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Celebrating Black Excellence, Part Three Recap

Updated June 28, 2021
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This past Wednesday, It’s Time partnered with REACH Riverside for the third installment of live virtual conversations entitled, “Celebrating Black Excellence.” The conversation is available to stream on Facebook and YouTube. Blake Saunders (Blake the Brain) led the discussion with a panel of eight high school graduates from the city who discussed their personal experiences of growing up, living, and working in Wilmington, Delaware.

 

The Panel

After careful consideration, The WRK Group hand-selected eight high school graduates showcasing strong leadership with ties to the Teen Warehouse in Wilmington to make up the round table panel. The innovators explored their experiences growing up in the city, along with current and future work to support opportunities for black community members.

    1. Tyler Davis (Delaware State University)

    2. Surayyah Hawkins (Hampton University)

    3. Sky Knox (Cornell University)

    4. Zorah Rothwell (Clark Atlanta University)

    5. Anaya Patterson (Delaware State University)

    6. Imani Williams (Jean Madeline Aveda Institute)

    7. Jahmere Williams (Howard University)

    8. Aeryon Driver (Delaware State University)

 

Some Memorable Moments:

A few moments that resonated with our team and audience included:

The meaning of Black Excellence:

Sky Knox – Cornell University
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“Sometimes when qualifiers are used, it’s usually a step down of the overarching idea of Excellence but for me personally, having a qualifier of Black in front of Excellence is a step up because of the history of adversity with our people that we face today and the fact we work twice three times as hard as everyone else.”
Imani Williams – Jean Madeline Aveda Institute
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“Black Excellence is defined as something you were told you couldn’t achieve, but being better at it than you were told you could be.”

 

Aeryon Driver – Delaware State University
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“I think Black Excellence includes breaking stereotypes and generational curses that’s seen in the Black community. I think just overcoming those stereotypes and obstacles and all that stuff hits different.”

 

Zorah Rothwell -Clark Atlanta University
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“I would say Black Excellence is also individuality as well. So, ‘What are you doing to achieve your best self?’…As long as you’re doing what you need to do and what you’re capable of and you put your mind, body, and soul into it then that is your Black Excellence.”

 

Anaya Patterson – Delaware State University
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“Black Excellence to me is just proving everyone wrong. They don’t expect us to be able to do what we can do and achieve what we can achieve and make it as far as we can. So, just being able to prove people wrong and break those ideas that we can’t do this or we’re not capable of, or not as good at. Just proving people wrong and being us.” 

 

Jahmere Williams – Howard University
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“I feel like Black Excellence to me means, the ability to fight adversity and I say that because growing up in America, there’s a lot of limitations set on Black people. So, when we are successful in different areas and different topics, it hits different for us because we have to go through so much to get to where it’s easy for other people.”

On defying odds and accomplishments:

Surayyah Hawkins – Hampton University
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“Being an African American today, we know it’s harder for us. So we always have to work two times, three times harder than anyone else just to get half as far.”
Jahmere Williams – Howard University
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“I grew up in a very impoverished and economically challenged community. Where I live, there’s not really a lot of resources for teens around there and there’s no place in my neighborhood that sets teens up for success. So, for me to be in a situation that I am now, I just always give myself two claps.”
Surayyah Hawkins – Hampton University 
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“The Warehouse taught me it’s okay to be great because with myself, I’m always hiding everything. I was valedictorian of my class, barely told anyone. My friends and my family are the ones that blasted it everywhere. Sometimes I’ll be scared to show good aspects of myself because I don’t want anyone to be like, ‘Oh she’s bragging’ or maybe ‘She didn’t deserve that’ but The Teen Warehouse shows you what’s meant for you and Black Excellence is okay. Embrace what you’re doing.” 

On how the Teen Warehouse has affected self growth:

Aeryon Driver – Delaware State University
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“I am always kind of shy when I first meet people but The Warehouse has helped me open up to people more and just become a little more outspoken. It’s like when you use your transferable skills with different jobs and stuff, with the things that I learned at The Warehouse I’ve been able to take that everywhere I go.”
Tyler Davis – Delaware State University
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“The Warehouse opened my eyes up to bigger themes and ideas of how I want my life to go. I didn’t think so broad before that, (but after) I started thinking differently. It’s okay to be different. Be out of your comfort zone and stuff like that. I was so used to being in a box and when I finally got out of being in that box everything just went different. So I feel like I’ve gained more confidence.”
Zorah Rothwell – Clark Atlanta University
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“My mom and people around me used to say it takes a village to raise a child and honestly, I feel like The Warehouse is my village. Anytime I’m having a bad day, anytime I need some type of support or help no matter if it’s emotional, anything I can come here and definitely refill myself up again. I know that I can come to every single person and I will tell them something or ask them and they will give me an answer. They will give me supplies, they will give me resources on how to help me, and I appreciate that.”

 

Anaya Patterson – Delaware State University
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“The Warehouse has helped me grow tremendously. Especially personally, my attitude wasn’t the best. I was very reactive, emotional, and just a lot and The Warehouse has helped me understand how I act and how I am and it helps me better interact with other people and that being both personally and especially professionally because now I know how to interact.”
Sky Knox – Cornell University
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“One of the things that actually drew me to The Warehouse is that it operates under the Reach (Riverside) pillars of: course, recreation, education, arts, careers, and health and that it functions under that mantra of, ‘For teen by teens’ and my passion lies in social impact. I wanted to be a part of the space with teens and peers that have that same heart for it and everyone on this call has it. So I love being in a place that helps make a change for ourselves and for our community.”

 

Imani Williams – Jean Madeline Aveda Institute
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“The Warehouse has helped me personally control my anger, in the beginning when I first joined I was a hot head. Anything you said to me, it would not fly. But now I feel like I am more patient. I can wait.”

 

Goals for the next generation of leaders:

Tyler Davis – Delaware State University
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 “I want the next leaders to not get comfortable. There’s still more opportunities out there to go ahead and get some more teens in the community to get here. So, just not Riverside. We’ve targeted Riverside, you know, we meet other teens from Ellesmere, maybe some from everywhere to bring them to this community, Now we need to get the word out to other people. So, not just this community here, let the whole Wilmington know what’s going on.”


We hope these candid conversations shed a light on the true experience of black Wilmingtonians and inspire others to see that, together, we can support one another to succeed.

Stream our previous two Celebrating Black Excellence conversations below:

  1. Celebrating Black Excellence, Pt. 1 (The Male Experience): Facebook and Youtube
  2. Celebrating Black Excellence, Pt. 2 (The Female Experience): Facebook and Youtube

Continue the It’s Time journey of exploring and celebrating the vibrant city of Wilmington, Delaware by following us on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, TikTok and YouTube for more content. Click here to see our other blogs.

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