Cover photo: The US Air Force Thunderbirds squadron
2020 has been a challenging and heartbreaking year for most Americans. The coronavirus pandemic has upended countless lives and livelihoods – an understatement which requires no further detailing here. At the same time, in response to a series of horrifying and unjust killings of unarmed African-Americans, the United States is currently experiencing some of the most widespread mass protests and unrest since the civil rights movement of the 1960s.
However, against this backdrop, great Americans continue to make invaluable contributions to the social, economic, and cultural substance of this nation. In particular, in recent months, numerous remarkable black Americans have made history with unprecedented accomplishments in education, the military, politics, and more. These are the powerful beacons of light and hope that ELEVATION will spotlight in the remainder of this article.
As the result of a successful online and social media campaign staged from her home in Miami, Florida, Danielle Geathers has been elected president of the Undergraduate Association at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). The sophomore mechanical engineering major is the first black woman to assume this role in the 159-year history of the prestigious university. Geathers and her vice president Yu Jing Chen ran on a platform promoting unity, equity, and authenticity.
Captain Treone Larvadain
In early February, Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards announced the promotion of officer Treone Larvadain to the rank of Captain. She will head up Protective Services for the Louisiana State Police with the primary charge of protecting the governor and his family. Larvadain, a 24-year veteran of the force, is the first female African-American police captain in the history of Louisiana. In 2018 her daughter Tiah graduated from cadet training, making them the first mother-daughter duo in state police history.
A. Benjamin Spencer
The William & Mary Law School in Virginia — America’s oldest law school – appointed A. Benjamin Spencer as dean on May 18. The nationally renowned civil procedure and federal courts expert is not only the first African-American dean of the law school, he is the first African-American dean of any school at the university. Spencer graduated from Harvard Law in 2001, and was the Justice Thurgood Marshall Distinguished Professor of Law at the University of Virginia until this selection. He is also a captain in the U.S. Army Reserve Judge Advocate General’s Corps.
On May 21, Vanderbilt University selected Candice Lee as its new Athletic Director. She becomes the first female African-American to hold that position at any school in the Southeastern Conference (SEC). As a student, Lee led the Vanderbilt women’s basketball team to four NCAA tournaments. She possesses a masters degree in counseling and a doctorate in higher education administration.
There are challenges ahead and much uncertainty about what college athletics can and should look like during a pandemic, but I firmly believe that anything is possible if we all work together.Candice Lee
Captain Remoshay Nelson
Remoshay Nelson has been selected as the first female African-American member of the US Air Force’s elite Thunderbirds squadron. The squadron tours the United States putting on morale-boosting air demonstrations. Nelson, a Howard University graduate, is one of only 12 current members of the team, and one of only 332 officers in the 67-year history of the Thunderbirds. In addition to piloting one of the Thunderbird jets, she is now responsible for the team’s marketing, recruiting and publicity programs.