Grooving in Honor: LadiesFIRST Holds Soul Train Awards Ceremony

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Published December 11, 2019
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The Montclarion
Mary Pierre-Louis bursts into laughter as her friends encourage her to dance. Givonna Boggans | The Montclarion

Attendees flooded the Student Center Cafeteria with 70s attire, afros, swabbie jeans and converses as LadiesFIRST held The Soul Train Awards to give recognition to exceptional students who stood out among their peers on Friday, Dec. 6.

The president of LadiesFIRST, Wheatherly Almonte, a senior family science and human development major, explained the purpose and plan of the organization.

“LadiesFIRST is a women’s empowerment organization on campus that represent underrepresented women, empower, uplift, restore and unify women of color,” Almonte said. “We network academic and social program building as a sisterhood.”

The night began with facts about The Soul Train Awards and the motive behind the originality.

There was a list of eight nomination categories and people had the option to vote for the individual believed to be the best candidate.

Junior dance major and protective hairstylist Camille Blue was announced as the winner for the Entrepreneur of the Year award. Junior nutrition major and owner of Outlashed, Ta’ Ryah Davis-Jenkins, was announced as the Hustler of the Year. Senior economics major and president of CaribSo, Mariah Rohan, was announced as the Inspirational Leader.

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A group of students pose together during the LadiesFIRST Soul Train Awards ceremony.
Olivia Kearns | The Montclarion

The recipients of the awards expressed their gratitude towards LadiesFIRST and the nominators.

Leyland Bentham, a senior public relations major who is also a resident assistant and the president of DAUGHTA, was announced as the winner of the Mogul Award.

“This was a milestone for me to have my community recognize the impact I am making in the LGBTQ community as the first black LGBTQ organization on campus, and second in the state of [New Jersey],” Bentham said. “This award does not mean I am better than anyone, it is just an example and inspiration for others.”

LadiesFIRST didn’t just honor and acknowledge female students, as several male students also won awards at the ceremony.

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A group of students dance during the LadiesFIRST Soul Train Awards ceremony.
Olivia Kearns | The Montclarion

Salomon Jolimere, a junior exercise science major, content creator, YouTuber, host and treasurer of the Haitian Student Association, received the Best Creative Content award.

“Super honored to be nominated, the fact that I won [shows that] people notice what I do,” Jolimere said. “I put a lot of effort into the videos [and] a lot of people don’t see what goes on behind the videos. It’s hard to balance it with school, I feel a lot of support.”

Jayquan Savage, CaribSo event coordinator, singer, writer and a senior dance major, received the Best Dancer award. Mechi Antoine Brown, Chairman of the Arts Committee for Montclair State collegiate chapter of NAACP, actor, content producer and a senior theater studies major, received the Best Singer award.

Jherel Saunders-Dittimus, a senior communication and media arts major, Student Government Association president and a resident assistant was announced as the Authentic Leader.

“I am very honored, especially because there were so many great leaders nominated,” Saunders-Dittimus said.

After the award ceremony drew to a close, the night concluded with a soul train line and retro dance moves such as the robot, the disco finger and break-dances down the red carpet.

The event coordinator, Asha James, a senior psychology major, said her goal was to honor those who lead by example.

“We wanted to honor our peers and make them feel wanted, loved and appreciated for working with us and all the hard work they do for the black community,” James said.

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