The development committee of the 50th commemoration of black students at Duke exceeded their one million dollar goal.
Chairperson Melvia Wallace, Trinity ’85, presented the check—that contained contributions of over $20,000 from the class of 2004 and $700,000 from the alumni chapters of the National Pan-Hellenic Council—at the culminating program in Page Auditorium Saturday night. The event was part of the 50th commemoration weekend.
The funds will aid the Mary Lou Williams Center for Black Culture, support the Reginaldo Howard Memorial Scholarship and endow the Dean Martina J. Bryant Scholarship, Wallace announced.
This year brought in 50 percent more in donations from black alumni than ever before—with 55 percent of alumni from the Zeta Phi Beta sorority donating and the Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity alone bringing in over $220,000.
President Richard Brodhead said that the increased number of donors shows that members of the black community are taking ownership of their college experience.
“Integration gave opportunities to black students at Duke, but the presence of black students gave opportunities to everyone at Duke,” Brodhead said.
He added that the oppression that black students faced before the school integrated is a history that many current students have forgotten.
“In this past year, we have recovered and remembered an amazing history,” Brodhead said.
The event also featured cultural performances, a performance by NPHC and a presentation on the history of the Black Faculty Initiative.
Created in 1988 to increase the representation of black professors, the BFI underwent a strategic revival from 1993 to 2003 in which the number of black faculty members doubled. In 1993, there were 44 black faculty members. Today there are 135, though they still represent a small portion of the over 3,000 total faculty, said Maurice Wallace, associate professor of English and African and African American studies.
Junior Sarah Scriven, a recipient of the Reginaldo Howard Memorial Scholarship, introduced a multimedia presentation about the creation of the Mary Lou.
In the presentation, Chandra Guinn, director of the Mary Lou, spoke to both the strengths of the center as well as the obstacles it still faces.
“One of the most frightening comments I have heard from a student…was if we would take black out of the name, maybe more black students would be interested,” Guinn said in the presentation.