For the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority, Tuesday evening was about more than just the election.
It was about honoring students’ achievements in the Penn State community.
The sorority hosted its third Honoring the Black Male dinner at the Nittany Lion Inn,the last dinner was held in 2008. It was a celebration of the accomplishments and contributions of the black males at Penn State in the five categories of academia, service, arts, athletics and extensive leadership.
According to the Alpha Kappa Alpha website, the sorority was America’s first Greek-letter organization that was established by black college women back in 1908. The all black female sorority is composed of women who have joined as a “means of self-fulfillment through volunteer service.” They “encourages high scholastic and ethical standards and promote unity and friendship among college women.”
Recipients included John Urschel, Lerell Richards, Timothy VanBeverhoudt, Tim Frazier and Quamayne “Rocky” Collins.
Students also honored Penn State faculty member Jason Gines with the “Most Honorable Male” award for “going the extra mile.” Gines has created a teaching method he calls I.M.P.A.C.T., which involves multicultural informed practices with a focus on course materials, said sorority member Brianna Weeks during the honorees introduction.
“[Gines] is a counselor, an educator and a scholar,” Weeks said.
The dinner began with opening speeches from current Vice President of Alpha Kappa Alpha Nikia Jefferson.
Richards shortly followed the speech with the singing of the Black National Anthem, “Lift Every Voice”. Richards was later presented with the service award.
“I was more nervous about singing the Black National Anthem than the actual award,” Richards (junior-psychology) said.
Following the reciting of two poems by Penn State student Lamont Wright, newly formed a cappella group, The Statesmen, had everyone swaying and clapping their hands during their performance. The group started off singing Stevie Wonder’s “Signed, Sealed, Delivered,” which excited the crowd. The group then followed up with “Cecilia” by Simon and Garfunkel and ended with an upbeat version of “Hail to the Lion.”
Following the meal was a speech from the keynote speaker, current NBA Vice President of Community and Player Programs Kevin Carr. Carr started off by poking fun at his resemblance to Eddie Murphy, telling a story of a time at the airport when a man was taking pictures of him because he thought he was the actor.
After breaking the ice, Carr went on to talk about how he grew up in a bad area with a father who was physically abusive to his mom. He was worried that he would never have someone to look up to because he considered his father to be his “first leader in life.” He quickly realized that his mother would become his role model.
His mom told him that all he needed to do was follow her lead.
“The only people you need to fear are God and me,” he said she told him.
Carr went on to talk about how his mom moved him and his siblings to Florida and worked two to three jobs to help provide them with a better life. He said she taught him everything from cooking to cleaning and even sewing. She wanted him to learn to be independent because one day she would not be around, he said.
His mother’s philosophy was, “Mr. Can’t doesn’t live here because Mr. Can does,” he said.
Growing up, Carr said he was often told that he would never succeed. After his counselor told him that he was not “college material,” he went on to go to college and have a successful career. Carr encouraged the audience to remember that everything that they’re doing now is shaping who they will become later in life.
“We have a lot at stake right now,” he said. “This nation has a lot at stake and we will need you to fill in these roles one day.”
He ended his speech by telling the students that success is within everyone’s reach. Following the speech, students were able to ask questions before the closing speech from Jefferson.
Jefferson said she is “really proud” with how the event turned out, as it took months of gradual planning. No one in the sorority had attended the previous Honoring the Black Male events, so they had nothing to model this year’s after, she said.
This year there were about 20 nominations for awards and all of them were honored in a Powerpoint presentation at the beginning of the event, she said. Jefferson said that they had sold 100 tickets and there were only five or six empty seats.
“This is a great event that honors the black male,” Richards said. “When people think black males they tend to think negatively. This helps show them in a positive light.”