The Black Alumni of SMU and the Association of Black Students at SMU hosted the 7th annual Black Excellence Ball Feb. 24 to close out Black History Month on campus.
Approximately 200 people, dressed in long gowns and suits, attended the event, which honors students and alumni for their achievements on and off campus. Speakers at the event included SMU President Dr. Gerald Turner, and T’Keyah Crystal Keymáh, well known for her role as the mother on the hit Disney Channel Show That’s So Raven.
A handful of students receive the Legacy Award each year for their outstanding achievements on campus and selected alumni receive The History Maker Award, which recognizes their achievements after they left SMU. The Black Alumni of SMU also awarded scholarships to two students, DaNaysia Jones and Cristina Mauldin.
Dr. Gerald Turner, SMU president, began the opening remarks of the evening. He said it is imperative that alumni and students help recruit black students.
“We want to make sure SMU could be as supportive of a place as possible for all the students that are here,” Turner said. “And minority students…will feel welcome here and that [SMU] is a part of their community as much as it is anybody else’s community,”
Ashely Hamilton, Board Leader of the Black Alumni at SMU, helped coordinate the event and believed Dr. Turner’s presence was critical so that he could become familiar with more black students and alumni at SMU and see what they are capable of as a community.
“His being at BEB allows us to make sure we are at the top of his mind when he is making decisions involving minorities on campus because he has something to draw from when thinking about our community as a whole,” Hamilton said.
The night continued with a keynote speech from T’Keyah Crystal Keymáh on the past and future of black students on campus. She made a point in her speech to encourage students to put their best foot forward on campus to achieve their goals.
“What is the difference between the shammers and the doers…I believe the difference is a matter of love and faith,” Keymáh said.
In her speech, she explained how the “shammers”, students who avoided work and responsibility, most likely weren’t told they were loved or how glad others were to be in their presence. Keymáh explored how these students lack the self-love it takes to have faith in themselves, to unleash “the power within themselves to achieve magnificent things…impossible things.”
Commenting on the struggles of black individuals and the impact these setbacks have on black students, Keymáh reassured the students of SMU that they are capable of great things and breaking down barriers.
“Surrounded, we are inundated with a constant and indulgent diet of impossibilities, barricades, impediments, hurdles, injustices and threats,” Keymáh said. “It is imperative that you believe that you are magnificent and that anything is possible. I am counting on you to believe that you are my legacy and that anything is possible.”
The night ended with remarks from Dr. Kenechukwu Mmeje, vice president of student affairs, and a networking session between alumni and students.
SMU sophomore India Simmons, pursuing majors in political science, human rights, international studies and Arabic, thought the event was a big step toward a more diverse and inclusive SMU.
“A chance for students of color to come together and simply celebrate what makes them unique and powerful in the community,” Simmons said.
The Black Excellence Ball is an annual event and Hamilton hopes the event will grow in the future.
“Let’s get the word out and make it bigger and better each year,” Hamilton said.