By Jillian Poland
Two FSU students received the national Undergraduate Social Action Award from Sociologists for Women in Society (SWS) for creating an organization for women of color, said sociology professor Virginia Rutter.
SWS is an organization dedicated to gender scholarship. The social action award is given annually to a student or a team of students who make substantial contributions toward improving the lives of women in society through activism, according to the SWS website.
This year, the award went to senior sociology majors Adebusola Ajao and Kenetra Hinkins.
Ajao and Hinkins were chosen for their work co-founding the organization BGMT, which aims to create an empowering environment for women of color. The organization has held a series of “radical” photoshoots “that focus and valorize black women,” said Rutter in her nomination letter.
BGMT was originally an acronym for Black Girls Matter Too, but the letters now stand for Brilliance, Guidance, Melanin, Togetherness, said Ajao and Hinkins in their nomination essay.
The organization has also held a talent showcase, photoshoots on multiple campuses and an all-city protest on police brutality in Boston, according to Ajao and Hinkins.
The award is presented at the SWS winter meeting, a large-scale conference with presentations from sociologists across the country. The award includes a $700 grant and a plaque or memento, according to the SWS website. Additionally, the winners’ registration and banquet fees are waived, and they are given the opportunity to receive an added $300 to assist with the costs of travel and lodging.
Hinkins said winning the award “felt like all our hard work was being recognized on an institutional level. We know we’ve made a social impact on people, but it felt amazing to see that our work was being acknowledged by such a big organization.”
The SWS winter meeting was held Feb. 9 to Feb. 12 of in Albuquerque, New Mexico, said the SWS website.
Ajao and Hinkins were slated to give a presentation Feb. 10 on creating an independent organization with a focus on intersectional feminism.
Unfortunately, severe weather conditions prevented the pair from attending the conference.
Rutter said, “There were all these professors, senior professors, from all around the country who were on the program and here were these two undergraduate women with an incredible model that got put on the program with their own workshop to teach other people.”
Rutter, who nominated both students and would have accompanied them on the trip, said, “I worked all day Wednesday when I realized the storm was coming. I was on the phone for hours ... trying to get flights. First, our flights were postponed, and then they were cancelled and then there were no more flights.”
Hinkins said, “Initially, we were disappointed, but we’ve been afforded the opportunity to be a part of a larger conference, so maybe things happened the way they did for a reason.”
Ajao and Hinkins will now be presenting at the August SWS conference in Montreal, Canada. The August SWS meeting occurs in tandem with the American Sociological Association meetings, and it is considered a “big event,” according to Rutter.
Hinkins said, “BGMT wouldn’t have been able to grow and get this award if we didn’t have such a strong support system, and we appreciate everyone who has supported us.”