Two Emerson groups dedicated to diversity, inclusion, and social justice received this year’s Spirit of Emerson Awards.
President Lee Pelton presented POWER (Protesting Oppression with Educational Reform) with the honor at the ERA (Emerson Recognition and Achievement) Awards last month. The three outgoing executive officers of the EBONI Alumni Association’s Los Angeles chapter—Stephen Farrier ’75, Nanci Isaacs ’79, and Leslie Moraes Davis ’80—will be recognized during Alumni Weekend, June 1–3.
POWER co-presidents Lucie Pereira ’18 and Celia Reilly ’19 accepted the award on behalf of the group, which was formed in Spring 2015 following the first student protest of racial injustice on campus at Faculty Assembly.
A nominating faculty member wrote of POWER that they “have taken their skills and knowledge that they have learned here at Emerson and put them to use in developing an outreach campaign to raise awareness about the persistence of institutional and cultural racism at the College.”
“We were really honored to receive the Spirit of Emerson Award,” Pereira said. “I think it’s great to have POWER recognized, just because we’ve done so much work this year, and our members have put in so much time and energy and really dedicated themselves to making the College better for everybody.”
Last fall, POWER reprised the protest and presented faculty and administration with a list of 11 demands, which they continue to work to bring about.
Pereira said POWER has received a lot of support from the Emerson community, as well as some opposition, but that they have no intention of slowing down.
“We are very critical of the institution, but it’s from a place of love and wanting to make it better,” she said.
As LA chapter leaders of the EBONI Alumni Association, Farrier, Isaacs, and Davis are “shining examples of alumni who give back to the community in meaningful ways,” wrote the nominator.
In addition to helping to advance Emerson’s strategic priorities, the three have been tremendously supportive of students, particularly students of color. They’ve been big boosters of the Mary Burrill Scholarship for Diversity, named for the renowned playwright and first woman of color to graduate from Emerson. They’ve partnered with Emerson Los Angeles for special events, including lectures and film screenings focused on prominent African Americans.
Award winners were selected from among faculty, staff, students, and alumni nominated by Emerson community members based on their meeting at least 3 of 10 award criteria.
Longtime chair of the selection committee, Professor Eiki Satake, is stepping down from his role this year. He said the “Spirit of Emerson” comes from compassion and unconditional love of humans for each other.
“Demonstrating genuine kindness and caring is the foundation of Spirit of Emerson,” Satake said. “It defines, constitutes, and signifies what Spirit of Emerson is all about. There is no substitute for that.”