On Saturday, October 22, 2016, the Elon Black Alumni Network (EBAN) hosted a brunch to celebrate its 20 year milestone and honor four alumni and a faculty member for their commitment to community service and support of EBAN. I’m so proud to say, I was one of the five honorees, named the 2016 Distinguished Young Alumna.
The award is meaningful to me for two reasons. First, because I truly have made a commitment to serve my community and support programs that will help black students thrive at Elon. Since graduating in 2009, I’ve come a long way and this award is a symbol of that growth. Second, the other awardees and I are carrying on the legacy of being people of color at Elon, which wasn’t always easy.
Going back to Elon was a remarkable experience. Like me, Elon has grown up. It is a five star university with state of the art facilities and a vibrant student body. I had several “wow” moments! As my family and I drove up to Elon’s Moseley Center, which used to have a parking lot in front, I was shocked when the parking lot had been replaced with typical EU greenscape that led up to a brand new admissions building (well, brand new to me). Then, as my partner and I walked to the bookstore, a female student in all black crossed Haggard Avenue singing Demi Lovato out loud (no headphones), giving off vibes of freedom and confidence. That’s definitely a far cry from the young ladies in my class, decked out in paisley and pearls. The biggest “wow” moment was seeing the Black Lives Matter banner draped over the entryway of Moseley Center. I don’t know if that would have been on display while I was a student. Even though I felt over-the-hill this weekend, I didn’t graduate that long ago.
During my senior year, President Barack Obama was elected for the first time. I’ll never forget joining other black students to march in celebration of America’s first black president. Despite our joy, our march was cut short when we heard students jeering from their dorm windows. Likewise at the EBAN brunch, a video was played that featured Mr. Eugene Perry ’69, the first black graduate of Elon College. In his emotional interview he described how unpleasant his time was attending Elon in the 1960s. Mr. Perry’s difficult experiences will never be forgotten, but I said to myself, “If only you could see the Black Lives Matter banner… and by the way, you made my Elon experience possible.”
At the brunch, a fellow awardee, Ira Credle said that Elon may have made mistakes (in the context of black students and race relations) but they’ve taken steps to make it right, and for that I am grateful. Thanks to Elon’s first black students, EBAN, outstanding leadership, and other affinity organizations, we’ve progressed. It fills me with immense pride to have attended a university that has learned from the past and consistently takes steps to prioritize inclusion for all members of the student body. Furthermore, I am elated that EBAN recognized me as an emerging leader. I’ll continue to support positive change at Elon for as long as I am able.
Long Live Elon!
Long Live EBAN!