When SUNY Cortland senior Alliyah Dookie spent a year studying abroad at the University of Ghana, she initiated an environmental project to clean a local park at the same time she was completing her educational mission of tutoring and mentoring two students.
That’s just what this graduating senior is all about.
“She continues to pursue fairness, equity, equality, and social justice not just locally, but also globally,” observed Distinguished Teaching Professor Seth Asumah of Dookie, recipient of the first-ever SUNY Cortland NAACP Award. The honor was inspired by the NAACP Image Awards for outstanding achievements by people of color in the arts.
In selecting Dookie, the committee was looking for a student who embodied the NAACP’s six game changers that address the major areas of inequality facing African Americans. They include: economic sustainability, education, health, public safety and criminal justice, voting rights and political representation and expanding youth and young adult engagement.
Dookie, a dual major in Africana studies and political science with a minor in international studies, was to have accepted the honor in person during the university’s annual Kente Celebration in late April, which is when graduating seniors traditionally receive awards for their contributions to campus diversity.
The celebration symbolizes and commemorates the rite of passage for learners and scholars as they transition from institutions of higher learning to the next chapter of their lives. The Kente Celebration has deep institutional history and is an important experience for Cortland’s multicultural students.
This year, however, the COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancelation of the 2020 Kente Celebration. Instead, Dookie was among five individuals who were instead recognized on Instagram and Facebook on April 25.
“Alliyah stands out as the most impressive candidate,” said Asumah, a professor of political science, chair of the Africana Studies Department and one of the members of the Kente Committee. He was involved with the creation of the NAACP Award at Cortland andis Dookie's faculty advisor.
Asumah noted that Dookie was one of the founding members of the SUNY Cortland NAACP, even though at the time she was studying at the University of Ghana.
“She contacted me to secure her membership card for her (and I did) because she believes in civil rights and social justice,” Asumah said. “She then became the first international member of the SUNY Cortland NAACP."
When Dookie returned to campus from the University of Ghana, she immediately secured a position on the executive board of the SUNY Cortland NAACP. She has attended the NAACP Regional Conferences and participated in the Civil Rights Advocacy Institute.
On campus, Dookie has served as a teaching assistant for COR 101, the historian for Women of Color, SGA representative for the Spanish Club, project leader for NYPIRG, member of the statewide NYPIRG board of directors and president of the New York Health Student Occupation of America (HOSA) chapter. She also was active with the Caribbean Student Association and Know Your Roots. She has traveled to Albany with NYPIRG to advocate for affordable tuition for students.
Dookie also is the only SUNY Cortland student to have received a Eurasia Foundation Fellowship to conduct advocacy work in Russia alongside seven other people.
She had studied In Ghana after receiving a prestigious SUNY-wide Diversity Abroad Honor Scholarship Program (DAHSP) award.
“That was mostly because she has enhanced diversity, inclusion and social justice all her life,” Asumah said. “She’s a very hardworking student and an outstanding scholar.
Produced by Communications writing intern Victoria VanEvery