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Sababu C. Norris

He was born in Leesville, SC. He is accomplished in the area of Education.
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After 31 productive years at Canisius College (since 1989), Sababu Cornell Norris retired in June 2020 as an administrator in the Division of Student Affairs where he served as director of the college's ALANA Student Center. Norris assisted the Jesuit/Catholic institution in designing and implementing co-curricular cultural endeavors. This enhanced the college environment for African American/Black, Latinx American, Asian American, and Native American students (ALANA). Upon his departure from the college, Norris received generous gifts and a plaque that in part read, "You have changed lives and made the world a better place. You will be missed. God bless you."

In 2020, Norris received the City of Buffalo's Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Distinguished Faculty Award, presented at Kleinhans Music Hall by The Concerned Citizens Following The Dream; in 2019, accolades for over 25 years of service to the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities Conference on Diversity and Equity (AJCU-CDE); and in 2010, CDE's Legend Award for helping to address cross-cultural issues in higher education and having served four elected years as Treasurer of CDE, then representing 28 Jesuit institutions throughout America.

Some of his past campus accomplishments included the creation of the college's annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (MLK) Award in 1990, an MLK Buffalo High School Poetry Contest, and an annual MLK speaker series. This series frequently presented WNY Gospel singer extraordinaire Bessie Patterson, and award-winning journalist/Canisius alumna Sandy White as program moderator. Since 1990, the series has featured Yolanda King and Rev. Bernice King of the MLK family, Susan Taylor, and Dr. Cornel West, just to name a few. In WNY, New York State Assemblywoman Hon. Crystal D. Peoples-Stokes, Buffalo Common Council President Hon. Rev. Darius G. Pridgen, and Buffalo City Mayor Hon. Byron W. Brown have also presented. As a result of having served on Indiana University's Racial Incidents Team, Norris introduced this concept to Canisius, which it implemented and for which Norris served as a consultant. His work area often published a Student Success Guide for students of color and prospective students as well.

Norris was the architect of the college's ALANA Internship Program. With 13 years of successful outcomes, each year a different undergraduate intern received a $2000 stipend to encourage first-year students of color to become involved in campus-wide activities. Canisius College Professor Emeritus Jesse E. Nash, Jr., ensured additional funding by way of the Nicholas Patterson Perpetual Fund of WNY.

Norris initiated and co-advised student leadership who commissioned artists to create paintings exclusively for the campus reflecting ALANA cultural heritages. This overall eight-year project helped to address campus climate matters and created student leaders which resulted in dedicated alumni. Four artworks are on permanent display in the college's Andrew L. Bouwhuis Library, including an MLK painting by Buffalo's William Y. Cooper. Norris formed and directed the Canisius College Performance Troupe from 1998-2019, which performed poetry and dramatic scenes at local high schools, colleges, and community centers. With an annual invitation to perform at Buffalo's Bennett High School, this engaging component explored cultural topics that all audiences could relate to.

Norris holds an M.A. degree (1982) in Theatre from Indiana University (IU), Bloomington, IN, with emphasis on Dramatic Literature, Play Analysis/Criticism, and African American Theatre. While pursuing his degree, he was mentored by and served as Research Assistant to Professor Emerita Dr. Winona L. Fletcher. Dr. Fletcher coordinated the Black College Technical Assistance Project of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Washington, D.C. The mentor and mentee relationship continued. Norris attended the Black Theatre Network 20th Anniversary Conference in Louisville, KY (July 29, 2006), at which Dr. Fletcher was honored with an exhibit of her papers. Norris spent much of the summer assisting in the cataloging of Fletcher's work for the permanent exhibition in the Kentucky State University Center for Excellence in the Study of Kentucky African Americans.

While in Indiana, Norris served as summer coordinator of IU's Upward Bound Performing Arts Program. He taught theatre arts and directed approximately 100 high school students in annual closing ceremonies. He served as advisor to IU's Divine Nine Greek-Letter Council. Here, he initiated and co-advised the entire fraternity/sorority community (of approximately 5,000) on a project that raised funds and commissioned a South African artist to create a painting of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. A photo of Martin Luther King III witnessing the campus unveiling appeared in Jet Magazine (1987). The artwork is on permanent display in the Indiana Memorial Union, one of the largest student unions in the world. As a result of Norris' efforts, he received both IU's Interfraternity Council and Pan-Hellenic Association Awards for "devotion and guidance."

A native of Leesville/Ridge Spring, South Carolina, Norris earned his undergraduate degree (cum laude) in Secondary Education/Theatre Arts at Shaw University, Raleigh, North Carolina (1979). The Shaw Players & Company produced his choreopoem play Have You Seen Yourself?, which he directed. During those student years, Norris and playwright Judi Ann Mason-Williams (then a Grambling State University student) served as editors of Fahari, a book of poetry and prose published by the National Association of Dramatic and Speech Arts (NADSA). While student teaching in North Carolina at a junior high school, Norris directed the play The Birthmark, by Nathaniel Hawthorne/Robert Brome. The one-act play, in competition with 32 public school drama presentations, won an overall rating of Distinction, the highest state-level award. At Shaw, where he was actively involved in campus student leadership roles, he received the university's Superior Leadership in Student Affairs award.

Before matriculating at the historically Black institution, Norris began his creative development in New York City, where, at the age of seventeen, he became one of the youngest volunteer producers for WBAI-FM Pacifica Radio, in New York City, under the auspices of the Third World Communication Vanguard. With a large studio audience, he produced and directed a two-hour series called Composition Live! It addressed Black issues and featured comedian/actor Jimmie "JJ" Walker, singers/songwriters Nick Ashford and Valerie Simpson, New York Times critic Clayton Riley, and actress Anna Horsford, later known for her starring role opposite Sherman Hemsley in the TV series, Amen.

In later years, Norris served on faculty at Canisius College, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga (UTC), and Hampton University (HU). At HU, he was also the advisor to the touring Hampton Players & Company. One of his former HU apprentices, Ruth E. Carter, is currently the only African American to have won an Oscar (2019) in the costume category for her work on Marvel's Black Panther. As an assistant professor of Theatre at UTC, Norris directed a choreopoem-play that also appeared on Chattanooga's WDEF-TV program, Point of View. Norris received community awards from Chattanooga, including a Jack and Jill award for directing a skit that featured several Chattanooga high school students at the organization's conference. Norris taught the first acting course at Canisius College as an assistant professor. Because of his devotion to the performing arts, Norris invited Ujima Theatre Company's Executive Director, Lorna Hill, to direct the play, We Ain't What We Was, for the college. The play was later performed at Hill's theatre. Norris introduced S. Pearl Sharp's two-act musical, The Sistuhs, to Buffalo's African American Cultural Center where the play was showcased at the Paul Robeson Theatre.

Norris' other professional and community activities included serving as a committee member and a local judge in the Buffalo NAACP's ACT-SO. In 2002-2003, he coached a local high school winner who competed at the national NAACP Convention and won the gold medal in Oratory. Norris served on the Regrant Committee of the Arts Council in Buffalo and Erie County and is a member of Leadership Buffalo (Class of '04). He initiated and helped organize a three-year college program in association with Leadership Buffalo called Leadership Canisius, which exposed students of color to various occupational opportunities in government, business, and non-profit sectors of the region. This campus project was conceived by U.S. Magistrate Judge Hugh B. Scott, who served on the Canisius College Board of Trustees. Norris was a former scholarship committee member of Buffalo's Education Task Force under the umbrella of the Community Action Organization (CAO).

In 1993, Norris was a founding member of the Western New York Coalition of Multicultural and Minority Offices in Higher Education, which included representation from several local colleges and universities. The Coalition accepted an invitation to present its coalition model in Atlanta, GA, at the National Conference on Race and Ethnicity (NCORE). At NCORE, Norris and Buffalo community organizer Gail Wells (then an administrator at Buffalo State College) were trained in co-facilitating a 2-hour cross-cultural workshop called Country A & Country Z. Wells and Norris often present this engaging workshop at local institutions of higher education.

Norris received the Canisius College Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Award (1999); Who's Who in American Education (1996-1997); sponsored by NASPA, was selected to participate in Vassar College's five-day institute for outstanding college administrators (1993); Black Opinion Magazine's Black Achievers Award (1992); Outstanding Young Men of America Award (1981); and Who's Who Among Students in American Universities and Colleges, Shaw University (1978-1979).

Sababu's poetry book, Mama, I Understand: A Gathering of Poetry and Prose, can be found on the Amazon/Kindle website. His creative work has appeared in over 30 publications, including The Buffalo Challenger; NJOZI Magazine (Buffalo); What Black Educators Are Saying, edited by Dr. Nathan Wright, Jr; and Black Masks: Spotlight on Black Art. Macy Favor, former host of the University at Buffalo's WBFO-88.7FM, Jazz Favorites, hosted Sababu twice as a guest to share poetry with radio listeners while promoting Canisius' Indiana University Soul Revue touring concerts. One of his poems, Rocking Chair, received the Silver Poet Award from the World of Poetry, Sacramento, CA (1985). Sababu's poems have been staged at Hampton University, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, Shaw University, and WBAI-FM/Studio C (New York City). His scholarly examination of the reviews by White critics of Lonne Elder III's play, Ceremonies in Dark Old Men, was published in ENCORE: The Magazine of the Theatre (1982).

The late Babatunde Olatunji, as one writer deemed "The Nigerian drummer who set the beat for US civil rights," wrote in 1972 of Sababu's poetry: "The veil has been lifted off his face. That he is aware of the problems, sufferings, and tribulations of black folks yet determined to be somebody, that you and I cannot afford to yield to daily temptations, loosen our guards, succumb to false promises; nor can we listen with credulity to the whispers of fancy."

A life member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., and an Honorary Renaissance Brother of Sigma Phi Epsilon Fraternity, Inc., Sababu Cornell Norris is an alumnus of Forth Hamilton High School, Brooklyn, NY, and for several years enrolled in Master Khechen's School of Tae Kwon-Do (martial arts), Buffalo, NY. In 2009, Sababu experienced his first tandem skydive, nearly 13,000 ft, in Newfane, NY.

Sababu: "WHEWâ??Jesus, thanks for seeing me through!"