To mark the end of Black History Month, the University of Indianapolis’ Black Student Association and Campus Program Board hosted the second rendition of the annual Legacy of Excellence dinner. Taking place in UIndy Hall on Feb. 28, it featured a dinner with multiple speakers, along with a photo booth that students could use. The photo booth had gag glasses, boa scarves and other accessories.
Senior graphic design major and BSA member Darin Sills helped organize the first Legacy of Excellence dinner in 2018 and attended this year’s dinner.
“I thought it went pretty well and the dinner has grown and I hope it continues to grow,” Sills said. “I expect even better next year and for those to come to learn something from it.”
Beginning the event was senior BSA president Gabrielle Elam and junior Campus Program Board member Brianna Aragon spoke to the attendees and thanked them for coming before she introduced Indianapolis Student Government President Jamarcus Walker for a short invocation. Dinner featured a salad and bread rolls as an appetizer. Those in attendance were served grilled chicken rice and grilled zucchini. Those who attended were members of ISG, the Residence Hall Association, members of the Provost’s Council and other students who signed up to come before hand.
After eating and listening to student speaker and BSA member Tyshara Loynes, the audience was introduced to Dean of College of Applied Behavior Sciences Anita Thomas. In her speech, Thomas said she was originally excited and honored to be chosen by BSA to speak at the Legacy of Excellence dinner. She then said that she began to feel unqualified at a later date. She said that she felt as if she should have a motivating speech and that someone who better represented excellence than her should be speaking.
Later in Thomas’s speech, she said someone who she did believe was representative of excellence is former first lady Michelle Obama. Thomas explained that she believes Obama is excellent and realized that perhaps excellency is something external. She said that people have to make a conscious effort in order to be excellent.
“Everyday we are excellent by working in our place with high quality,” Thomas said in her speech. “Have your excellence manifest in others. We are excellent to help others.”
Junior business administration major Brianna Aragon was a member of the Legacy of Excellence committee that helped organize the event. She said she enjoyed Thomas’s speech.
“I loved her speech,” Aragon said. “She did a really good job at making her speech relatable. How she was really excited when she addressed Michelle and how she’s one of her idols. She really enjoys looking up to Michelle. I enjoyed how it wasn’t strictly a powerpoint saying ‘This is what legacy of excellence is.’ She was funny and charismatic so I enjoyed having that.”
Assistant Director for Arts, Nonprofit Management and Communication Professional Edge Center D’ana Downing presented Thomas with a gift from BSA for speaking, as well as a congratulatory gift for becoming the new Executive Vice-President and Provost at St. Catherine University in St. Paul, Minnesota. Then, Downing began her own call-to-action speech. She began by recounting the history of some of her own ancestors saying that it has been 493 years since the first organized freedom movement in the Americas began.
“Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery. None but ourselves can free our minds,” Downing said in a quote from Bob Marley. “Now is the time to take up the baton of excellence.”
After her speech concluded, she received a standing ovation and a roar of applause by the attendees. Sills was one of them, and he was very pleased with her speech.
“I believe she represented campus well as a black leader,” Sills said. “I thought she was very powerful and insightful, as usual.”
Sophomore BSA member and psychology major Kourtney Howell shared Sills thoughts and said she believed that Downing’s speech was excellent. She said she especially enjoyed the mentioning of ancestors and their stories and thought it was motivating and inspiring. At the end, Downing asked that everyone remain standing to sing the black national anthem called “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” Everyone stood and sung the song together, as the event concluded.