By Mathew Shaw/se news editor
Jazz music filled the North Ballroom and soul food enticed guests as black culture was celebrated for the annual Celebrating Strides Feb. 26 on SE Campus.
This year’s theme was “Soul Food,” which tied in with the Southern-inspired cuisine catered by Buttons, a restaurant in Fort Worth.
“[Soul food] is the spiritual energy and nourishment that flows through us as black people,” TR learning center coordinator and host Steven LeMons said.
Award-winning Buttons chef Keith Hicks told the audience the idea of soul food was universal.
“Every culture has a soul food,” he said. “No matter what flavor you are, you have a soul food.”
On each table was one fact relevant to black history, and music and entertainment ranged from jazz performed by the SE jazz band and combo to spoken-word poetry recited by a TCC alumnus to hip-hop dance numbers performed by the SE Rhapsody Movement Company and NW Mosaic Dance Project.
The evening gave the audience glimpses of black culture and history, said Bob McKizzie, chairman of African-American Heritage: Celebrating Strides and coordinator of the event.
“You can’t possibly give a whole book of heritage in one celebration event,” he said. “You have to give chapters.”
A performance called “Stories from the Range,” presented by Fort Worth’s Pantagleize Theatre Company’s Dee Cee Cornish, provided anecdotes from the life of a chuckwagon chef.
The act was reflective of this year’s theme, which was “more of the days of the chuckwagon, and the trials and tribulations they went through when they weren’t entirely free,” McKizzie said.
SE developmental English instructor Candice Bledsoe and SE English instructor Arlandis Jones made a presentation on the Harlem Renaissance, a time of celebration, McKizzie said.
“We were a subset of The Great Gatsby period,” he said. “We explored and discovered and created and participated in inventions.”
During this presentation, the SE jazz band and combo performed three pieces: “King Porter Stomp” by Jelly Roll Martin and Duke Ellington’s “Harlem Speaks” and “Queen’s Suite: Sunset and the Mockingbird.”
“Those pieces represent the transformation of jazz during the Harlem Renaissance from pop music to a true American art form,” SE music professor Greg Dewhirst said.
SE student Tramon McBride said he liked the speech about Langston Hughes.
“He’s deep. He’s really deep,” he said about Hughes. “What he writes is real. It’s not just something he comes up with. It’s something he lives with on a day-to-day basis.”
Contemporary issues facing African-Americans were also discussed.
In 2009, the national graduation rate for black males was 52 percent, LeMons said.
“Today, there are more black males in jail than in college,” he said.
LeMons advocated TCC’s Men of Color Mentoring program.
“I was one of those people [needing a mentor],” he said. “Now I am a mentor as well.”
TCC’s African-American Heritage Committee then presented a montage of black icons called “The Journey,” which ended with the question, “Are you our hope for the future?”
LeMons closed the event with a video of the hymn “Lift Every Voice And Sing,” performed by The Potter’s House Chorale.