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BSU holds year-end gala to celebrate achievements

By Tanaz Ahmed, Daily Staff Reporter
Published April 20, 2014

In an event hosted by the Black Student Union, about 100 students and faculty gathered at Rackham Assembly Hall Friday for a night of food and music to celebrate the end of the academic year.

The Tribute Gala, BSU’s annual celebration held at the end of each year, built on pervious years’ banquets to expand into a gala, featuring more speakers and performances than before. The event aims to honor achievements by Black students on campus and the BSU as a whole.

LSA senior Tyrell Collier, BSU’s outgoing speaker, said the expansion is due to BSU’s robust efforts in the University community this year.

“One of the reasons why we wanted to make this a bigger event is because we’ve done a lot this year with BBUM and everything that came out of BBUM. We really wanted to celebrate everything we've done,” Collier said.

Tiya Miles, chair of the Department of Afro-American and African Studies, was the faculty speaker at the event. Miles discussed the importance of awareness and preserving history.

She said recovering the history of oppressed groups was difficult because many of these groups relied on oral histories, were unable to write in English due to limited access to education and were often disregarded by official records.

“Although the histories of subjugated groups are difficult to piece together, it is a task that we must take up, calling that we must answer,” Miles said. “For knowing history is a necessary aspect of our lives. History shapes our identities as individuals, as communities and as members of a vast global society.”

Lester Monts, senior vice provost for academic affairs, was the Gala’s keynote speaker, recognized the work done by the BSU in the BBUM movement.

“You (the BSU) have really moved an institution,” Monts said. “Not only here at Michigan, but because you took such advantage of social media, you moved institutions far away from here.”

In his speech, Monts emphasized the importance of history — especially the history of Black students at the University. He showed video clips highlighting the experiences of Black students on campus starting from the 1960s and onward.

He discussed segregation and racism at the University, as well as the efforts to improve campus climate, such as the Michigan Mandate, which was launched under former University President James Duderstadt to increase and support diversity at the University through a variety of programs.

Monts ended his speech with a call to continue to strive towards equality and diversity.

“We work very hard to create diversity, people of color, bringing them into a predominantly white setting, but that's not enough,” he said.

Two student awards were distributed at the end of the evening. The Elizabeth James Award from the Black Student Union was awarded to LSA senior Dominique Crump in recognition of her high academic achievement and work in improving the University.

The first ever Adinkrahene — meaning “chief of chiefs” in Akan, a West African language — award was given to Collier for his leadership and dedication while at the University.

The BBUM photojournalism art exhibition previously shown at the SpringFest was also featured in the Gala. The showing at SpringFest ended early due to heavy winds, so the BSU decided to include it in the Gala to give more people the opportunity to view the exhibit.

The art exhibit was accompanied by music from BSU’s recently released album, Second Aid, featuring music composed by students who were inspired by the BBUM movement.

The Gala also featured musical performances by students, video compilations highlighting the experiences of students from different classes and farewell addresses to the outgoing BSU executive board.

“This was a great event that encompassed our vision and goal. It was great to see the Black community come together,” said LSA junior DaShuane Hawkins, an attendee of the Gala.