Black Excellence at Arcadia Celebrated on April 10

By Daniel DiPrinzio | April 18, 2022
Arslie Jacques-Louis ‘24, Simone Smith ‘23, Dr. Loury, Nyla Russel ’24, and O'Shane Mendez ’24 posing together with a plaque and flowers
Arslie Jacques-Louis ‘24, Simone Smith ‘23, Dr. Loury, Nyla Russel ’24, and O’Shane Mendez ’24

Arcadia University and the Black Awareness Society (BAS) celebrated Black students, faculty, and staff at the first Black Excellence Social on Sunday, April 10 in Grey Towers Castle. 

The event served as an opportunity to highlight Black excellence at Arcadia both past and present, such as Daijah Patton ’22, who performed two original spoken-word pieces. This event helped to recognize the alumni who paved the way for the current generation of Knights. 

The social was hosted by the Office of Access, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion; the Black Awareness Society; and Alumni Engagement and Programming. The vision for the event was conceived by BAS president Oshane Mendez ’24 and organized by the BAS leadership board: O’Shane Mendez ’24, President; Simone Smith ‘23, Vice President; Nyla Russell ’24, Secretary; and Arslie Louis-Jacques ‘24, Treasurer. 

Among the central ideas within their vision were community, celebration, and recognition.

“The Black Excellence Social was the mainframe of how we – as Black people – share and celebrate one another,” shared Smith. “This idea was a group effort among my fellow peers and me that made it a safe and welcoming space to speak to our culture.”

Alumni were encouraged to share personal stories from their time at Arcadia; many of them highlighted the impact on their education and lives that was made by Dr. Doreen Loury, Founding Executive Director of the Center for Anti-racist Scholarship, Advocacy, and Action (CASAA); assistant professor of Sociology; and Director of Pan-African Studies. “The birth of the Black Excellence Social honored the legacy of Dr. Doreen Loury who has been an advocate for Black students on campus for over 30 years,” said Keonna Dumas, BAS co-advisor. Dr. Loury received the Legendary Award for her decades of leadership in the disruption of inequality and service to the University community. Maya Johnson, Assistant Director of Counseling/Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives, received a certificate of appreciation for her work in Black mental health in collaboration with the Black Awareness Society.

Dr. Angela S. McNeil, assistant vice president of Access, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (AEDI),  delivered an inspiring speech that captured the theme of Black Excellence. “Black Excellence conceptualizes the lived experiences of those of the African Diaspora,” stated Dr. McNeil. “It is a term of endearment and resistance. After all, what is more excellent than the birthplace of all civilization?”

Participants shared that this event connects us all to a larger community of love and support that will carry on well beyond Arcadia University. “To me this event was revolutionary,” stated Nyla Russel. “The idea started off as a small brunch social and it grew into the experience we shared last weekend that brought our Black community together here on campus to celebrate our accomplishments, achievements, and overall excellence.”

“I was honored to be present during such an inspiring celebration of Black excellence at Arcadia,” shared Dr. Jeff Rutenbeck, Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs at Arcadia University. “Our number one strategic priority is ‘academic excellence through impact and authenticity’ – this wonderful event embodied that priority in every possible way.”

The biggest take away from the Black Excellence Social that the BAS Leadership Team would like other students on campus to know is that they have a village of love and support at Arcadia. “The Black Excellence Social was the puzzle piece that was needed for Black students at Arcadia University to feel included, seen and celebrated,” stated Arslie Jacques-Louis. “Having so many Black faculty, staff, students, and alumni in one room helped me to feel that I was not alone.”