WT celebrates 2nd annual Black History Month Commemorative Banquet


The Jack B. Kelly Student Center’s Legacy Hall, where the second annual Black History Month celebration banquet took place. From wtamu.com

Jonah Dietz, Senior Reporter

West Texas A&M University’s 2nd Annual Black History Month Commemorative Banquet took place in the Jack B. Kelley Student Center’s Legacy Hall on Thursday, March 4, 2021. To celebrate the closing of a successful black history month and to award the three winners of the Black Women’s Association’s Martin Luther King Jr. Video Essay Scholarship contest, a special dinner was served and a variety of speakers were brought in, including a former professor and a student. 

Throughout the event video essays made and sent in by the scholarship contestants were played so that those present could see the merit of the prize winners. Jordan Conde, a freshman digital communications and media major won first place for his thoughtful and provocative video essay on the BWA’s theme of the month: Be the change you want to see.

Charles Cox, a senior criminal justice major, performed his spoken word poem “What a Time to Be Alive,” in which he urged those present to take the time to focus on the good and the progress made in the past twenty years, including the USA’s first African American President, iPhones and Netflix 

“We often get stuck in what we don’t have, and what bad has happened to us. But I just listed a small number of things that have happened in the past twenty years…This is the time, not to focus on what we don’t have, but to focus on the opportunities, the blessings, and the privileges we do have,” Cox said. “The next time you’re having a bad day or you’re stuck in a winter storm or you’re being harassed by COVID, I want you to say: What a time to be alive.”

Claudia Stewart, poet and WT Professor Emeritus, who retired in 2015, recited her piece entitled “Mean Streets.” It sought to encapsulate the feelings of anger and frustration surrounding the death of George Floyd and the issues surrounding it.

“Don’t tell me about mean streets. Where the man was pulled from his ride, knocked down on his side, by a policeman taking his life,” Stewart said, reciting her poem. “Don’t tell me about mean streets. Because I’ve had to tell you what happened next to that man that died before our eyes in broad daylight… Don’t tell me about mean streets. Because I already know it’s going to take divine intervention to make the corrections, to set things right, at great cost.”

The main speaker of the night was Chief Consumer Officer at Firstbank Southwest Bowden Jones Jr., who began his speech by determining a premise for the references he would make concerning black history month.

“Black history is not only history for black people relegated to the month of February,” Jones Jr. said. “But it is American history. It is world history… Black history is our history. All of our history.”

Acknowledging that the devastation and importance of the conventional conception of black history makes it difficult to see past it, Jones Jr. challenged those present to think of it beyond slavery and segregation and to view black history from a world perspective–the untold stories of a million important people.

He went on to address the month’s theme and spoke about the three kinds of people that are involved in change. 

“There are those that make things happen,” Jones Jr. said. “And then there are those who watch things happen. And then there are those that look back and wonder what in the world just happened. Of course, if there’s any of the three that we would want to be it would be the person that makes things happen… There is an extreme opportunity to be the person that makes things happen.”

In order to motivate and aid those who would decide to be that person who makes things happen, Jones Jr. described the characteristics of the person who makes things happen. These came down to one short sentence: Just do it. He reminded those present that change must start with the mere thought of those people who decide to act, in spite of consequences. He laid out a three-step plan for achieving change, which includes germination, preparation, and execution, all of which takes time, strength and sacrifice.

“There is something… in each of us that when we really search ourselves, when we really look down in ourselves, we will discover that we really want to be the change,” Jones Jr. said. “When we look at everything…there are some things that we want changed and if there’s going to be change, we’re going to have to do it… All of us have the ability to be the change… what’s keeping you from doing it?”