The Collegian
Thursday, December 01, 2022

Black Excellence Gala makes comeback

<p>Attendees dance together at the Black Excellence Gala in 2019. <em>Photo courtesy of Kim Lee Photography.</em></p>

Attendees dance together at the Black Excellence Gala in 2019. Photo courtesy of Kim Lee Photography.

After a one year hiatus because of COVID-19, the University of Richmond community will once again celebrate Black community members with a night of dancing, awards and entertainment at the Black Excellence Gala.

The Student Center for Equity and Inclusion will host the sold-out gala on Feb. 18 from 6 to10 p.m. in the Jepson Alumni Center, Morgan Russell, senior associate director of the SCEI, said. All students, faculty and staff are welcome.

Staying true to the theme of this year’s Black History Month celebration, ‘Lifting as We Climb,’ the gala will be inspired by the Harlem Renaissance. The planning committee chose the Harlem Renaissance because it represents a critical point for the Black community and is a reminder to celebrate the Black identity, said Beza Mulatu, a first-year student and member of the committee.

"It's always going to remind us that, ‘Oh yeah, even though we started from the bottom, we are progressing. And we are reaching our goals as a community,'" Mulatu said.

SCEI was determined to safely bring back one of the most anticipated events of UR's Black History Month celebrations by implementing COVID-19 precautions including a mask mandate and limited capacity for the gala, Russell said.

Aside from the impacts of COVID-19, Russell said the gala would be very similar to previous years with an awards ceremony to kick off the evening of dancing and entertainment.

Amid the uncertainty of COVID-19, the gala this year is even more important for the Black and overall UR community, said Ryan Doherty, a first-year student and a member of the planning committee.

"It's just like representing the triumphs and struggles that we've had to go through and seeing that this is kind of like the light at the end of the tunnel--and that there is a light at the end of the tunnel," Doherty said. “As we've gone through so much, and then we get one night for ourselves or we just get to lay back, celebrate our accomplishments and just be with each other.”

The Black Excellence Gala this year marks Tinina Cade's retirement from her positions at UR as associate vice president for student development and director of SCEI.

Cade’s retirement did not stop her from working hard to ensure the gala is the best event yet, said Lindsey Abellard, a first-year student and member of the planning committee. The energy of this year’s gala will hopefully surpass previous years to serve as a proper send-off for Dr. Cade, said senior Tiara Fulmore, a member of the gala planning committee.

Students are in charge of nominating and selecting award recipients, and any member of the UR community who students feel has uplifted the Black community is eligible for an award, Russell said. 

The awards that will be granted this year include the Distinguished Educator Award, Scholastic Excellence Award, Trailblazer Award, Uplifting Force Award, Alumni Involvement Award and Bridge Award. 

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While Russell played a guiding role, a student committee is at the forefront of planning the Black Excellence Gala and UR’s overall Black History Month celebrations, Russell said.

Abellard said she had wanted to join the Black Excellence Gala planning committee to help highlight and uplift fellow members of the UR community.

The prospect of giving back to underrepresented communities is what inspired Mulatu to join the planning committee, she said.

Fulmore said she had joined the planning committee to ensure this year’s Black Excellence Gala will be the best one yet.

“It's like this is my last year here. So, you know, saying, ‘if you want something done, right, do it yourself.'" Fulmore said.

Even though February is dedicated to celebrating the Black community, celebratory months are also meant to bring communities together, Russell said.

“All of the events that we have for Black History Month are really a peek into the Black community,” Russell said. “It's also not just about celebrating the Black community, but allies that have helped us get this far, especially here at the University of Richmond. And so celebrating them too is really a big part of the month.”

Contact news writer Katie Castellani at katie.castellani@richmond.edu.

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