Black Student Union celebrates its members for Black History Month

Ava Rieger | Staff Photographer | Black Student Union president Lindsey Harris received the Black Panther award at the 'Black Love Day' event on Sunday. The standing ovation had the Duquesne senior fighting back tears.

Spencer Thomas | Sports Editor

Duquesne’s Black Student Union chose to end Black History Month on a high note, celebrating their annual ‘Black Love Day’ with a gala in the Power Center.

While some Black History Month events focus on healing and the past, this event celebrated the present recognizing Duquesne’s Black community.

With the theme “All the Stars,” the Union used the night to honor one another’s accomplishments. Eight awards were handed out to students and staff, before the night ended with a talent show and dance reception.

On the last weekend of Black History month, Black Student Union President Lindsey Harris wanted to make sure the spotlight was shown on the positives of Black culture at Duquesne.

“It means the world and I think it’s our foundation for BSU,” she said. “Without the positivity and the strides that a lot of students make on campus, what’s the point of having our organization?”

She opened the evening with a speech thanking students for their involvement on campus, noting the importance of representation as minorities at a predominantly white institution.

“We try to take the time for ‘Black Love Day’ to recognize all that they do,” she said. “Because it does take a lot to be a college student.”

To her own surprise, Harris turned out to be one of the brightest stars of the evening. She did not suspect, that at the end of the night, she would be honored for her excellence in leadership and “a dedication to spreading Black excellence and leadership at Duquesne University” with the ‘Black Panther Award.’

As she was handed the award, her executive vice president, junior Jakobie Green, jumped on the mic for an impromptu speech on behalf of the Black Student Union to thank their leader. The standing ovation that ensued brought Harris to tears.

“I don’t even know how to put it into words,” she said. “Seeing everybody stand and cheer for me, I’m going to remember that for the rest of my life.”

Fighting off tears, Harris smiled at the executive board. “It has been such a privilege to be a part of this board and to see how much it’s grown,” she said to the crowd. “I’m so excited to see what you guys do next year.”

“It was important for me because Lindsey just does so much,” Green said. “She had a big heart, and she really just took everybody under her wing and taught me a lot. She became a friend.

“She deserved that award because she is the bomb.”

Quincy Stephenson, Executive Director for the Center for Excellence in Diversity and Student Inclusion repeatedly praised Harris and Green’s executive board.

Stephenson was honored in his own way, as the BSU presented an award in his name for the second time. The prize, which seeks to honor students who “make a difference in that they do lead with compassion and conviction for the students,” was won by Samiya Henry.

“They did a wonderful job tonight,” Stephenson said. “This is a great way to culminate the end of [Black History Month].”

Academic awards included ‘Most Involved Freshman,’ won by Deandre Moxly, and an award for ‘Black Excellence in Academia,’ which was won by Taylor Hopkins.

Some awards were less a celebration of the work done in the classroom, and more a celebration of the attitudes of the students. Damaria Wedderburn won the ‘Most Vibrant Student Award,’ which is given annually to a “sophomore who brings life into every room, and pushes toward community.”

With the theme of vibrance, even guests’ attire was a celebration in its own way. Jet-black three-piece suits and freshly shined shoes stood out alongside bright and intricate dresses and heels.

Harris said that the night’s theme, “All the Stars,” came from the lead single on the soundtrack for the movie “Black Panther,” by SZA and Kendrick Lamar. The song closed out the night as attendees filed out of the ballroom, the film was shown in the reception area prior to the event, where students smiled up at the screens, and did their best impressions of T’Challa, the Black Panther.

After honoring each other, the BSU allowed its members to actually demonstrate that skill with a talent show. Among the highlights were a soulful rendition of ‘Best Part,’ a Grammy-winning Rock and Blues song by Daniel Caesar and H.E.R, and a choreographed dance routine by Ryan Ellison and Eric Swain, representatives of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity.

“I loved them,” Harris said. “It’s all about the passion everyone has, and you saw that on stage.”

Stephenson summarized the evening.

“You saw students getting nominated for their excellence that they present on campus. You saw art tonight, you saw expression of art and all of that is an expression of Black love.”