Oregon State University's student-run lifestyle magazine

Beaver's Digest

Oregon State University's student-run lifestyle magazine

Beaver's Digest

Oregon State University's student-run lifestyle magazine

Beaver's Digest

Latest issue

Time to shower them in bouquets, floral applause: Rho Beta celebrates women of color

Taylor Cockrell, OMN Photographer
Catered appetizers, snacks, and drinks line the tables at the Women’s Appreciation Event in Lonnie B. Harris Black Cultural Center.

In the long line of influential and accomplished figures, it seems that many of the influential women of color are not recognized or celebrated until long after the matter.

Noticing this, Alpha Phi Alpha’s Rho Beta chapter at Oregon State University, being a part of the National Panhellenic Council and Divine Nine which consists of all Black Greek organizations, aimed to change that with their Woman’s Appreciation Reception. 

Held at the Lonnie B Harris Black Cultural Center on May 24, the reception honored influential OSU women of color, giving them their flowers while they could still smell them.

“I think a lot of times the work that women do, especially black women of color on our campus, like it kind of goes under the table and it’s like they’re not noticed for what they do,” said Alpha Phi Alpha Rho Beta Chapter President Faisal Osman. “A lot of people don’t realize they’re supporting and uplifting the whole community and that just deserves to be recognized.” 

Alpha Phi Alpha’s mission is to develop leaders within the fraternity and provide service and advocacy for the community.

In wanting to spread information about how to enter the advocacy discussion, Rho Beta has done two voter drives to register people to vote in addition to holding a legislative round table. In doing so, they brought elected officials in the Oregon legislature to OSU to talk about the importance of voting, alongside showing how college students can engage in the legislature. 

Rho Beta also focuses on fostering the self, holding a town hall this past February to talk about mental health, specifically around how it affects the BIPOC student community at OSU.

With these pillars of advocacy and well-being, the Woman’s Appreciation Reception honored women of color on campus who not only invited students to the discussion of well-being but also gave students a platform of support to cultivate the best versions of themselves.

“We were really intentional in wanting to recognize women of color on our campus, just because we know when it comes to advocates, they’re the biggest advocates in our community,” Osman said.

Falling on a pleasant Friday afternoon, the Woman’s Appreciation Reception began at 3:00 p.m.  With lively music, mocktails and delicious finger foods ranging from charcuterie boards with assortments of cheese, hams and crackers, along with mini chicken skewers and macaroons.

It was a lively and intimate event, with people of color from all kinds of backgrounds tapping into their creativity to put together their own bouquets to celebrate each other. 

Along with celebrating these particular women at OSU, the reception was also to give flowers to yourself to honor your own personal achievements and growth.  

“Our goal is to provide a space for women of color to celebrate themselves and to have fun, but to also give recognition to women of color on our campus who have been doing a lot of work in supporting students and the community overall,” Osman said. 

In addition, the event also had gifts for the first few attendees, including things like lip balm from Tropicals, a Black-owned business, bonnets and bell hooks’ famous “All About Love”. 

Despite throwing this event in the past as a formal event, Osman wanted to create an atmosphere more focused on celebration and fun. 

“It’s more so just a moment for you to celebrate yourself with your community and other women of color,” Osman said. 

The theme of the reception was “To Give Them Their Flowers”, meaning to give women of color the recognition they deserve, while they, along with the society they are impacting, can recognize and appreciate their contributions within the OSU community. 

According to Osman, the candidates were chosen based on their contribution and visibility among the community and just how much support they’ve done, particularly within the black community here at OSU.

“We’ve seen them be advocates, we’ve seen them support students through tough times,” Osman said, “that’s not something everybody can do, but we know these women are able to do that.” 

The Advocacy Award

This award is awarded to someone dedicated to the empowerment of students, particularly those who may have been downtrodden: the advocacy award was given to Assistant Director of Student-Athlete Development Mya Johnson.

Her work surrounds the holistic development of the student-athlete, doing career development work, leadership development work, and doing the Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, Belonging, Education and Awareness piece for student-athletes.   

“So everything but the performance and academic piece for student-athletes is what we do,” Johnson said. 

After being a student-athlete herself and undergoing a not-great experience that left her feeling unprepared for life after sports, she dedicated her career to being a stepping stone where she didn’t have one. 

“I just wanted to make sure that every student-athlete doesn’t have the experience that I had as a student-athlete,” Johnson said.

The Achievement Award

This award is awarded for continuously stimulating the ambitions of the community. The achievement award was given to Chanale Propst, the staff counselor and a coordinator of African American and Black student mental health and wellness.

 Focused on creating a space for students to learn more about therapy, she aims to connect with students in a genuine way to share that healing is possible through therapy. 

“Just being able to give them hope and knowing that their life and their journey can be beautiful and they can conquer it in a way that feels really good for them,” Propst said. 

Before joining OSU, Propst worked in corporate finance for seven years in North Carolina, while at the same time mentoring middle school, high school and college students.

After noticing concerns pop up among her college students, she recognized that college was a space of discovery and there was much room for the unknown for her to truly help.

And so, in wanting to be a good support system for her students, she quit her job and went back to school, all of which led her here to OSU. 

“I wanted to be able to support [students] in a very transitional time in their life and in a time where they’re learning more about themselves and learning more about the world,” Propst said. 

Her work is inspired by her want for students to come closer to themselves and to know that self-devotion can be beneficial in many ways.

“I like to create spaces of deep discovery of self for students to have a very keen and intentional understanding of self,” Propst said. “With that, there is a lot of trust and a lot of safety that they cultivate and it really helps them to navigate the world and where they see themselves in the world.” 

The Character Award

The character award is given to someone who encourages the highest and noblest forms of community.

As a Coordinator for Black and African American Student Mental Health and Wellness, Ireti DeBato-Cancel’s work in making sure that Black and African American students have a sense of support and community made her the embodiment of the Character Award.

“(My mission is) to make sure that Black and African American students have the sense of well-being while they’re on campus so that they can feel that they belong, and to give them the tools that they need to navigate the different things that come up in college as students of color and Black students specifically,” DeBato-Cancel said. 

During the event, she recalled the strong sense of community that arose from the reception and how necessary the motif of giving flowers was.

“Whether that’s moving on to a new job or leaving or, you know, the unfortunate passing away, if you let people know that you appreciate them while they’re still living, that’s a wonderful thing,” DeBato-Cancel said. 

The Education Award

In empowering young women of culture while also fostering a campus culture that inspires positive change, OSU Alcohol and Other Drug Prevention Specialist, Nikia Braxton-Franklin was awarded the education award.

She aims to equip college students with the tools, education and knowledge needed to make healthy choices to achieve overall wellness. 

Braxton-Franklin and her colleagues, in an attempt to draw more attention to the conversion around drugs, secured a $24,000 grant to supply OSU with Narcan and all types of drug testing strips to distribute around campus. 

Naloxone also known as Narcan is a medication to be administered in cases of emergency to essentially reverse narcotic overdoses.

In being able to work with Saferide and the President of the Residence Hall Association, Braxton-Franklin has made sure that all of Saferide and every Residence and Dining hall has Narcan and the proper training to help students in need. Due to Braxton-Franklin’s work, even the library has been equipped multiple times throughout the year with Narcan. 

In wanting to pinpoint areas where student lifestyle was prevalent, she wanted to ensure that there was not a weak point in her system of awareness and wanted to make sure that no matter where you are on campus and who you are on campus, there is always help nearby. 

“I’m very intentional with my work and I’m always wanting to be very inclusive for groups who are generally left out,” Braxton-Franklin said. “So I’m very excited about the breadth of folks that I’ve been able to touch with this work.” 

In addition to all this, Braxton-Franklin created the Society of Scholarly Sistas with her daughter, a group built on the principles of making sure that young women can find a sense of community and belonging on campus.

All who attended showed up with radiant smiles and energies, making the event all the more festive and lively. Each bouquet created a beautiful and unique embodiment of recognition and appreciation for everyone.

“For a predominantly male-identifying group to take time to do this, to give women their flowers while they can smell them and while they can inhale them is a beautiful thing, for sure,” Braxton-Franklin said.

Rho Beta’s Woman’s Appreciation Reception not only highlighted women’s achievements but also emphasized the support that women have here at OSU.

“It’s kind of nice to be recognized by the male audience at our campus,” said Natalie Soto-Leon, a fourth-year kinesiology major and Spanish minor who attended the reception.

It is important to give women of color their flowers and recognition while history is in the making, not as an afterthought but as a present “Thank you” to give while you can.  

Rho Beta’s Women’s Appreciation Reception was intended to give flowers while one is walking the earth and can enjoy them.

In general, women of color have been the most overlooked in history and in the past, which is why now is the time to give our present influential and powerful women of color at OSU their flowers.

“Just thinking of the social context aspect of it, Black women and women of color are truly the backbone of this country,” Johnson said. 

Giving women of color their flowers while they can smell them is important both for the women who are being appreciated and the women who look up to them.  

“It’s warm and comforting to know that students are essentially receiving the support, the care and the help that I am wanting to pour out,” Propst said. 

For Johnson, Propst, DeBato-Cancel, and Braxton-Franklin the real reward and honor come from the connection they make with students.

“The work that I do is not necessarily difficult or hard work, it’s heart work, it comes from the heart,” Braxton-Franklin said. “So with that, I don’t expect anything in exchange except for students excelling and being well healthy human beings.” 

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