Acclaimed actress Jada Pinkett Smith converses with members of the Harvard Black Men's Forum, which honored her as the Woman of the Year on Saturday evening in a celebratory dinner at Leverett House.
Members of the Black Men’s Forum honored actress Jada Pinkett Smith as well as their Harvard peers at the group’s 18th annual Celebration of Black Women on Saturday.
The event honored black female students and celebrated the accomplishments of black women in the wider world.
Pinkett Smith—an actress, producer, director, author, singer-songwriter, and businesswoman—was recognized for her trailblazing professional success. She is known for her roles in films such as “Jason’s Lyric,” “The Matrix Reloaded,” and “The Nutty Professor.”
“She embodies all that Woman of the Year Award stands for,” wrote Black Men’s Forum President Damilare Sonoiki ’13, an inactive Crimson news editor, in the program for the event.
The event also honored members of Harvard’s black community. Seniors Alexandra L. L. Almore ’12, Ijeoma B. Ebo ’12, Naseemah Y. Mohamed ’12, Olamide E. Oladipo ’12 and Erica K. Senat ’12 received senior leadership awards.
Kimberly D. Ellis ’15, Yolanda K. Borquaye ’14 and Rachel V. Byrd ’13 were awarded freshman, sophomore and junior leadership prizes.
Guests in black-tie attire enjoyed a three-course meal in Leverett House to the tune of a jazz quartet before the awards presentation.
S. Allen Counter, director of the Harvard Foundation, commended Pinkett Smith and her husband, actor Will Smith, for their humanitarian work in his introductory speech.
Rather than presenting a rehearsed speech to accept the award, Pinkett Smith requested that students ask her questions. In her responses, she touched on her professional and personal role models, her values as a mother, her decision to become an actor, and her advice to young women seeking to balance a successful career with a fulfilling family life.
Pinkett Smith said that she aims to communicate to other black women that anything is possible. She said that it was unexpected for a black woman to sing in a metal band, but that did not stop her.
“I’ve strived to show that we can be and do anything that we want,” she said.
She also emphasized the importance of the black community celebrating women’s achievements not just once a year, but every day.
“She did a great job,” said event attendee Cheta G. Emba ’15. “She offered a lot of encouragement and tips for how black women and women can make the most of the opportunities they are presented with. It was awesome.”
The Black Men’s Forum has previously conferred its Woman of the Year Award on honorees ranging from a poet to a corporate executive to the mayor of Cambridge.
—Staff writer Aisling H. Crane can be reached at email@example.com.