Ebony Affair: Twenty Years of Ebony

The 20th annual Ebony Affair, held on March 4th, was organized by the
Black Graduate Student Association. The theme, Celebrating the Sprit
of Our Ancestors, was explored with an eclectic combination of
contemporary dance, poetry, acting, and singing, all delicately mixed
into an historical fashion show. During the dinner a funky
contemporary dance, Movements in Time (directed by Robin Offley), was
performed. The main event, The Cultural Explosion (directed by
Shurronne Young), consisted of four acts: Birth of a Creation, The
Struggle Continues, Renaissance, and The Finale. The evening concluded
with a dance party, DJed by Steve Gousby, and a jazz performance by
Scott King's Collaboration.
	Shortly after the event, The Thistle interviewed Araba
Lamous'e-Smith (the main organizer) and Sean Daughtry (an
attendee). The text of the interview follows.

Thistle: What is the purpose of the BGSA?

Araba Lamous'e-Smith: The BGSA is an academic and social support
organization for Black graduate students at MIT.

T: What is the history of Ebony Affair?

ALS: The Ebony Affair was started 20 years ago by members of the BGSA
with the support of Dr. John Turner, Office of the Dean of the
Graduate School. There was no semi-formal/formal event for Black
graduate students at MIT and students felt there was a need for such
an event. Since then, the BGSA at MIT and students felt there was a
need for such an event. Since then, the BGSA has presented the Ebony
Affair each spring to the MIT community. Entertainment usually
includes live bands, jazz and dancing along with other
performances. Attendance has ranged from 200 to 400 students, faculty,
and staff.

T: Is the event intended to build solidarity in the Black community?
If so, is it successful?

ALS: One of the main goals of the Ebony Affair is to provide an event
for socializing and networking among undergraduate and graduate
students, faculty, staff, and others. Since people tend to attend the
Ebony Affair in groups, a sense of community is facilitated. In recent
years, an effort has been made to invite students from other
graduate/professional programs in the Boston area, such as Harvard
Med., Harvard Law, Boston U. Law, BU Med., etc. This year students
from Harvard School of Education, Harvard School of Public Health,
Tufts University Medical School, and Suffolk University Law School
attended. The success of this year's event will hopefully establish
the Ebony Affair as an event for socializing and networking among
students attending Boston-area schools.
	One other note is that in planning the Ebony Affair, the BGSA
tries to support Black-owned businesses and performers in the Boston
area as much as possible. We feel that this is an important
contribution we can make to the community as consumers and
supporters. Not only is the contribution financial, but it also allows
the businesses to reach a different audience than they might not
otherwise come in contact with and increase their customer base.

T: What does the money raised go to support?

ALS: The majority of the money raised is used to fund programs
sponsored by the BGSA throughout the academic year. These include an
orientation for new graduate students, an annual Talbot House retreat,
an annual multicultural dinner, a seminar/speaker series, and a spring
leadership retreat. Money will also be used to support members in
community projects that they may be involved in. We also hope to offer
some type of scholarship to minority students in the sciences.

T: Is the Ebony Affair an outreach for people outside of the Black community?

ALS: The Ebony Affair has always been an open event and we encourage
all members of the MIT community to attend. This year we saw a broader
cross-section of individuals attending the event than in the past, and
hopefully they came away feeling that the Ebony Affair is an event
everyone can enjoy. We also send out invitations directly to many of
the student groups on campus.

T: Is the Ebony Affair a celebration? If so, of what?

Sean Daughtry: The Ebony Affair is a celebration of African-American's
and African's of the Diaspora culture, history, and achievements past
and present. Our culture was represented well, yet not fully by the
differing themes in the Cultural Explosion [a theatrical and
historical fashion show], the excellent jazz band [Scott King trio],
the delicious food, the dance, and the party.

T: What were the key points from the Cultural Explosion and Movements
in Time [MIT dance troupe] that the audience should have taken away?

SD: The audience should have heard the literature (poetry) that was
expressed by the performers and saw how it fits in with the times of
today and more personally themselves. I admit this would be easier for
the African-Americans. They also should have been aware of the
different themes that were displayed. The spiritual, the elegant,
women themes, and men themes.
	The performances at the Ebony Affair showcase the talents of
Black individuals. This year, MIT students showed what they can do
outside of the classroom.

T: Can you comment on the performances [the dance party with DJ Steve
Gousby and the live jazz with Scott King's collaboration] and on the
atmosphere in general?

SD: The dance party was live. (A good party for the hip hop impaired.)
The jazz band was excellent and I'm not saying that because the leader
is a Morehouse man.
	I believe the social atmosphere of the event was
regal. Everyone looked good and everyone enjoyed themselves. I was
told by a senior who had attended four Ebony Affairs that this was the
	Everyone who I spoke with during and after the event had a
good time. The planners had a lot of support from the community and
this came through in the final presentation of the Ebony Affair.

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