National Museum of Women in the Arts, pictured on the left. There was a total of five honorees who were named champions in community activism, community organizing, community leadership and labor partnership. Dr. Elizabeth Alexander was the woman who received the award for community activism and her acceptance speech stood out to me the most. She is the chair and professor of African American Studies at Yale and she discussed how this area of study is still not fully valued by the greater society. In particular, she was referring to how it is taught to students. Dr. Alexander pointed out how lots of schools in the U.S. continue to have a very white-centered curriculum with not enough focus on the contributions to society made by African Americans and other minority groups. This observation reminded me of my own experience, since it was not until I was in college that I took a course that was solely dedicated to African American history and culture. Dr. Alexander went on to commend the great progress our country has made in the last fifty years in regard to racial justice but concluded that there are still vast inequalities today that need to be addressed.
The Change Champions Awards exceeded all my expectations except for one: networking. I went to the event hoping that I would be able to meet and mingle with some professionals, but I just ended up chatting with the young people I work with at CCC. I had plenty of business cards stashed in my purse but I did not give out or receive a card for the entire time I was there. For about an hour before the ceremony started, the guests enjoyed drinks, hors d'oeuvres, and conversation. I wanted to just walk up and start talking to strangers, asking them about what they do, where they came from, and why they were there. But it seemed like it would be an intrusive or untimely thing to do. Approaching people or starting a conversation is normally not such a struggle for me, but at the Change Champions Awards I basically stuck around those I already knew and did not branch out to others. While I had a wonderful time at the ceremony, I could not help but feel I had come up short because I had not did not meet anyone new or exchange any business cards. The next time I find myself in that kind of a setting, I guess I will have to be more aggressive with initiating contact with others.