Dannah Elise Wilson is a native Detroiter and senior graduating in April 2023 with a Bachelor’s in Afroamerican and African Studies. Dannah is a first-generation queer student. She has a passion for exploring global and historical connections to the city of Detroit through digital, archival, and creative platforms. In high school, Dannah was a pioneer for her and her peers’ knowledge joining an education collective as a founding member of 482Forward. With 482, she picked up skills in executing classroom takeovers explaining economic lobbyism and having one-on-one community conversations. This experience led to one the most pivotal and defining moments of her life following the nomination of Betsy DeVos to Secretary of Education during the Trump administration. 482, along with community activists in Chicago, traveled to D.C., where Dannah shared her education experience at a press conference. Her speech held 10 million views and reached multiple news outlets such as Teen Vogue, USA Today, Ebony, and JET Magazine.
In the world of activism and public policy, Dannah had little time to do what she really loved. She also did not have the opportunity to practice art in an academic setting until her first year at Michigan. Yet, Dannah’s artistic desires were still being fulfilled in her internship with the College for Creative Studies, where she worked as a muralist and an after-school art assistant. There is a collection of five mural projects in her home community Brightmoor that she had the pleasure of working on. One of which was the location of her parent’s wedding, The Brightmoor Community Center, recently purchased by her mother, Dawn Wilson-Clark, with plans to make it a community medical and mental health clinic in honor of her late father, Jonathon Clark. At the center, Dannah is head of marketing as the photographer and videographer. The traction from the speech birthed a new way of thinking for Dannah, which placed a stronger focus on her mental and emotional health. She decided to take a gap year. This year, she interned at a law firm, spent her eighteenth birthday at the Obama Inaugural Summit, and volunteered in Kenya near Mombasa. This time in Kenya stamped her placement as a global citizen and marked her interest in storytelling in the film industry.
In her time at U-M, Dannah worked as the Access and Inclusion chair at The Michigan Daily and transformed the chair position into its own section. She is also an alumna of the Harvard Public Policy Leadership Conference in 2020. Her experience at Harvard widened her paradigm of the opportunities to travel and design her collegiate experience as she sees fit. Following the death of her father and a few challenging years being a Black, queer woman in a predominately white institution, an opportunity of her dreams raised, and she decided to jump. In the winter 2022 semester, she packed her things and moved to New York City for an internship with The Daily Show with Trevor Noah. Dannah worked for five months as a production and post-production intern. Some of her daily tasks included packing and relocating studios, transcribing footage, making essential runs for skits, and printing scripts for rewrites. In support of her travels, Dannah was awarded the Dr. Niara Sudarkasa Inaugural Scholarship. As graduation approaches, she is taking her creative career to the next level in photography, working with the African Studies Center, Roy Wood Jr., comedian and correspondent of the Daily Show, and many more local organizations within the city of Detroit. She is working on a documentary based in the cities of Detroit and Flint through the lens of rap and gospel music. Dannah’s vision for her documentary is to roll out a strong production and team. Her interests range from law school to acting and animation. She also works as a marketing and media assistant for Michigan Photography.
The Dr. Niara Sudarkasa Scholarship is awarded to U-M undergraduate students and provides support for their travel and internship. Michael Sudarkasa, ASC Advisory Board Chair, created and funded the scholarship in honor of his mother, Dr. Niara Sudarkasa, who was a highly accomplished scholar and university leader. She was one of the founding faculty members of the Center for Afroamerican and African Studies (now known as the Department of Afroamerican and African Studies) at U-M and was the first African-American female director of the center. The Dr. Niara Sudarkasa Scholarship is administered through the Department of Afroamerican and African Studies.