By D.L. White
The third annual University of Arizona Black Alumni (UABA) Sneaker Ball was held on April 21, at the UofA Grand Ballroom. The Sneaker Ball, just as the first in 2015, honored UofA grads for their distinguished service in the communities that they now call home. The event also, and very importantly, provides deserving undergraduate and graduate students with needed scholarships to continue their education at the UofA.
UABA President Dr. Tanisha Price-Johnson and President-elect Keyshia Conner expressed great elation at the turnout of the event and the opportunity that it continues to provide the group with its two-fold goal of honoring past graduates and providing scholarships to deserving students.
“With such an outstanding number of UABA to select from, we are challenged each year to select three honorees to present awards to,” shared Price-Johnson, adding, “The positive side of this equation, there is an unlimited number of potential honorees. We will never be faced with not having someone to honor.”
Annie Sykes, president of the Black Women’s Task Force received the UA Black Alumni Community Award; Benjamin Taylor, Esq., Law Office of Benjamin Taylor in Phoenix, the UA Black Alumni Distinguished Alumni Award. Perry A. Tarrant, assistant chief with the Seattle Police Department and president of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (N.O.B.L.E) was given UA Black Alumni Trailblazer Award.
Attorney Ben Taylor announced that he would establish a justice scholarship in honor of his parents Benjamin and Cecilia Taylor and Benjamin Taylor, II Esq, to assist African American students to pursue law degrees at the UofA.
Founded in 1982 to promote academic excellence among African American students at the University of Arizona, the UA Black Alumni initially hosted the UABA Phenomenal Woman Award dinner, which for decades honored outstanding African American women in the Tucson community and raised funds for its scholarship program.
Realizing the vast accomplishments of UABA across the nation and around the world, the UABA Board of Directors agreed to refocus its fundraising strategy and created the annual UABA Sneaker Ball.
Board member Tina Johnson, shared, “The Sneaker Ball is a fun, fundraiser. Attire for the event is semi-formal with the unique twist of encouraging guest and honorees to attend in their favorite pair of sneakers. No tired feet here (speaking on behalf of the ladies at least). We have a lot of fun.”
In addition, the Sneaker Ball gives the UA Black Alumni an opportunity to recognize a broader scope of alumni and community members.
On average the UABA supports as many as 65 students annually. The UABA scholars include 55 undergraduate students and 10 graduate students. This includes 11 graduating UABA scholars from the University of Arizona.
Past recipients of the UABA include former UofA basketball coach Fred Snowden and community activist Burnes “Burney” Stark, II (both posthumously). Charita Johnson-Stubbs, Kendal Washington White, Dr. Donald Porter, MD, and former student-athlete Julius Holt are also among the numerous past honorees.