The Black Student Alliance held a gala Feb. 20 in the Guillot University Center to celebrate African American culture through music, poetry and encouragement from Shoals’ Activist Camille Bennet.
Bennet is widely known within the Shoals for her work with Project Say Something, local schools and as an advocate for the black community.
Ascending Voices, UNA’s Gospel Choir, and Jayla Green performed different selections to emphasize and remind those who attended how important music is to the black community.
Aqueelah Hall also read poetry at the gala that ran parallel with the event’s theme to celebrate the arts within African American culture.
Senior Aja Hall said she hopes the gala brought people together, but she emphasized that she wanted the gala to shed light on African American culture and its accomplishments.
"The black community at UNA is isolated on an island by ourselves, so we hope that the student body, faculty and staff will attend our event,” Hall said. “We wanted to be supported and included in our college community for years but we have not. So, we hope to give UNA a piece of us and hope that they will accept it.”
Hall said it is upsetting to see other organizations on campus like the Student Government Association and the university not reach out to black students more.
“In all honesty, the university has not done anything in my opinion to celebrate black excellence,” Hall said. “It has been the job of the Office of Diversity and Institutional Equity and BSA to be the voice and celebrate black excellence on our own. It is upsetting that SGA, who reaches more of the student body, does not do anything at all to celebrate black excellence let alone other minorities on campus.”
She said BSA has “single handily” been the only organization on campus to celebrate black culture correctly.
“The university in general does not value the black opinion, nor the black voice and it saddens us that we cannot get the student body to attend our events or meetings, yet we all attend SGA events,” Hall said.
In September of 2018, the University of Southern California’s Race and Equity Center ranked UNA last in Alabama among four-year institutions that looked at four different categories such as representation, gender, complete and teach to student ratio.
Ron Patterson, chief enrollment officer, said he does not believe the research was fairly conducted.
“We feel the report is flawed, unfair and obviously biased,” Patterson said. “It basically says ‘we don’t care if you are located in Northwest Alabama, we are still going to compare you to cities like Birmingham, Montgomery and Mobile, which have a much larger population of black students per capita.”