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Department of African American Studies

Congratulations to the 2022 Grace Jordan McFadden Winners

Reylan Cook and Kayla King


Reylan Cook is a public health major, with a minor in African American Studies. Cook is a UofSC Garnet Scholar and a 2021 Newman Civil Fellow. In addition to her studies, Cook works for the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion as a student assistant; is the secretary of Inclusion and Equity for UofSC student government and servs as a legislative page for the House of Agriculture Committee chair in the South Carolina House of Representatives.  

Cook is graduating with Leadership Distinction in Diversity and Social Advocacy. 

Cook said of her award, “My experience with the African American Studies program has been one that has nurtured me into a lifelong learner and given me a thirst for knowledge about my personal historical footprint and the domino effect it has had on the world. Reflecting on the African diaspora, the African American studies department has highlighted that history, culture, knowledge, arts, and culture have (sic) acted as a backbone for the Carolinian Community and global world we know today despite its constant erasure. Dr. Lee, Dr. Johnson, Dr. Isom, and Dr. Simmons have taken a personal interest in my education while being a part of the African American Studies Program by making me question my values, moral compass, and knowledge to expand my mind around topics of love, justice, self-reflection, physical appearance, music, and femininity.” 

Kayla King is a senior African American Studies major, with a minor in Women and Gender Studies. As a student, Kayla served as an AFAM 50 Student Ambassador; a research assistant for the Center for Civil Rights History & Research; Student Life engagement director; and intern in the Leadership and Service Center.  

King plans to pursue M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in history, with the goal to build a community center in Charleston, S.C. that will provide opportunities for low-income students and families.  

In her award application, King said, “Throughout my educational experience up until I entered college, I was taught very little about Black history and the impact that Black Americans have made in this country. Whenever Black history was taught during these years, it was always taught from a white savior complex, or looked over as if the history of Black Americans was not important enough to teach. It wasn’t until I took my first African American Studies course here at USC the first semester of my freshman year that I really started to gain perspective on what Black history in the US looked like. Sitting in that class learning about all the pain, suffering, and the resilience that people who looked like me experienced, left me wanting to learn more, but to also do more to help uplift my community.” 

Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.