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Packed House at the Annual Black History Month Luncheon

Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost M. Brian Blake speaks at the Annual Black History Month Luncheon

February 29, 2016

Enthusiasm was high at last week’s Black History Month annual luncheon celebration of the struggles and triumphs of African-American culture.

The luncheon was put on by the Black Faculty & Professional Staff Association (BFPSA). BBFPSA was represented by its board of directors: President Janeile Johnson, Vice President Ahaji Schreffler, Treasurer Christopher Weir, Secretary Cassandra Pettiford and Communications Chair Ann Alexander. The association’s board was surprised and delighted by a larger-than-expected attendance, which necessitated several dozen additional chairs.

The opening speaker, Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost M. Brian Blake, couldn’t help but comment on the impressive audience.

 “Wow! It is quite nice to get this sort of turnout,” Blake said, before telling a story of the black men from his own history — his father, and later in Blake’s life, Clarence "Skip" Ellis, the first African-American to get a PhD in computer science — who helped him in times of frustration and isolation.

 “It’s important to have these events,” Blake said. “We want to celebrate our diversity, but also our individuality.”

Lunch was delicious soul food from Chestnut Street Catering — a sign proclaimed that “The Best Fried Chicken” was provided, which turned out to be the truth. Collard greens, macaroni and cheese, baked catfish and banana pudding rounded out the rest of the meal.

While the attendants dined, Key Arts Productions provided a multimedia journey through African-American history. Archival footage and photographs chronicled the journey from the Emancipation Proclamation onward, profiling great artists and thinkers such as Bessie Smith, Claude McKay, W.E.B. DuBois and Zora Neale Hurston. While the film was playing, two live singers shared fantastic renditions of “Take the ‘A’ Train,” “Minnie the Moocher,” and a rousing gospel take on “Jesus Loves Me.”

 The entire audience joined in, calling back the chorus of “Let the Good Times Roll.” Indeed, at that moment, at this luncheon, the good times were rolling.

 If you are interested in being a member of the BFPSA, send an email to, you will be added to its listserv.