The Portland State chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) hosted A Tribute to Black Men last Thursday evening in Smith Center. Almost 30 awards were given to black men and organizations that have helped the local black community and the NAACP at PSU.
The conference room in which the event was held was decorated with a kisses theme. Keyoshia Vaughan, vice-president of the PSU chapter of the NAACP and sophomore business major, explained, “In order for black men to be empowered, black women have to support them.” Therefore, kisses are a symbol of the love and support of black women.
Vaughan started preparing for the event in November of last year. The group decided that it was time to start honoring black men just like black women are honored every year by the Kappa Alpha Psi sorority.
Award winners were chosen by PSU NAACP members in a group discussion that focused on black men who have somehow helped either the Portland community or the PSU NAACP.
They also advertised in the Portland Observer, asking the community to nominate black men to be awarded, but there were no responses. Nicole Harris, recently elected co-vice-president of the PSU NAACP and junior political science major, said, “It was a little disappointing; the community could have been more involved.”
Harris hoped the event would “encourage other people to do community service.”
PSU president Daniel Bernstein, who was awarded for “giving students latitude in controlling student fees,” said, “It’s always important to make known the contributions of African-Americans to our society, and particularly to this region and state.”
Tia Chenault, president of the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority and senior finance major, said the event was important because “a lot of black men in the community are doing a lot and this is a way to get over stereotypes.”
Vaughan and Anastasia Brownell, PSU NAACP secretary and sophomore with an undeclared major, presented the awards.
Three professors from the black studies department were awarded; Ridwan Nytagordien, Darrell Millner and department Chairperson Kofi Agorsah.
The department itself was also rewarded for “their continuous support of the black students on campus” and helping the PSU NAACP through their struggles as mentors, speaking at their events, and being active in their programs.
Student affairs Vice-provost Douglas Samuels was awarded for “being supportive of the NAACP, not afraid of standing up for students and keeping the lines of communication open with students.”
Other awards to people and organizations from PSU were given to Jon Joiner, the new multicultural center interim director; the men of the Black Cultural Affairs Board; men of the NAACP; and men of the Association of African Students (AAS) who collected the most signatures last year for black history as a major.
The predominately black fraternities were also recognized for “helping to bring African-American men into college.”
Entrepreneur Roy Jay, chairman of the Oregon Convention Association and Oregon Assembly for Black Affairs, president of the adult NAACP and owner of six businesses, was among the five men or organizations outside PSU who were awarded. Vaughan said to him, “You have put the M in man.”
Jataune Hall, co-coordinator of the Black Cultural Affairs Board and senior in communication studies, led the audience in singing the black anthem, “Lift Every Voice.” Later, Hall read a poem titled, “There is Nothing More Beautiful Than a Black Man.”
Vaughan was happy with the turnout of approximately thirty people and explained that there are many programs and events during black heritage month that have conflicting schedules, which may have caused some people to miss the tribute. However, she added that there were only six out of 21 awarded men who could not make it.
A Tribute to Black Women will be held in Smith Center, Room 338, from 6 to 8 p.m. Feb. 14.