Women of Legend and Merit honorees, TSU president welcomes keynote speaker actress Nia Long. Shown l-r; Jennifer Bell, Dr. Laquita Stribling, Patricia Malone, Nia Long, President Glenda Glover, Janet Rachel, Laura Fitzgerald Cooper, Dr. Ladonna Boyd, and Tamar Williams Photo by Jenai Hayes

By Alexis Clark

NASHVILLE, TN (TSU News Service) — Hollywood superstar and multi-award winning actress Nia Long had a message for Tennessee State University students, honorees, and guests: Be graceful, be fearless, and be your authentic self. Hundreds gathered on April 11 for the highly anticipated annual TSU Women of Legend and Merit (WOLM) Awards, a ceremony recognizing the outstanding accomplishments of women in the community.

The elaborate awards dinner in Kean Hall honored dozens of local notable women with Hollywood legend Nia Long as the keynote speaker. “If you change your thinking, your doing will be different,” Long said during the event. “Be fearless. No one is going to believe in you the way you believe in yourself.”

With an extensive body of work that includes television, film credits and production, Long detailed the journey of her career and overcoming obstacles as a woman in the entertainment industry.  “Sometimes we are given less than. But don’t pay attention to that, keep moving forward,” she said.

During the event, three TSU students asked Long questions, including Miss TSU Sa’Mariah Harding, who asked how the Hollywood actress was able to overcome and be able to step into her own lane as a Black woman.

“Be yourself no matter what,” Long told Harding. “Stick to what feels real.”

TSU President Glenda Glover congratulated the honorees and recognized Long for her thriving career on the big screen that has earned her many accolades. Long received a lifetime achievement award in recognition of her range within the entertainment industry.

The WOLM awards is designed to bring awareness and raise funds to support the TSU Women’s Center, which offers student-focused programming to empower individuals and student organizations. The center’s Director, Seanne Wilson, said this year’s WOLM event, themed “Extraordinary Women Living Legendary Lives,” was aimed to empower both men and women to discover their destiny without fear.

The honorees this year, in various categories, were Dr. Cherae M. Farmer-Dixon, Dean of School of Dentistry at Meharry Medical College – Medicine; Dr. LaDonna Boyd, President/CEO R.H. Boyd – Media; Dr. Laquita Stribling, Vice President, Tennessee Manufacturing and Logistics – Business; Patricia Malone Smith, Director of Corporate Relations, Urban League of Middle Tennessee – Community Service; Janet Rachel, President, National Coalition of 100 Black Women, Inc., Metropolitan Nashville Chapter – Leadership; Laura Fitzgerald Cooper, Attorney and Freelance Writer – Education; and Jennifer Bell, Associate Athletic Director, Tennessee State University – Athletics.

Tamar Williams, a sophomore mass communications from Memphis, Tennessee, received a Women’s Center student ambassador award.

For more information on the TSU Women’s Center, visit https://www.tnstate.edu/womenscenter/.