Black Excellence Celebration honors black community members for their work

Black Excellence Celebration

Tia Collins

Black History Month reflects on the heritage, trials and triumphs of the African-American experience.The Black Excellence Celebration takes the opportunity of Black History Month to honor the excellence of Black or African-American community members who have done so much for the lives of Oregon State University students.

“To me, Black History Month means celebrating the lives of those that came before us and paved the way. This event is more meaningful because we are honoring people we know.” Said Kayla Spears, a political science major, “Some people are teachers with personal connections who don’t receive enough acknowledgement.”

The event started with the black national anthem, “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” and was followed by a rendition given by Osenat Quadri, of the poem “Still I Rise”, by Maya Angelou. All of the tables were decorated with candles and paper art and free food was provided for all those who attended.

“These events mean that you get to see the community that exists, come together, and have a good time,” said Zhane Richardson, a student majoring in human development, family and sciences and pre-education.

Earlean Wilson Huey, a recipient of an award,  said she was in awe to be honored.

”Of course, you don’t do what you do for awards, you just do—but it is good to be recognized by community members,” Huey said.  

Jennifer Dennis who received an award that night said she felt speechless about being honored.

“It is motivation to continue to support students and serve as a role model to help students achieve whatever they want to achieve,” Dennis said. “ It serves as a two way street, I can learn from students while also relating to some of the things that they are facing.”

To many students, the teachers often become like second parents, especially since they can relate to the struggles that the students are having.

“The events are a dent in the loneliness felt in a very white area. Especially when you are used to only seeing yourself as stereotypes, it is great to get to see yourself as a leader and in other roles,” Zhane Richardson said.

A lot of students felt that they could connect with this feeling of community.

“As a first year, being a part of the Black Student Union (BSU), it feels more like a home here— celebrating black lives in ways we have never done before,” said Kayla Olmstead, a student majoring in Kinesiology.

Many other students found the event to be inspiring and worthwhile. Jason McCarthy, a student majoring in mechanical engineering, said how it is important for people of other races to join in on these celebrations as well.  

“I enjoyed going to an event like this because it gives me an opportunity to develop a different view. This is not to say that white people don’t have good views, but that our worldviews are limited and it is important to be able to see things from the perspectives of our fellow community members,” said Jason McCarthy.

Other students commented on the importance of seeing a new perspective and being pro-active.

“Coming from a white perspective, I do have a very limited understanding about Black history, but to me, it is a celebration of culture, achievements, things that they have overcome, and also a reminder of how far we have to go as there are still many challenges.” Saul Boulanger, a major in political science, explains further, “One of the biggest reasons some people do not fight racism is because they don’t experience it. It is important to commit to fighting problems that might not be about you.”

The event ended with a quote stating that, “Black history is 365 days a year, not just February.”

“Black history is a way of life for me. I see through this lens and culture shapes how I see. It is not just a month; every day is Black history because history is always being made,” Huey said.

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