A variety of brightly colored formal dresses filled the room, tables set with black table clothes and pitchers brimming with ice tea; this was not just a scene from a formal party though, but a celebration of an awakening of past and culture and history that will not be forgotten.
The second annual Black Heritage Ball and Drum Major Award was held Feb. 7, in the Fulkerson Center at 5 p.m. The cost was $ 10 for students and $ 15 for non-students.
After being welcomed the night began with a dinner of champagne chicken, wild rice, salad, green beans almandine, and cake for desert; which was provided by Western’s dining services.
Eventually the loud chatter from dinner died down and the African Diaspora began.
Ernest Chamblee incoming Student Government Association Vice President listened attentively as the stories of his heritage were read.
“I felt honor remembering, if you know where you’ve been you know where your going, know your roots, know more about the past, and that will make you know the path you can have for yourself,” Chamblee said.
Different writings and stories were read Slave Trade; “A Slave Story” by Fredrick Douglas, “Will V-Day Be Me-Day Too,” by Langston Hughes, “Letter from Alabama Jail, “by Martin Luther King Jr., “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” by Gill Scott-Herron and finally Barack Obama’s presidential acceptance speech. The writings showed 6 different eras and events reflecting Black history.
After the stories, speaker Joseph Sebarenzi from Rwanda stood and told a story that will not be easily forgotten. His story reflected living through a civil war, exile, losing loved ones, and surviving through a mass genocide. His story was about two groups of people in Africa, the Tutsis and the Hutu.
Sebarenzi remembered when the Hutu came and burned down his village because they were Tutsis; his family barely escaped with their lives.
“I remember my father came and said what happened can happen again; you have to leave,” Sebarenzi said.
A couple years later the mass genocide in 1994 had taken 800,000 Tutsis’ lives including Sebarenzi’s mother and father, seven siblings and many other extended family. Though, his story was about his many losses and suffering he endured during the civil war, he also spoke of forgiveness and moving forward.
When asked about what he would say to someone that was racist, he paused and looked in the distance for a moment before answering.
“I would say that person is hurting themselves; they are aware of what is lacking in their lives, they are a victim who is victimizing others and going down a useless path,” Sebarenzi said.
After Sebarenzi’s impacting story, it was time to announce the Drum Major of Justice Awards.
The first Drum Major of Justice award was presented to Zulima Lugo-Knapp who is the founder and editorial director of “Here-Aqui” magazine at Missouri Western and also teaches Spanish night classes.
The student Drum Major award went to Ivory Duncan who tearfully held the glass award in her hands.
“It was an event I had helped plan, I was really surprised and touched by the letter by my boss Tay. I made a bit of a fool of myself, it was really shocking,” Duncan said.
The last Drum Major award had an even more surprised recipient. Tay Triggs, Multicultural education Director had a complete look of surprise as her name was called.
“I guess I was really surprised I didn’t even think I was nominated; I don’t do what I do to be put in that that category, it was just really shocking,” Triggs said.
Slowly the last couple of people left the room and the Black Heritage Ball was now over, but the lasting message of embracing one’s history and culture would not leave peoples minds easily.