Words by Ime Ekpo

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On Wednesday night, October 4th, filmmaker Ava DuVernay and Hip-Hop icon and actor LL Cool J were honored at Harvard University’s Hutchins Center for African and African American Research with the Hutchins Center Honors W.E.B. Du Bois Medal for their substantial contributions to African and African American history and culture.

The ceremony was hosted by Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr, Harvard President Drew Faust, and Hutchins Center board chair Glenn Hutchins, as reported by Boston Globe.


Ava DuVernay is most recognized for her noteworthy work as the director for the insightful consequential film, Selma which won an Image Award in 2015 for Outstanding Motion Picture, and a 2015 Oscar for Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Song for Glory featuring Common and John Legend. DuVernay is also noted for her highly rated hit drama series, Queen Sugar which won the 2017 Image award for Outstanding Writing in a Drama Series, along with her classic documentary on the prison industrial complex, 13th which won an Emmy in 2017 for Outstanding Documentary or Nonfiction Special.

LL Cool J is recognized as one of the most iconic emcees to come out of Queens, New York. He is one of the first emcees to respectively achieve success in the mainstream world through his classic 12-inch single, “I Need a Beat” and his precedential debut album, Radio.

LL’s prolific energetic presence, staunch delivery, and symphonic flow were pivotal in the structure of Hip-Hop’s Golden Era. A bonafide Hip-Hop fashion icon with his thick gold rope chains, Kangol hats, and gold rings, Cool J is one of the strongest trendsetters in Hip-Hop history. His evolution into acting is also highly noted. From his appearance on Krush Groove to landing his own sitcom in the 90s, In The House to his starring role as Julian Washington in the movie Any Given Sunday, LL motivated many of his fellows to pursue their hidden talents.

Other recipients of the Hutchins Center Honors include Democratic Political Strategist Donna Brazile, Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden, Chairman of the Board at Microsoft John Thompson, President of the Ford Foundation Darren Walker, Visual Artist Kara Walker and a posthumous honor for Philanthropist Jennifer Ward.