U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Marcia L. Fudge’s shared a message with the approximately 177 Claflin University 2021 fall graduates Friday morning during the university’s fall commencement ceremonies held at the Jonas T. Kennedy Health and Wellness Complex.

A colorful panorama of stylishly accessorized hats, fashionable skirts and dresses, and a delicious assortment of flavored teas helped highlight a spirit of sisterhood at the 15th annual First Lady’s Hats and Gloves Scholarship Tea on Saturday, March 18, at Claflin’s Jonas T. Kennedy Health and Wellness Complex.

“Celebrating Women Who Tell Our Stories,” was the theme of this year’s fundraiser that supports scholarships for outstanding Claflin students.

“Our theme aligns with Women’s History Month,” said LaKisha Warmack, Claflin’s First Lady and the wife of the university’s ninth president, Dr. Dwaun J. Warmack.

“It is a meaningful tribute to women who have been active in all forms of media and storytelling, including print, radio, TV, stage, screen, blogs, podcasts and more,” she said.

The honorees were:

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• Tamika Felder, an award-winning, high-energy motivational speaker on a mission to educate, entertain and mobilize others to live life with purpose

• Vivian Glover, a part-time director of community arts and development at the Orangeburg County Fine Arts Center in Orangeburg who is also an independent producer and a producer for NBC News

• Tammy J. McCottry, founder and CEO of Tammy Media Group, LLC, a television, event management production, public relations and consulting company

“These women have dedicated their lives to telling stories, testimonies and advocated and created content and spaces for other women to share theirs,” Warmack said. “Your commitment and unwavering support of this event are greatly appreciated.

“As a woman, sometimes it is hard to find true, genuine friendship. The success of everyone should be an inspiration for others. We should uplift each other and make sure you are courageous, strong, extremely kind and above all, humble. Our 2023 honorees embody every single word.”

A trio of academically talented Claflin students was also honored during the event: Shamiyah Lemons, a freshman marketing major from Norwood, Ga; Payton Jackson, a junior political science major from St. Louis, Mo.; and Summer Edmond, a freshman mass communications major from Columbia were selected as the 2023 First Lady’s Hats and Gloves Scholarship Tea Scholars.

Each student received a $1,000 scholarship per semester for one year. They also received laptop computers donated by Emma Harvin, wife of Moses L. Harvin, ‘75, a former member of Claflin’s Board of Trustees. Mrs. Harvin is also president of One Source Office Products in Rockledge, Fla.

“We know these extraordinary young visionaries will achieve their dreams,” Warmack said. “We hope that after they graduate, they will return to Claflin as honorees at this event.”

Arischa Conner Frierson, a 1998 Claflin graduate, was the mistress of ceremonies. She is best known for her recurring role in Hulu’s Emmy Award-winning limited original series, “Dopesick,” with Michael Keaton.

Some of her other credits include co-starring in the Apple TV+ series, “Swagger,” directed by Reggie “Rock” Bythewood (CBS); “The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey” with Samuel L. Jackson, and a recurring role on “Players,” now streaming on Paramount+.

She’s also appeared on “All American” (The CW), “The Resident” (Fox) and “Mike” (Hulu) as Dr. Maya Angelou. Before her break into TV and film, Frierson flourished on the theatre stage, earning her a Broadway World Regional nomination for Best Actress.

A “Hat”TITUDE contest concluded the festivities as participants showcased their dazzling hats and paraded past the podium –much to the audience’s delight. Three contestants forced a deadlock by receiving the loudest applause, and the competition ended in a tie.

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