Saturday, April 13, 2024

First annual Black Excellence Gala

By Sydney Hakes

The first annual Black Excellence Gala took place Feb. 26. ending Black History Month in a night of celebration and recognition for the Black community in Plattsburgh.

The gala was created by Justice Hall, the president of the Plattsburgh Association of Black Journalists. She credits PABJ for taking initiative in leading discussion and action for Black and human rights issues. 

“When events happen like what occurred between a campus officer and a Black student last semester, we need to show the community and college that we are a united front,” Hall said. “It’s essential to do that, but events like these that highlight all of the positives are just as important.”

Jaherah Seales, decked out in rimless sunglasses, a gold tie and a swagger of confidence, described the gala as “a recap of all the achievements of the Black community in Plattsburgh. We’re acknowledging all the people who contribute to the Black community by featuring performances, awards and recognition.”

The gala featured Black artists of all disciplines, from dancing to painting to a pianist.

“It was important that we featured Black excellence in all forms,” Hall said. “Some of our speakers may seem out of the box for this type of event, like a model and a student who is graduating a year early. These are all students and community members we want to highlight.”

A recent graduate from SUNY Plattsburgh, Winosha Steele, had her art featured in a pop-up gallery on the stage. 

“Although I’ve graduated, I’ve stayed in contact with the students here,” Steele said. “For minorities in a small community, it’s important to be connected to one another.”

Reflecting on the impact of her own artwork and the importance of events like the Black Excellence Gala, Steele had thoughts directed towards future students.

“We need to let people know that there is diversity,” Steele said. “For students who aren’t here yet, they need to know that there will be a place for them and support for them if they choose to come to Plattsburgh.”

Phi Beta Sigma and other Greek organizations attended the event and performed a dance. 

“We do stroll [dance] with our brother organization Phi Beta Sigma,” Thomeisha Belle said. “It’s a type of line dance that was created by Black people to show unity and strength.”

Belle went on to point out the lack of spaces for Black individuals in a small town in upstate New York, specifically on the Plattsburgh campus.

“To be a part of these organizations makes me feel privileged that we can hold an event like this and create that space for minorities,” Belle said.

Hall hopes to see events like these continue all year long and keep the Black community in Plattsburgh thriving. She invites all students to be a part of that.

“I want to emphasize that PABJ is for everyone, not just Black students,” Hall said. “We meet Thursdays in Yokum 202.”

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