The College closed out Black History Month and kicked off Women’s HERStory Month with a Jazz Dinner celebrating female Jazz singers. The event featured vibraphonist Bryan Carrott & Company and recognized child and family advocate, Jennifer Jones Austin, Esq. The evening began with a 20-minute set from Carrott and the band, which included Cleave Guyton, alto saxophone and flute; Dwayne ‘Cook’ Broadnax, drums; Alex Blake, acoustic upright bass; and Arlee Leonard, vocals. Following dinner, Dr. Maria DeLongoria presented the Trailblazer Award to Austin. In accepting the award, Austin told the audience that the recognition was important because it had come from her community and reaffirmed that while there is still much to do, the work she does on behalf of the less fortunate matters.
“It is humbling when you get an award such as this recognizing you because what it says essentially is ‘I see you’ and I understand that while your work is not complete you are on your way and you are trying to make a difference,” said Austin.
The night marked 10 years of Austin being cancer-free. Austin shared her story of being a leukemia survivor and her race against time in search of a cure. She, along with her family and friends, led a campaign that added more than 13,000 potential bone marrow donors to the registry; however, not one was a match for her. Austin said a cord blood transplant, which are stem cells collected from umbilical cord blood, ultimately saved her. She said that reaffirmed that her work is her calling.
“The Lord wanted me to work to protect, serve, and save His most vulnerable children and it was two children who saved me,” Austin continued, “The cord blood came from two African-American baby boys born in a public hospital here in New York City.”
The evening concluded with another set from the performers and a raffle for two round-trip JetBlue tickets. Black History Month Committee chair, Dr. Tabora Johnson, and Women’s HERStory Month chair, Dr. Alexis McLean, said although the dinner is in its second year, the Jazz Dinner has become a highly anticipated event. The two said they would like this to become an annual tradition at the College that bridges two important programming months for MEC.