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Neal-Marshall Center organizes black congratulatory event in December



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Black scholars will be honored at 6 p.m. Dec. 20 at the Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center Grand Hall during the Black Congratulatory Event. Izzy Myszak Buy Photos

Black scholars, both graduates and undergraduate, will be honored at 6 p.m. Dec. 20 at the Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center Grand Hall during the Black Congratulatory Event. This celebration is held twice a year in May and in December. In May, the event will take place in the IU Auditorium.

The event is a celebration honoring black graduates and recognizing their perseverance in the face of adversity while pursuing a degree at IU. Faculty and staff nominate students for their triumph over obstacles and their resilience in both academic and social realms on campus, said Gloria Howell, associate director for the Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center.

“The event is authentically, unapologetically black,” Howell said.

Howell said the ceremony unites students who are part of an underrepresented minority on campus, reminding them that their peers in the community are here to cheer one another on for their successes. She said the academic and social aspects of the Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center are intertwined in this biannual event.

Senior graduate assistant Tislam Swift said one aspect of the event in May is giving out two Black Excellence awards, one to a graduate student and one to an undergraduate who have shown great involvement on campus.

Howell said one tradition of the event is that each scholar is presented with a Kente Stole from a black faculty or staff member. These stoles are black with green, red and yellow stripes representing the Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center. She said this part of the ceremony reminds the recipients that not only is the individual handing them the stole proud of them, but the scholars also have bright futures awaiting them. 

Swift said two more traditions of the event include the playing of African drums when entering the venue and the inclusion of a swerve song during which members of the black community listen to a song representing black culture and spend time in ceremony together.

The Neal-Marshall office is involved with a lot of programming, so the faculty, staff, graduate assistants, undergraduate staff and maintenance all work together to put this ceremony on, Swift said. The Office of the Vice President for Diversity, Equity, and Multicultural Affairs also helps fund the event, Swift said.

Swift said the sorority Delta Sigma Theta was instrumental in establishing the Black Congratulatory Event many years ago. The sorority is honored in the program at the event.

“Every person plays an instrumental part in planning this event,” Swift said. 

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