Written by Simbiat Lugboso
Photos by Toussaint Mitchell
SIU hosted its 15th annual Black Excellence Ceremony on May 5 to celebrate and recognize over 200 graduate and undergraduate students for their academic and leadership achievements.
The ceremony featured impactful speeches. Speakers like Janice Cox brought a few people to tears as she explained her journey in life as a “full circle.”
“With all that has happened to me, I’ve learned that it’s not about the cards you are dealt in life, but how you choose to play them,” Cox said. “I hope everyone in this room continues to play the right cards even after you walk across the stage next week.”
Graduate student and newly elected SIU Student Trustee, Brione Lockett reminded the audience about the importance of voting and how the voices of students make a huge difference on campus.
“Force them to remember that your voice matters by putting into office people who will represent you,” Lockett said. “And, if you’re looking around, and there’s no candidate worth voting for? Maybe that’s a sign. Maybe that means you’re the candidate you’re looking for. Think about it.”
The celebration was hosted by Black Affairs Council, also known as BAC, which is an umbrella organization that supports all other black organizations on campus. BAC also hosts its own events to bring awareness to campus and make life as a black student on campus relatable, enjoyable and comfortable.
Students like Marissa Jackson was inducted into the Black Affairs Council Hall of Fame and Kayla Craig was recognized for Black Empowerment Award. The Black Empowerment Award is for students who were recognized for making a difference on campus and empowering their fellow students and organization.
Five-time SIU graduate, Johnathan Flowers explained to the audience that there is going to be more obstacles and other institutionalized oppression that happens outside of these academic walls.
“Your entire academic career has been structured by a climate of institutionalized oppression maintained by a power structure unwilling, or unable to address the very real issues that contribute to our relatively low Black graduation rate, despite having one of the highest enrollments of Black students in the state, if not the region,” Flowers said. “Bearing this in mind, I want to remind you that your experience here, your encounters with the structures of institutionalized oppression are not anomalies of this institution: they are features of the world that you will enter.”
One by one, each student walked on stage to receive their Kente stoles and certificates, each symbolizing their achievements at this institution and recognizing them as graduates of this university. Graduates that paved their own lane and left a legacy at SIU of their own accomplishments.