Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Black Alumni of ND, Tulsa, OK and Atlanta Club BBQ Meet-up at Thompson Brothers BBQ - Atlanta

BBQ Brothers: The Thompson Brothers

On Friday, June 17th the Tulsa Club will formally introduce Oklahoma style barbecue to the ND Atlanta Community at the ND Atlanta BBQ Meet-up. The event, scheduled to start at 5 pm, will be held at Thompson Brothers BBQ located at 2445 Cobb Parkway, Smyrna, GA 30080 (Telephone: 770-818-9098)

What better way exists to kick-off Father’s Day weekend than with some great BBQ and the ND family. Because the Thompson Brothers are huge ND fans, special food and drink pricing for the Pre-season Tailgate/Meet-N-Greet event include:

Ø $12.00

o Combination of any two meats and two sides

o All you can dink (fountain drink)

o Dessert

Ø Beer Specials

o $2.00: 16oz Bud and Bud light

o $5.00: Bud or Bud Light Pitcher

o $2.75 Heineken Bottle

$2.49 Yuengling Bottle

Thompson Brothers BBQ is owned and operated by the Thompson brothers who are originally from Tulsa, OK and have multiple connections to Notre Dame Alumni. Horace Thompson, a former Georgia Bulldog football player, is a high school teammate of former Irish football players Tony and Reggie Brooks. Carroll Thompson attended high school with ND Tulsa, OK Club President, Lamar Guillory. The restaurant’s meat smoker and grills were built by a construction company owned by ND alum, Ray Miller, Jr., Oklahoma style barbecue is best described as a dry rub, but not as dry as the classic Texas barbecue, with flavorful sauce component that doesn’t contain the tangy/vinegary taste characteristic of the southeastern region of the United States.

Not only do the Thompson Brothers think their barbecue is special, several Atlanta area magazines, food critics, and trip advisors have also rated Thompson Brothers BBQ as part of Atlanta’s Best landscape (see links below).

So come out and enjoy great food, fun and fellowship with ND alums from Tulsa to Atlanta on June 17th!!!!

For more information check your local club’s website or Facebook Page. Additionally, you can contact Rochelle Valsaint (404-946-3541) or Lamar Guillory (918-645-2737).

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Gaining Inspiration from Jocelyn Allen’s Divas4Life

Jocelyn Allen, Notre Dame c/o 1991 is a former Pasquerilla West Most Distinguished Woman who is continuing to make her distinct mark on the world around her. In celebration of the philanthropy of the holiday season, we sat down with Allen to discuss her inspirational non-profit Divas4Life, an organization dedicated to contributing to the growth and development of young ladies.

This Detroit native was a hotshot Public Relations representative for General Motors when she realized that she could be putting her numerous work perks to a good cause as a member of a small church in East Detroit. “I was travelling all over the country for GM,” Allen explained, “and my fellow church-goers would get so excited about my travels—asking me ‘What was it like meeting Will Smith? Or how was it to go to that awards show?' ”

Allen notes that her Pastor would even reference her travels in Sunday morning sermons. “it dawned on me, not so much that I was blessed, I knew that I was blessed—it became obvious to me that I was in a position to pass it on.

It was in that moment that Jocelyn realized not only that she was so incredibly blessed, but more importantly that she was in a position to pass on these blessings. Upon receiving tickets to fabulous events, she would get permission from GM to take youth from her church to various events. “This simple act of kindness was such a momentous occasion for my fellow church-goers,” Allen recalled. “I loved hearing them talk about what they saw and who they met for months following the event!

When Allen moved on to the position of Youth Director at her church, she started working more closely with the young women of the congregation. “I wanted to expose these young ladies not just to these fabulous events, but what it means to be a professional lady,” she explained. Thus the inception of Divas4Life, a program dedicated to fostering determined, inspired, victorious, adventurous (DIVA) young women, ages 8-18. “And it wasn’t just something I felt I should do, but something that I had to do. God had placed me at that place and that time for a reason,” Allen stated.

Divas4Life is a grassroots organization that focuses on etiquette, financial literacy, career planning/education among many other things. The group of young women is thirty or less, so that each girl can get the attention she deserves. One signature event of the program is Dinner with a Diva, which is essentially a career-day type dinner that highlights the successes and struggles of an adult Diva. Another important highlight of the Divas4Life calendar is the annual Cabin Retreat to Northern Michigan, where the girls experience horseback riding, canoeing, and workshops. Allen is excited for the prospect of taking the girls to Disneyland after telling a major Disneyland executive about her work with Divas4Life.

This September, Allen was able to bring the girls to Notre Dame, which Allen credits with teaching her the importance of taking a cause and believing in it 100%. “It was the Stanford game weekend, so campus was buzzing with excitement!” she recalled. After giving the girls a self-guided tour of campus, complete with anecdotes from her time as a student, Allen and her Divas joined an incredibly accomplished group of ND Women for a luncheon workshop. The panel featured Lois Conrad-Jackson, Frances Shavers, Valerie Waller and Jackie Rucker. “I was absolutely in awe in the candor, grace and strength of these women,” Allen stated. “I gain just as much as my Divas when I get to hear the story of a successful woman. I was so grateful for this powerful conversation.” Allen was even more excited when two of her Divas left Notre Dame’s campus, abuzz with the possibility of being Domers themselves!

Interested in getting involved with Divas4Life? Whether its’ event tickets, a venue for workshops or your own story of success, Allen promises no kind deed will go unnoticed!

For more information visit the Divas4Life website or contact Jocelyn directly.

Jocelyn Allen, thank you for showing our young ladies how to be truly Determined, Iinspired, Victorious and Adventurous!

Your compassion is absolutely infectious!

The Simplicity of Kindness: BA_ND Jason Mims 2011 Recipient of William D. Reynolds Award

For 1975 Notre Dame Graduate Jason Mims, life is refreshingly uncomplicated. You help people by completing simple tasks over and over again. And one day that string of events will amount to something magnificent.

And that is the frills-free mantra behind Mim’s incredible success as a mentor and visionary for Tampa’s underserved youth. Through his nonprofit the MIMS (Motivated Individual Minority Students) Institute, he has been encouraging and inspiring young people to seek the gains of higher education since 2002.

Mims’ passion and dedication for helping high-achieving public school students realize the opportunities afforded by a secondary education is being recognized by the Notre Dame Alumni Association with the 2011 William D. Reynolds Award. This retired Lieutenant Colonel will be recognized Saturday, April 16, 2011 during halftime of the Blue and Gold game.

According to Mims, The MIMS Institute is based on two fundamental activities: fellowship with students and their parents, and an active presence in the Hillborough County school board. “I will meet with students over pancakes at the Village Inn Pancake House,” he explained, “or sometimes I will bring pizza to their high school. We discuss grades, their extracurricular activities, and most importantly what it takes to be an exceptional candidate at an outstanding secondary institution.” Mims is also able to get a sense from his mentees of the everyday challenges of students in public schools—especially those of black males. “I listen to them and share with them my resources,” he shared. “This is my opportunity to hear their struggles, while also promoting academic excellence.”

Since 2001, Mims has also routinely attended school board meetings in an effort to gather information about the exceptional opportunities that are available for high-achieving students in Hillsboro County. “Many of our students— students of color— don’t have access to or don’t believe they have access to opportunities such as ACT/SAT prep, Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate course. I seek to expose them to these unknowns.” These visits to school boards are not just a way for Mims to simply gain information. His presence at these meetings is also a chance for him to establish relationships with school district leaderships, which then allows him to advocate on behalf of his mentees.

When asked what influenced his decision to start the MIMS Institute, he immediately referenced his experiences at Notre Dame. “Forty years ago, I became a part of the Notre Dame family when I got my acceptance letter in the mail,” Mims explained. “But when I entered Notre Dame with ten other young men from San Antonio, I realized I was the only one from a non-Catholic/public school. It always haunted me that so many young men of color in public schools don’t know about the opportunities that exist for them.”

In 1995, Mims returned to Notre Dame for his twentieth reunion, and he brought six young people from Tampa with him. Seeing those students completely awestruck by Notre Dame’s campus fueled something inside of him. Mims took another trip to campus in 2003, following a taxing year in Kuwait. “I just had a sense that I had to go to Notre Dame following my year of active duty— I had a feeling that I needed to be there, a sense that I needed to be on campus, and one of the first places that I ended up at was the Grotto,” he stated. During that trip, Mims also had the opportunity to have lunch with Ben Finley Sr. (Notre Dame c/o 1960 and 2000 recipient of the William D. Reynolds Award) and Dan Saracino (former Assistant Provost for Enrollment). That opportunity to see another Black Alumnus who was involved in recruiting efforts that were so appreciated by the University furthered Mims’ passion to intensify his involvement.

Though Jason encourages students of the MIMS Institute to consider Notre Dame, his primary goal is for his mentees to be top applicants at excellent secondary institutions. Mims’ very first student accepted into Notre Dame served as a model for future mentees, and his dedicated service has been an incredible success since.

When asked how other Black Alumni can get involved, Mim’s response is simple, of course, “You have to be passionate to be successful, but if the passion isn’t there in the beginning, just do small things like fellowship with one or two kids. It will grow from there.”

For more information on the MIMS Institute, please visit

Jason Mims, the Black Alumni of Notre celebrates you for your tireless dedication to our young people!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Will You Be There?: Legends of the Fall 11/19/10

Celebrate and reunite with fellow Domers in the Big Apple, as the Fighting Irish prepare to take on the Army Black Knights at Yankees Stadium!

LEGENDS of the FALL: Notre Dame vs. Army Pre-party celebration 11/19/2010

WHERE: Hip-hop mogul Jay-Z’s famed 40/40 Club (rated the #1 Sports Bar in New York City is going "GREEN" this November, as it plays host to alumni and fans of the Fighting Irish.

DATE: Friday November 19, 2010

TIME: 9pm- Until (Immediately following the Fighting Irish Pep Rally)


40/40 Club | 6 West 25th Street (25th and Broadway) | New York, NY 10010 | (212)832-4040

Monday, October 18, 2010

ND Black Community Goes to Town on the Issues!

On a blustery, but beautiful Saturday evening on campus, the Black Alumni Board welcomed current students, administrators and local alumni to its first ever Town Hall Meeting to discuss the issues that affect Notre Dame's black community most significantly.

Members of the panel included:

  • Rochelle Valsaint (BA_ND Chairperson)
  • LaShane Saddler (African-American Admissions Recruiter)
  • Brittany Suggs (Black Student Association President)
  • LaDawn Burnett (Black Law Students Association President)
  • Amelia Thompson (BA_ND Communications Director)
  • Richard Ryans (BA_ND Co-Founder/Current Vice-Chairperson)
  • Bobby Brown (BA_ND Regional Director)

The turnout was amazing, with over 40 in attendance! The conversation started sharply at 6pm and went well beyond the intended two hours!

The conversation ranged from classroom culture to the changes in the black student body over the years. Many expressed a decrease in the sense of unity among Notre Dame's current black student body. Another hot topic was the need for increased interaction between current students and BA. The students stressed the importance of alumni support, whether in the form of a phone call, an email or a friendly face during a game weekend.

Another popular discussion point was the divide between the student-athlete and the "regular" student. There seemed to be a general consensus among the current students of a clear separation between the two groups' interactions. Former athletes Bobby Brown and Reggie Brooks offered insight into this issue, while encouraging current students- athlete or not- to approach each other with respect and consideration.

Though the meeting had its serious moments, spirits were high as the Town Hall wrapped. In various corners of the room, business cards and email addresses were being exchanged. "This
has to become a tradition," quite a few remarked.

And most importantly the sense of a newly unified black community filled the air.

Major thank you and congratulations to Kyree Blackwell ND '07 for organizing this incredible event!

Getting Down to Business With the Black Alumni Board

The weekend of September 30-October 3, the 20 members of the Black Alumni Board trekked to campus for three packed days of meetings, dinners and an amazing townhall!

Issues at the forefront of the conversation included:
  • Ways to increase successful recruitment of black students
  • Wonderful strides in black student admissions this past fall
  • The impressive Seminar for African-American Scholars program
  • Planning for Fall/Spring signature events- ND vs. Army game in NY, The Frazier Affair
  • Improving methods to communicate with Black Alumni across ages, class years, locations, etc
  • Notre Dame's brand-new alumni website myNotreDame
But no worries, Domers, the weekend wasn't strictly business. From the wildly successful first ever Black Alumni Board-sponsored Townhall Meeting to a beautiful Saturday evening Mass led by Father Hesburgh, there was plenty of fun had with current black students and local BA alike!

Enjoy pictures from the weekend below. Also leave comments so we can know what you think are the most important issues for BA_ND to focus on!

Our Vice-Chair Richard Ryans has a pensive moment in LaFortune

Vice-Chair Richard Ryans and Chairwoman Rochelle Valsaint handling some business!

The Mentoring Committee brainstorming ideas!

The Recruiting Committee planning our strategy to attract the best and brightest!

Bar Louie Funnnnnn! Oh, Louie, Louie ;)

A Visit from former BA_ND Board Member Gina Shropshire!

Minority Alum Board Mass with Father Ted- what an incredible moment!

The Message of Mass...Come Holy Spirit

The MAN Board Game Watch in the Eck Center

Who knew star wide receiver Bobby Brown also had cheerleading abilities?

Enjoying a major ND win with new ND Law School friends!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Oh Happy Day: Notre Dame & Northwestern Host Black Alumni Happy Hour

On September 24, 2010 the BA_ND of Chicago is hosting a Networking Happy Hour with the Black Alumni of Northwestern University.

Where: Bar Louie (South Loop) 47 W. Polk St. Chicago, IL 60605

When: September 24, 2010 at 6:00pm

: Natascha Neptune-

*please submit RSVP by 9/22/2010*

Talk about a meeting of Black Alum intellect! Hope our Windy City Alum can attend. Thank you to Natascha Neptune Region 3 Director for spearheading this exciting event!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Student to Professor—Jada Benn-Torres Moves to Other Side of the Podium

Jada Benn-Torres, Notre Dame Class of 1999 and current Assistant Professor of Anthropology, grew up a military brat, so as can be expected she spent her childhood frequently on the go. Well, in her final years of high school, Jada found herself at a Catholic high school in Oklahoma, which led her to our Catholic University in Indiana.

While a student at Notre Dame, Jada took a series of Anthropolgy courses with highly lauded professors James McKenna and Sue Sheridan that changed the course of her studies, and thus the course of her career.

Though her initial interests were in medicine, McKenna and Sheridan’s Anthropology courses were so significant that they influenced Jada’s decision to pursue a graduate degree in Biological Anthropology at the University of New Mexico. “I was so drawn to this branch of Anthropology because it explores the science of how and why people interact with each other,” Jada explains, “as well as the patterns of human migration and how our environment influences us.”

During her time at Notre Dame, Jada was not just a dedicated Anthropology student, but also a member of the rowing team. Though she had no crew experience prior to stepping foot on campus, her time as the crew coxswain (the navigator of the boat, its “eyes and ears”) became a huge part of her ND identity. “Being a member of the crew team was such a formative experience, because in my position I learned so much about decision-making and leadership. And for me to have been able to come into Notre Dame and not only learn a new sport, but actually letter in it was phenomenal.” Jada has been able to stay in touch with her crew teammates since graduating, and even participated in a reunion for the women’s crew team in South Bend Fall of 2007.

The years following graduation from Notre Dame were brimming with activity for this aspiring Anthropologist. Less than twenty-four hours after completing her dissertation on Biological Anthropology at the University of New Mexico, Jada gave birth to her daughter! When the opportunity came for Jada to study the molecular epidemiology of prostate cancer at the University of Chicago under Dr. Richard Kittles, an African-American biologist who specializes in human genetics, two years later she and her family headed to the Midwest.

When asked what prompted her to leave Chicago for her old stomping grounds of Notre Dame, Jada offered a few reasons. She explains, “I knew I would be working with phenomenal colleagues who were experts in the field. I also knew that I would be able to work closely with undergraduates and be able to infuse them with a passion for Anthropology the way that McKenna and Sheridan had done for me.”

Then Benn-Torres gives a slightly surprising answer, “I brought my daughter with me to the (year) reunion with my crew teammates, and during that visit I was able to imagine my family in South Bend. I enjoyed that certain familiarity I had with the town and Notre Dame’s campus.”

Benn-Torres is now an Associate Professor in the University’s Anthropology department and teaches course ranging from Introduction to Anthropology—which she describes as “an exciting opportunity to influence young First Year minds”—to Humans as Subjects— a more advanced course that analyzes the ethics behind studying human beings. Her current office in Flanner Hall overlooks her old dorm in Pasquerilla West, but these days Jada is really enjoying being on the other side of the podium.

Welcome the Newest Class of Black Domers!

The Black Alumni of Notre Dame extends a warm welcome to the Class of 2014!

They are 91 strong and represent states ranging from Georgia and Indiana to California and Texas!
As a fun welcome to the newest members of the Black Notre Dame family, included below is a Campus To-Do List!
  • Visit the Grotto at least once during your first semester. Whether for just a quick peek or to light a candle and pray, you will quickly understand why this is a Notre Dame Legend!
  • Do-It-Yourself Dining Hall Options such as make your own stir-fry, omelettes, personal pizzas and even crepes will add a gourmet touch to any meal. Just be prepared for a line!
  • Friday Pep Rallies are a great introduction to the big game day, as well as a fun opportunity to hear inspirational words from former Notre Dame coaches and players. The first pep rally of the season is hosted by south quad dorm Dillon, and is always one of the most hilarious events of the fall!
  • Rejoice Mass is a traditional Catholic mass infused with soul that is sponsored by the office of Multicultural Student Programs and Services. Held the last Sunday of every month, this mass is a wonderful opportunity to fellowship and worship with your peers.

These are just a few favorites! Fellow Black Alum, if you have any additions to the list, please add them to the comment box. The newest members of the Black Irish family would love to hear your ND must-dos!

Interested in helping the effort of recruiting future Black Alumni of Notre Dame? Visit the official recruiting calendar of the University’s Admissions Staff and join them in a city near you! Contact Admissions Counselor LeShane Saddler ( with any questions.