Three win Martin Luther King Jr. awards

Connecticut College honored three members of the campus community Feb. 1 with the 2017 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Service Awards, conferred each year on those who exemplify and uphold the legacy of Dr. King's work.

The awards were presented at a Black Heritage Month kickoff event, “Young, Gifted and Black.” The ceremony featured a keynote speech by Young Alumni Trustee Chakena Sims ’16, a previous winner of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Service Award, as well as remarks by Dean of Institutional Equity and Inclusion John F. McKnight Jr. and Dean of Religious and Spiritual Life Claudia Highbaugh. There were also performances by Derrick Newton ’17 and Verdi Degbey ’20.

The 2017 honorees are:

Nathalie Etoke, associate professor of French and Africana studies and chair of the French Department

Professor Nathalie Etoke

Etoke, who specializes in Francophone cultures, LGBT issues in the Afro-diasporic context, and Africana film, literature and philosophy, was honored for her intricate understanding of the complexities of issues related to race, class, gender, sexuality and religion, and for addressing those issues in her scholarship, in the classroom and through involvement with students and groups on campus. 

“Professor Etoke has been a force to reckon with on this campus,” Erin Duran, director of the LGBTQIA Center, said while announcing Etoke as a nominee for the award at the ceremony. “She definitely represents a young, gifted and black intellectual.” 

Etoke has been a professor at the College since 2009. She is the author of several books and the writer and director of Afro Diasporic French Identities, a 2012 documentary about the relationship between race and citizenship in the French sociopolitical context. 

Lamiya Khandaker ’17

Lamiya Khandaker ’17

Khandaker is a government and global Islamic studies double major. She was honored for her service and social action on campus, and in the community. During her tenure as Student Government Association Chair of Diversity and Equity, Khandaker represented the concerns of underrepresented students. She served as a liaison between the Student Activities Council and Unity house, and produced the first ever Color Brave Monologues, a performance of 25 short pieces related to themes and issues of race, ethnicity, religion, gender, class, privilege and sexuality. 

Khandaker also serves on the College’s Government Student Advisory Board and is a resident blogger for the Between Arabs Project, which brings together Arabs of all faiths and Muslims of all ethnicities to discuss social issues and taboo subjects within Arab and Muslim communities. 

In 2015, Khandaker interned at, a not-for-profit organization that aims to motivate young people around the globe to take action on causes they care about most. As a discriminations campaign intern, she formulated and pitched campaigns to engage youth in social action to improve their communities.

Shameesha Pryor ’17

Shameesha Pryor ’17

Pryor, an Africana studies major and human development minor, was honored for her leadership in the fight for diversity, equality and social justice. A Posse and Holleran Center for Community Action and Public Policy scholar, Pryor serves as a housefellow and as vice president of UMOJA, a student organization that serves as a support group for students of African descent and those interested in multicultural issues. 

Pryor also volunteers at the New London Senior Citizens Center and serves as a student mentor at Jennings Elementary School. In her hometown of Chicago, Illinois, Pryor serves as a program intern for Young Chicago Authors, an organization that aims to cultivate young voices through writing, publication and performance education.

“As a student leader, Shameesha is the embodiment of commitment to the progress of black people on campus and in the New London community,” Pansy Nguyen ’19 said while announcing Pryor as an award nominee. “No matter the platform, Shameesha prioritizes education and action surrounding social justice.”

During the ceremony, all of the nominees for the awards were recognized. In addition to the winners, the nominees were: Barbara Hogate Ferrin '43 Professor of Economics Candace Howes, Veronica Alejandro ’18, Ousmane Dia ’18 and Derrick Newton ’17.



February 9, 2017