Committed to raising awareness about critical issues and the academic or community-based work being done to solve them, Sharieka Shontae Botex, a third-year Ph.D. student in MSU’s Writing and Rhetoric program, created the Shaping Society Through Scholarship and Action event, which featured Black women scholars and their community-focused work as well as the important work of local leaders and community organizers. Botex is now being recognized as a 2022 recipient of the Graduate Student Award for Community Engagement Scholarship presented by University Outreach and Engagement (UOE) at Michigan State University for her outstanding efforts creating this two-day event.
“I am honored that I received an award for Shaping Society Through Scholarship and Action, which is an event that was made possible because of participation, support, and contributions of everyone involved,” Botex said.
Shaping Society Through Scholarship and Action took place September 24 and 25, 2021, and included multiple panels where Black women panelists shared their professional and academic journeys, community work, and information on those who have informed and influenced their work. Graduate students moderated the panels.
“It was and still remains very important to show and uplift the work of Black women scholars focused on progress and prosperity,” Botex said, “because that is work that will lead to others being able to do their own versions of that work while pursuing their dreams and creating a better society for themselves and others.”
- Ruth Nicole Brown, Professor and Inaugural Chairperson of the Department of African American and African Studies (AAAS)
- Tamara Butler, Executive Director of the Avery Research Center
- Olivia Furman, Ph.D. Candidate in the Curriculum, Instruction, and Teacher Education Program
- Constance Haywood, Ph.D. Candidate in the Rhetoric and Writing Program
- Natasha Jones, Associate Professor in the Department of Writing, Rhetoric, and American Cultures
- Tamura Lomax, Foundational Associate Professor in the Department of African American and African Studies
- Elizabeth Stepnowski, former Coordinator of the South Lansing Community Development Association
- Denise Troutman, Associate Professor in the Department of Writing, Rhetoric, and American Cultures
The event also included a community organization and resource forum where local leaders and organizers discussed their work and why it is essential and connected participants to valuable community resources.
Community speakers included:
- Karrington Kelsey of Lansing Black Lives Matter and One Love Global
- Shondra Marshall, President of the Michigan State University Black Alumni Incorporated
- Jaleah Rutledge, former President of the Black Graduate Student Association
- Reverend Versey Williams of the Lansing National Association for the Advancement of Colored People
“The event provided organizations with a chance to talk about their missions, efforts, [and] projects,” Botex said, “and for everyone present to learn, be exposed to information and resources, and to connect to envision future work and efforts while also giving people a chance to pause to acknowledge the already astonishing, amazing, and essential work being done by all those present.”
Botex was inspired at an early age to do community-focused work. She grew up with family, church, coaches, and community members devoted to being present and improving the lives of others.
“I’ve consistently been exposed to people in my life who dedicated their time to seeing what they could do to help someone else pursue their goals, do a thing they loved and enjoyed…or to improve their current circumstances and state of being,” said Botex whose interest in continuing to raise awareness, to do community-focused work, and to do so in a way that took into account her experiences and the experiences and work of Black people, on a local and national level, were among the things that led her to create this event.
“It was and still remains very important to show and uplift the work of Black women scholars focused on progress and prosperity because that is work that will lead to others being able to do their own versions of that work while pursuing their dreams and creating a better society for themselves and others.”Sharieka Shontae Botex, third-year Ph.D. student in MSU’s Writing and Rhetoric program
Shaping Society Through Scholarship and Action set out to accomplish some of the imperative and essential work that Lomax and Patrice Cullors spoke about during their Slavery to Freedom panel that was moderated by Dr. Marita Gilbert. It also allowed Botex to pursue her interests in learning more about scholarly activism, community-focused work, doing work that involves, communities defining and shaping institutions, and providing examples of that type of work for other people interested in this kind of work.
Botex said, “In being aware of my own experiences and interests, wanting to call attention to the local efforts and work of people and organizations working to combat racism, and injustices and work that shed light on other positive and community-focused work being done by people in academia and in the community, I knew that such an event could be useful and provide essential resources and support, and shed light about the dynamic and essential work of those involved.”
(Written by Kara MacKenzie and originally published on the Department of Writing, Rhetoric, and American Cultures website)