Thursday, March 21, 2019
USC Black Alumni Association Scholarship Benefit: Dreaming of Harlem Under a High Southern Sky
By Special Report by Dr. Michele Turner
Published April 9, 2015

Cast members and Director Gabrielle Pina receive standing ovations!  (l to r: Richard Gant, Dawnn Lewis, Vanessa Bell Calloway, Lela Rochon, Mara Hall, Gabrielle Pina)(courtesy photo)

1200 people took their seats in cool USC Bovard Auditorium on a hot Saturday afternoon on March 28, 2015, for the premiere of Dreaming of Harlem Under a Southern Sky, written by Gabrielle Pina and starring Vanessa Bell Calloway, Lela Rochon, Dawnn Lewis, Mara Hall and Richard Gant—and they were not disappointed!  Directed by Adleane Hunter, the production told the story of three women who grew up on a plantation outside of New Orleans during the early 1900s and migrated to Harlem at the dawn of the Harlem Renaissance. 

 Vanessa Bell Calloway as “Clemmie” in final scene. (courtesy photo)

   Their journey was a fictional representation of the real journeys of thousands during the great African American migration of the early 20th Century.  Dreaming of Harlem Under a Southern Sky was presented by USC Visions and Voices: The Arts and Humanities Initiative and co-sponsored by the USC Thornton School of Music (with Professor Ron McCurdy, Jazz) and the USC Black Alumni Association (USC BAA).  The cast members, writer and director received well deserved standing ovations for their outstanding performances.  VIP Guests were treated to an afternoon reception at USC’s Town and Gown.

Scene from production  (l to r: Richard Gant, Vanessa Bell Calloway, Dawnn Lewis, Mara Hall, Lela Rochon) (courtesy photo)

The sold-out audience was composed of USC Black Alumni, students, donors and friends, and was used to fundraise for student scholarships awarded by the USC BAA.  “We have utilized the Visions and Voices initiative for the last five years to fundraise in an innovative way, “ stated Dr. Michele Turner, Executive Director of the USC Black Alumni Association.  “This year, we raised nearly $200,000.00 which will be directed to student scholarships and programs in the upcoming year. 


USC BAA 2015 Outstanding Scholars (l to r: Lloyd McKinney, BAA Council Chair, Skylar Dunn, Dr. Michele Turner, Princeton Parker, Ama Amoafo-Yeboah) (courtesy photo)

 In fact, when we distribute awards to students, the total distribution due to matching from the USC Office of Financial Aid could represent approximately $600,000.00!”  We are extremely appreciative of the growing support for our scholarship efforts from our community, and we are proud to say that our BAA Scholars have a 100% graduation rate!”  The Town and Gown reception honored three USC seniors as BAA Outstanding Scholars:  Ama Amoafo-Yeboah (B.A. Psychology), Skylar Dunn (B.S. Business Administration), and Princeton Parker (B.A. Communications). 

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The USC Black Alumni Association will be 40 years old in 2016.  The USC BAA has been the frontline fundraiser for black student scholarships at USC, and has awarded over $6 million dollars to over 2300 students who have earned degrees in every degree program.  Established in 1976 by Rev. Dr. Thomas Kilgore, Verna and Peter Dauterive, and Judge Thomas Griffith, Jr. and his wife Portia, The USC Black Alumni Association is a leadership network established to strengthen the legacy of educational attainment and excellence of USC Black students.  The organization provides scholarship assistance, career mentoring and cultural advocacy through alumni networking, volunteer involvement, philanthropy and social enterprise.  If you are also interested in getting involved as a mentor, committee member or in contributing to student scholarships with the USC 2:1 matching program, please visit the website at:, or contact the office at 213.740.8342 for further information. Fight On! 

Categories: Education

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