The Black Student Union hosted the 7th annual Black History Month Gala at The Inn at Ole Miss on Saturday night, featuring fellowship, award presentations and commemorations.
The award winners included BSU president Arielle Hudson, who was awarded “The BSU Leadership Award,” and Carl Tart, who was awarded the “I Am Black Excellence Award.”
“All In. All Year.” is a new intersectional approach to the planning of heritage months that allows conversations around inclusivity to continue throughout the year.
Tonika Ingram, coordinator for Mississippi Outreach Scholastic Talent (MOST) programs at the Center for Inclusion and Cross Cultural Engagement, serves as the Black Student Union advisor and helped plan the event.
“We have, in my three years at (the university), seen an overwhelming response to the gala from students, faculty and staff,” Ingram said. “We work hard to ensure that we are able to provide the most enjoyable time for all attendees as we celebrate students, faculty and staff on our campus.”
The Black Student Union hosts the gala to celebrate the achievements of African American students and staff.
“Many of the pioneers in the world and in our community are overlooked throughout the year,” André Smith, a senior, said. “However, during this month, special appreciation and honor is given to those who have paved and continue to pave the way for African Americans. It is about the true character of being black in society.”
The first gala was in February 2014 when the BSU executive board recognized a need to celebrate African Americans who created an inclusive atmosphere on campus.
“(The gala’s) mission remains committed to celebrating the progress of the African American community at the University of Mississippi and African American achievement on and off campus,” Hudson said.
Hudson said that the event takes months to plan in order for the gala to have the highest quality.
“It’s also always a little stressful because we try to do our best to ensure that we are staying within our budget while also providing a top-notch, quality program,” Hudson said. “The day of the event is always so rewarding to see so many great people finally be recognized for their efforts and commitment to serving marginalized communities — especially African Americans.”
The event gained popularity over the past seven years; tickets sell out in days of being sold.
“It is one of our annual events that is very popular among students, staff and faculty,” Hudson said. “Every year, we run out of tickets within the first 48 hours of them being available, with typically 275-300 being available, so I think that says a lot about how popular it is.”
Though the gala is part of the events for the year-long inclusivity initiative, the BSU is not an official sponsor of the initiative for “All In. All Year.” However, members of the community are encouraging the message the approach sends.
“I love the ‘All In. All Year.’ approach by the Division of Diversity and Inclusion,” Smith said. “It highlights some awesome events. I personally know most of the staff within the division, and they work very hard on this.”
Smith stated that he had the opportunity to be a part of promotional material for the approach this year along with many of the programs that have happened through the initiative.
“It is a great feeling to know that the University of Mississippi has taken steps forward to provide a more inclusive environment for all of its students,” Smith said.
Hudson said she does not know of any other events similar to the gala for celebrating black excellence specifically.
“There are certainly other events and programs that give out awards, but it is not similar in nature to the BSU Gala,” Hudson said.
The BSU does not plan on any upcoming changes with the new initiative. Students who are looking for more multicultural events can find more information on the “All In. All Year.” calendar located on the Center for Inclusion & Cross Cultural Engagement’s website.
The award winners at this year’s gala include:
James Vinson, The Giving Heart Award
Gabriela Wells, The Prestige Award
Carl Tart, I am Black Excellence
Yasmine Malone, The Social Advocate Award
JeVon Franklin, The Emerging Leader Award
Arielle Hudson, The BSU Leadership Award
Ryan Upshaw, The Dr. Donald Cole Award
Arthur Doctor, The Giving Light Award