For the first time since the University of Richmond was desegregated 50 years ago in 1968, the Office of Multicultural Affairs hosted the Black Excellence Gala to celebrate the numerous achievements of students and faculty members on Feb. 23.

Co-sponsored by the Upsilon Gamma Chapter of the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, the Black Excellence Gala “aimed to celebrate the accomplishments of underrepresented University of Richmond students and their commitment to fostering a thriving and inclusive campus community,” according to a press release.

“It has been 50 years since UR welcomed its first African American students into residence,” said Chantelle Bernard, associate director of Multicultural Affairs and Disability Services, in the release. “Since that time underrepresented students have played an integral role in developing a connected community and ensuring excellence is inclusive across all backgrounds."

Specifically, five students were commended at the black-tie event, receiving awards for their commitment to diversity, equity and inclusivity, according to the release.

Senior Dominique Harrington won the Kelley Leadership Award because of her many leadership roles on campus. 

“I founded and chaired the 50th anniversary of desegregation for the university,” Harrington said. She helped bring some of the first students of color ever to attend UR back to campus for the anniversary.

Harrington also co-chairs and co-founded the University of Richmond chapter of Shades of Pride. 

“Shades of Pride is an affinity group for queer students of color,” Herrington said.

Senior Alicia Jiggetts won the Ogle Award for Political Activism because of her work ethic both on and off campus. Jiggetts has engaged with the community on local and state levels as a Bonner Scholar. 

She has had three different internships: Restoration of Rights with the Secretary of the Commonwealth, the Center for Workforce Innovation, as well as working as an editor for a local government website, RVAGOV.com.

“Working for RVAGOV.com was my favorite,” Jiggetts said. “I started as a freshman and being able to make it better over time by updating it, making it more accessible and adding pictures to it has been a rewarding experience.”

Beyond just celebrating the hard work of students such as Harrington and Jiggetts, the Gala was also an evening designed to bring people together. At the gala, the sense of community was Harrington’s favorite aspect of the night, she said.

“It’s hard to pinpoint a favorite moment,” Harrington said, “but if I had to I’d say seeing everyone’s faces. Everyone was dressed up and excited. It was fun to watch people’s faces light up.

“It’s an awesome way for the whole community to come together and celebrate Black History Month on campus.”

Jiggetts echoed these sentiments.  

“Usually we are hustling and busy,” Jiggetts said, “so it was nice to see each other and dance and hang out. It was empowering. You could really feel the love in the room.”

Jiggetts is excited for the event to continue in the future, she said.

“Even if you weren’t an award winner, it was still a celebration of you,” Jiggetts said. “It’s a great tradition that I’m glad the university has started. It’s something that needs to continue.”

Contact contributor Maddie Kelley at madeline.kelley@richmond.edu.