Fifth annual Journeys in Blackness Banquet honors alumni, students, faculty and staff
On March 4, the Black Alumni of Guilford College Advisory Board, the Multicultural Education Department and the office of Alumni and Parent Relations hosted the fifth annual Journeys in Blackness banquet in the Gilmer Room.
“In 2012, the Journeys in Blackness banquet was reinstated as an annual and college-supported event,” said BAGCAB President Toiya Hancock ’93. “Each year, students, faculty, alumni and staff gather to dine and reconnect, enjoy cultural entertainment and raise funds for student scholarships.”
Hancock and Black Student Union President and sophomore Celene Warren introduced Vice President for Advancement Ara Serjoie, who gave the opening remarks.
“It’s so wonderful to look out at a full room and see so many happy faces, so many individuals sitting here united with … one thing at heart,” said Serjoie.
“That’s our pride and our satisfaction that we are all here in terms of our belief in the importance in what the Black Alumni of Guilford College Advisory Board has put together (for) this celebration of Journeys in Blackness at Guilford College.”
Warren led the room in a moment of silence, followed by music from David Wheaton ’15 and dinner.
Alumni David Feagins ’70 and Tanya Feagins ’71 then spoke about the BAGC BOOST scholarship, which was awarded to three students this year.
“When you help one student, you help all the students, and you certainly continue the life of this institution,” said Tanya Feagins.
Many alumni contributed to scholarship funds, including Wesley Reid ’85.
“I truly would not have been able to attend Guilford College if it had not been for someone helping me,” said Reid. “At that time, we did not have a BOOST scholarship, but (there) was a loyalty fund. (That) loyalty fund … allowed me to attend the school that’s now my alma mater.
“So I give because I’ve been given to, and those seeds are very important.”
Sophomore April Langley was one of the scholarship recipients this year.
“When you invest in me, it’s a seed, and a seed that does not ever leave your life, but it enters into your future to prepare you for your arrival,” said Langley.
Another recipient of the award, student speaker and senior Najha Zigbi-Johnson, remembered her role models as part of her success at Guilford.
“I’m reminded by leaders like Jada Monica Drew and James Shields, who are both products of the Guilford community, that global citizenry, accountability and community are possible, and that when we engage ourselves in this sort of work, we grow exponentially,” said Zigbi-Johnson.
Zigbi-Johnson focused on what it means to engage with the world.
“More and more, we are becoming global citizens,” said Zigbi-Johnson. “The bubbles in which we exist, whether it’s the Guilford bubble or some other one, (are) being popped. … The responsibility which we hold as individuals and members of the Guilford community (is) global, and thus, our leadership … becomes global.”
After Zigbi-Johnson spoke, Katrina Jackson ’05 presented the Awards of Excellence to students, alumni, faculty and staff. Then Hancock introduced the keynote speaker, Dr. James Beverly III ’90.
“We are living in a changing time,” said Beverly. “In a world of alternative facts and alt-realities, it’s hard to … figure out where we go as a group, as a college, as a nation. In these times, we’re tempted to reach inside of ourselves and become very insular, but I would encourage us to reach out to one another.”
Beverly spent much of his speech analyzing the song “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” as a metaphor for life.
“I think we need to figure out how to row our boat collectively so that we come to a common dream,” said Beverly.
George Brown ’89 spoke last, expressing his awe at the banquet itself.
“What 12, 15 people envisioned – kind of jokingly but very serious – has evolved to this,” said Brown. “All we ever wanted to do was help, not just black students at Guilford College, (but) any and every student at Guilford College.
“There were issues with the name ‘Black Alumni at Guilford College,’ and I’ve told that story a few times about how it got to be Black Alumni at Guilford College. It’s because that was the one thing they could not take from us.”
For the full list of Awards of Excellence winners, visit the “Alumni Association Awards” page on the Guilford College website, guilford.edu.