Students, staff and alumni turn out for Black Excellence in Dewberry Hall
BY PETER NJOROGE, CULTURE EDITOR
On Saturday, Feb. 8, over 400 members of the Mason community were in attendance of the 5th annual Black Excellence Gala in the Johnson Center’s Dewberry Hall. Hosted by the Black African-Heritage Caribbean Coalition in partnership with the Office of Diversity, Inclusion and Multicultural Education (ODIME) and LGBTQ+ Resources, the night was an energetic, emotional celebration of all things Black at Mason.
Throughout the evening, there were multiple performances by different students and organizations from across the multicultural Mason community. Musical numbers were performed by the Anointed Voices of Unity Gospel Choir (AVU) and Kirshie & the Fellahs. Spoken word performances were given by a few students and the Reign Model Fashion Troupe, in one of the evening’s highlights, performed a condensed runway show for the audience.
Many students, staff and alumni took the opportunity to don impressive formal attire that helped to celebrate Black and African culture. During the event, one of the hosts made sure to acknowledge some of the stand-out outfits in the crowd.
“I think it’s really nice to come together and experience Black Mason first-hand, and you know, see everyone that you know and see on campus dressed up,” said AVU performer and sophomore psychology major Deja Garrison.
Throughout the extravaganza, various awards were handed out to students, faculty, staff and alumni for a wide range of achievements by Black members of the Mason community. This year, for the first time, the gala honored Black entrepreneurs and Black graduate students with their own award categories.
According to senior events management major Janell Armstead, one of the principal organizers of the event, this gala is one of the premier events for the Black Mason community. Armstead had attended the event since her freshman year and has always wanted to plan the gala.
“I came my freshman year, which was the second year [the gala was hosted], and I knew like, ‘I want to plan that event’ because this is the largest event that our community has, so it doesn’t get much better than this,” she said.
For junior anthropology major Jae-lynn Tavarez Brown, another one of students that helped coordinate the event, the Black Excellence Gala is an opportunity for the Mason community to have a night where achievement and progress can be at the forefront.
“Especially being in Black history classes, we learn about the sad,” she said. “We learn about what happened to our people in the past, and this can be a night where we come back and say well look at our present.”
The evening concluded appropriately with a powerful speech given by Dr. Michelle Allen, a former member of the ODIME and LGBTQ+ Resources office.
“My charge to you all is to get about the business of figuring out who you are,” Allen said. “Why are you here? And tether yourself to your lineage and legacy.”