Black history remembered at Pitt’s homecoming

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As the mythical Sankofa bird of Africa flies forward while looking behind, Pitt’s African-American alumni remembered the past—40 years of the past to be exact—demanding equality and diversity throughout the hallowed halls of the University of Pittsburgh.

Under the theme of “Blue, Gold and Black: The Colors of Celebration” the African-American Alumni Council commemorated African-American pride, progress and partnership with the university during the Oct. 22 through 25 homecoming weekend program.

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PITT PANEL—From left: Renee Clark, Sala Udin, Wajihah Abdullah, Marvin Greer and Curtiss Porter formed a panel that spoke on diversity and the history of Blacks at Pitt to a packed house.

The weekend was dedicated to celebrating the progress in diversity initiatives made by the university since the late 1960s. While much time was allotted over the busy weekend for networking and reminiscing about the days of college life, there was also time for lessons in history and for the elders to reach back and aid their younger Pitt cohorts.

 

To this effort, the AAAC launched the public phase of a $3 million scholarship fund-raising campaign to provide financial support to students at Pitt. To date more than $900,000 has been raised.

“The AAAC’s Scholarship Campaign highlights the significant role that scholarship play in attracting, supporting, and retaining talented, diverse, and highly qualified students,” said Pitt Chancellor Mark A. Nordenberg. He continued saying the university wholeheartedly supports the AAAC and is grateful to its president, Linda Wharton-Boyd, for her leadership.

This year’s event attracted the largest Black gathering of alumni back to the Pitt campus, in the history of Pitt’s homecoming celebrations.

The event-packed weekend included networking breakfasts, nostalgic campus tours, and a lively panel discussion that highlighted the 1969 take over of the university’s Computer Center by members of the newly formed student organization the Black Action Society (BAS) in demand for diversity among the student population, faculty, curriculum and administration.

Additionally, as a tribute to campus civil rights pioneers, a plaque was received on behalf of those who led the struggle for diversity at the university. A historical exhibition of African-American progress at the Pitt was unveiled in the lower lobby of the Hillman Library. Newspaper clippings, photos and other memorabilia of the era will continue to be displayed in cases lining the library vestibule.

The arts were celebrated with “An Evening of Pitt African American Alumni in the Arts” showcasing the talents of the Black Dance Workshop, Kuntu Repertory Theatre, Pittsburgh Black Dance Theatre, the smooth gospel jazz sounds of Todd Ledbetter, and the explosive sounds by the university’s gospel choir, Some of God’s Children. The alumni members of the group represented a microcosm of students who were members throughout the choir’s 36-year history. Additional performers included comedy from former Pitt football player, Dawan Owens, and a dance performance by the Shona Sharif African Dance and Drum Ensemble.

Friday night’s on-campus events culminated with a step show where the Greeks were represented.

During the Distinguished Alumni Awards Banquet, on Oct. 24, seven trailblazers, including Nadine Frye, and Rachel Poole, the first two Blacks to be admitted to Pitt’s School of Nursing, in addition to Bill Strickland Jr., Gregory Randall Spencer, Bernard Mack, Noma Bennette Anderson, and Robert Agbede, were honored for their achievements and for paving the way for the thousands of alumni who have come after them.

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