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A celebration of Black Excellence

Reservations were required for in-person attendance and for the Zoom call. Photo via Black Student Alliance.

“A lot of time when people look at the Black community, they only remember the struggles and our pain. It is important to showcase the beauty that is born from that struggle.”

President of the Black Student Alliance, Nailah Brown, believes the club’s annual Black Excellence Ball achieved this goal this past Saturday.

The night of Feb. 20 was filled with thought-provoking dialogue, celebration and admiration for others. But most importantly, it was a celebration of the excellence Bradley’s African-American students have inhibited this past year.

This was done through an awards ceremony, which recognized select students for making the Dean’s List, receiving the Romeo B. Garrett Outstanding Achievement Award or Social Buzz Award and earning the titles of “Mr. and Ms. Freshman” or “Mr. and Ms. Black Excellence.”

“Black excellence is our ancestors’ wildest dream,” Brown, a junior political science major, said. “It is in the aspiration and dreams that inspire generations to come. We must celebrate Black excellence because it reinforces that our voices matter, that our intellect is desirable and that each and every sacrifice is worth it.”

This year, the pandemic forced Brown and the BSA to make necessary changes to the event, which has been held since 2016. In adherence to university guidelines, registration was required for in-person attendance, and an option to stream from home was also given to students.

The night began with the singing of the Black national anthem, followed by a dinner for those who attended in-person. While the meal was served, several TikTok videos about Black excellence were shown. In the videos, flashes of prominent African-Americans were projected in a montage, while a narrator described why Black History Month is more than just a month, and how there is still work to be done within society.

The keynote speaker was Demetrice Worley of Bradley’s English department. She started her speech via Zoom with a Nigerian prayer before getting into her speech, the subject matter of which began with the first set of slaves coming to America in 1620 and moved through the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s to finally talking about the struggles African Americans still face today. Worley noted that Black Americans have to remind others that they have rights.

She ended her speech with a quote from W.E.B. DuBois’ book “The Souls of Black Folk.”

“By every civilized and peaceful method, we must strive for the rights which the world accords to people clinging unwaveringly to those words which the sons of the fathers would fain forget,” Worley said. “We hold these truths to be self-evident that all people are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

After the awards ceremony, the night ended with a presentation of a short film titled “Matter of Black,” which followed two African-American males walking and talking in a lyrical pattern in which they talk about race, social justice and hope for the future.

At the end of the day, Brown hoped that everyone who attended the event left feeling inspired.

“This year, we hope participants are able to gain inspiration from the program,” Brown said. “Given everything that has happened with the Black Lives Matter movement, we wanted to push the aspect of social justice and doing our parts. We want students to not only rejoice in their successes but also strive for better.”

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