The discussion provided a space safe for panelists to explore questions of Black identity and professionalism—how they contributed to their successes and what they have had to overcome to be the person that they are today.
“For me as a Black woman, Black excellence means making the most out of the resources I’m provided and shaping and stepping into the fullness of my own Black identity and celebrating it, while also navigating the obstacles that arise because of that celebration,” McDonald said.
McDonald is a 2007 Molloy graduate who earned her BA at Cornell, MA at Queens College, and is currently pursuing her PhD at Princeton University. She is the founder of Writer’s Ink NYC, a content writing and editing company based in New York City.
The panel consisted of public speaker Janelle Boyd, broadcaster and sports anchor Rosalyn Gold-Onwude, state court sergeant Damani Nyahuma, Molloy director of Admissions Edwidge Turenne, board-certified behavioral health specialist Angelina Waterman; and Minorities in Sports Business Network founder Shaina Wiel.
For Wiel, Molloy is a big reason why she is in her industry today.
“Black excellence means being able to be your whole self at all times,” she said. “I’m a Queens girl at heart, so being able to walk into a meeting with the NBA and sit with C-Suite level people and still have my hoop earrings on and my baby hairs popping, that’s what Black excellence means to me.”
Wiel, a 2004 Molloy graduate, is a sports marketing professional who has worked with powerhouses such as ESPN, NBA, Samsung, and Coca Cola.
She earned her BA from Penn State and MA in Sports Management from Columbia University. Her organization empowers minorities working in the sports industry and has been featured in Forbes.
Panelists discussed the importance of representation in each of their fields. During a trip to New Guinea for a speaking engagement, Boyd recalled how empowering it felt to be surrounded by other Black professionals.
“It’s the Day of Independence, and the stage is full of important people, delegates, some in African garb, military attire, people from surrounding countries, a king and queen, president and first lady,” she recalled. “And I pan around to the most important people and guess what? They look like me.”
Boyd is a 2009 Molloy graduate, Cornell University graduate, Youth Ambassador for Voices of African Mothers, and has been involved in UN-hosted conversations held at the Commission on the Status of Women Conference.
She is the founder of Dezire2Inspire, an international initiative with the mission to empower women and girls everywhere.
Panelists discussed how being Black in work environments also includes uncomfortable exchanges. Nyahuma provided insight to address needed changes when working with diverse colleagues.
“Sometimes you hear whites say ‘I don’t see color. I don’t care if you’re white, black, blue, purple, etc.,’” he said. And I say, ‘no, I want you to see me as a Black man. I need you to see me and understand me in the skin I’m in, because I’m comfortable in that skin.’
“If you detach me from my Blackness, then you can’t see me,” he added.
Nyahuma is the parent of a Molloy student and an ordained elder within the Presbyterian Church. He has an MA in History from City College and has served 26 years as a Sergeant within the New York State Court System.
For Gold-Onwude, while being a female Black professional comes with its unique challenges, it also provides self-confidence.
“I would say my journey of really stepping into myself as a woman, a Black woman, naturally comes with age and experience,” she said. “They want you to fit in, sound and look a certain way, not paying attention that you’re a woman in a male-dominated space in a high-profile position.
“I’ve decided fully at this point in my life and career I won’t hide who I am, and I feel like the best success I’ve had has been when I’ve leaned in on my identity, because who I am is what’s separating me,” added Gold-Onwude.
Gold-Onwude is a 2005 Molloy and Stanford University graduate, where she earned her BA and MA and played on the women’s basketball team.
She is a Sports Broadcaster whose career spanned includes hosting ESPN’s First Take, as a basketball analyst for ESPN, NBA on TNT, Pac-12 Networks, NBA TV, MSG Networks, NBC Sports, and the 2016 Rio Olympics on NBC.
Molloy’s inaugural Black Excellence Town Hall was a new kind of conversation and an important milestone for the school.
“This forum provided an important educational opportunity for students, faculty, and our broader community,” said Principal Darius Penikas. “Molloy looks forward to offering these types of opportunities in the future.”
Yvette Villanueva is a 2007 graduate of Archbishop Molloy High School. She is a researcher and marketing director and currently sits on the PR Committee of the Molloy’s Council for Diversity & Inclusion.