Three JMU community members recognized by national non-profit

Badass Awards for Enrichment granted to three individuals for a lifetime of words, actions and deeds tackling institutional racism.

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Above: Starting from the left, Nick Swayne of JMUxLabs; award-winners, Dr. Joanne Gabbin and William Snyder III; and Humera Fasihuddin, Chief Designer for Real Industry and Co-Managing Director, Stanford Not pictured: Third award-winner, Mike Battle ('81, '83M).

Three James Madison University community members were recognized for their leadership in the effort to tackle racism. The BADASS Award for Enrichment was given to:

  • Dr. Joanne Gabbin, professor of English at James Madison University, former director of the JMU Honors Program, and founder of the first academic conference on Black poetry over 25 years ago (recognized by JMU earlier this year);

  • William Snyder III, whose art practice begins with open listening that leads to inspired works, and fostering community conversations regarding humanity; and

  • Mike Battle, former James Madison football student-athlete and Board of Visitors member ('81, '83M), who is also CEO of BRMi.

The honorees were given an award a sculpture of Aum, or Om (Sanskrit symbol ॐ), designed by globally-renown NY sculptor, Eric Laxman ( The sideways mounted Om is meant to signify the different perspective honorees bring to community dialogue. Dr. Gabbin expressed how meaningful the award was to her. "I wrote a poem called Love Doesn’t Need a Lot of Space to Grow,” said Dr. Gabbin, “...and one line is, ‘It is the sound of om. It was because of love that I have stayed with this mission of being a literary activist.” 

The third honoree, Mike Battle, is the president and CEO of BRMi and a member of JMU’s Board of Visitors. Receiving Mr. Battle’s award on his behalf was Nick Swayne, executive director of JMU X-Labs who remarked on how Mike and his wife have given generously to JMU. “The plaque to the right of the Plecker Athletic Center entitled, “Battlezone” is in honor of Mike Battle. I’ve been working with Mike in efforts he’s involved in, trying to get more JMU students of color involved with federal opportunities.”

The honorees were awarded after a showing of the documentary film 13th, by Ava DuVernay. Using the film as inspiration, students and community members were invited toJMU X-Labs to imagine new art forms. “We are in a house of making,” said Humera Fasihuddin, Creative Director of Real Industry. “How might you use art—through words, paint, music, 3D printers or laser cutters—to either raise awareness or help a community heal?” Fasihuddin, whose day job is as Co-Interim Managing Director of Stanford’s, has worked with JMU through the program she Co-Founded called the University Innovation Fellows and has helped cultivate the campus’ innovation community.

Mr. Snyder, who also received an award reminisced about his own beginnings, “I went to Penn State and have an MFA in Printmaking. I took a course that shifted how I look at art. I used to just draw to make paintings, and make pretty pictures. There’s a Black Photography Professor that I had who taught Art and Activism and it was about how to have conversations, look at problems and then make art about it." Humera Fasihuddin, Creative Designer at Real Industry, chose James Madison to do exactly that.

BADASS Fellows Program Recruiting Participants  at JMU This Winter

“This Fall, Real Industry is recruiting participants at JMU for the Bold Achievers, Doers and Aspiring Super Stars program, or BADASS. Kicking off in January, students and community members will discuss everything from history to how race matters play out in the modern day workplace. Industry professionals will provide mentorship during the last two sessions.” The sessions will introduce documentary movies or podcasts participants receive by email for review on their own time. A one-hour discussion on zoom with fellow participants tops off the week. At the end, students publish an article, poem, video or other works as a symbol of their racial literacy.

“The program deepened my understanding of history and fortified my soul,” said Julian Denizard, JMU ‘2021 who minored in African American Diaspora Studies, who has worked with Real Industry in the initial pilot of the program. “It’s meant for people of African descent to know their own history and also for accomplices who wish to learn how to hold the door open for others,” adds Fasihuddin. The deadline for program applicants is December 31, 2021.

Real Industry is made possible thanks to the generous major corporate sponsors, Verizon, as well as many individual donors who have valued Real Industry’s impact since 2014. It is also made possible by a board who—in 2019—realized that it needed to do more to help underserved students that may arrive to our industries from pathways other than the ivy league schools. A generous sponsorship from Olivann helped lead the organization’s two-year investigation into how best to support communities of color.
For more information contact Humera Fasihuddin, 413-222-5400, 

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Published: Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Last Updated: Wednesday, November 1, 2023

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