Convocation: Women, Beauty and Action

Women, Beauty and Action is a conversation celebrating Women’s History Month through the voices of women around us. Toni Morrison, celebrated novelist and professor who died in 2019 said this:  “Beauty was not simply something to behold; it was something one could do.” Hosted by Dean of Students Shannon Dycus, we will hear from Deanna Reed, Nadia Dames and Ariel Barbosa as they have each encountered womanhood, beauty and action. Kiara Kiah will perform several vocal solos within the program.

Shannon W. Dycus is the Dean of Students at EMU, a role she comes to with experience in ministry and education. Most recently from Indianapolis, IN, Shannon was born in Chicago, Il with her favorite detour being a ministry year in the Dominican Republic. She has degrees from Christian Theological Seminary and Butler University, ongoing studies toward certification in spiritual direction, and a 2019 bible study published with Herald Press.  Shannon is a listener and a foodie, loves live music and dancing, believes in doing justice and creating space to breathe.

Deanna Reed Growing up in Harrisonburg, Deanna Reed was surrounded by women whose examples of community service inspired her to mentor young women of color. When she returned to the city to care for her aging grandmother, Reed worked in the public schools and became involved in several community organizations, including the African-American Culture Festival and the Harrisonburg Women’s Service League, of which she has served as president. For more than thirty years she has also been a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. In 2009 Reed co-founded Precious Gems Academy, an after-school mentorship program for students from elementary to high school. In 2015 she became program director for the On the Road Collaborative, a local initiative that connects low-income youth with academic support, career enrichment classes, and leadership development to prepare middle- and high-school students for life after graduation.

Concerned about school overcrowding, Reed began attending city council meetings and was struck by the fact that there were no female members at the time. After unsuccessfully attempting to recruit a woman to run, she decided to run for office herself, winning election in 2016 with the most votes in the council’s history. The first African-American woman elected to Harrisonburg’s city council, she was also the first to be chosen mayor by the council. As mayor, Reed focuses on education and strives to bring together Harrisonburg’s diverse communities. In 2018 Essence named her to its list of Woke 100 Women, which highlights African-American change agents.

Nadia DaMes is the president and operations manager for UMA Inc. in Dayton — a small manufacturer of instruments for the aviation and health industries. She is also a leading member for many local religious and community groups, including Faith in Action and United Way. In Faith in Action, DaMes is a representative for the Islamic Association of the Shenandoah Valley, while she is on the community impact committee for United Way. DaMes helped to establish the new “Know your Neighbor” group in Staunton, which hosts quarterly potlucks and helps to collect donations for food banks.

Ariel Barbosa is an undergraduate senior at EMU, double-majoring in Sociology and Bible, Religion, & Theology and minoring in Honors and Interfaith Studies. Much of her studies have involved processing of cross cultural trips taken to India and South Africa. Ariel is passionate about participating in and speaking into the multicultural EMU community. Dabbling in many areas on campus over her four years, from ResLife to Theater to the Intensive English Program, she has stayed committed to the Women’s Varsity Soccer team, Admissions as a Royals Executive Tour Guide, Student Government Association as a Senator, and Latino Student Alliance, to which she served as co-president from freshman to junior year. Junior year, she co-led a Y-Serve spring break trip to Casa Alterna, a Latinx immigrant community in LaGrange, GA, and attended the Interfaith Leadership Institute in Chicago, IL through DASS. Throughout her senior year, she has continued work on a research project blending her two majors through the study of spoken word poetry and looks forward to sharing it with the EMU community as her Honors Capstone this April.