Hope College’s Black Student Union hosted its third annual Black Excellence Dinner on Friday at the Midtown Center in Holland. The group was celebrating the 50th anniversary of its formation as the Black Coalition at Hope College. With this in mind, they paid homage to one of the greatest eras in black history: the Harlem Renaissance. They sought to honor those who have come before them but also recognize the excellence exhibited within the Hope College community.
The group made magnets or this special occasion, and everyone in attendance received one. Two awards were given out at the event: The Kujichagulia Alumni and the Sankofa. Kujichagulia is the second principle of Kwanzaa, meaning self-determination. This award is “meant to define, name, create, and speak of a rich, resilient culture crossing the four corners of the globe. The recipient(s) possess the motivation and drive to go above and far beyond what could have been imagined for us. They are the elders’ wildest dreams come true.” This award was presented to two outstanding alumni, Dr. Dara Spearman, who currently owns her own practice specializing in dermatology, and Dr. David Paul, who specializes in neuroscience in west Michigan. Both alumni gave impassioned speeches about their experiences at Hope and their lives and career after college, leading to their success now. They encouraged the audience, specifically the students of color, to go out to achieve their dreams and make them their own.
The second award, Sankofa, has special significance because it roughly translates as “Go back and get it.” Its literal translation from the Akan words meaning “return, go, and seek” is as follows: “It is not taboo to fetch what is at risk of being left behind.” This honorary award was presented to Dr. VickiLynn Holmes who is an exceptional person who exemplifies intelligence, focus, commitment, resilience, and determination. She is well known for her kindness, even to people who are not always kind back to her. With this in mind, she seeks first the wisdom and power of God. Every morning at 5 a.m., she walks around her neighborhood and prays over her community. Because of her Christian faith, the Hope College community and City of Holland regularly call on her to pray over their lives and critical issues impacting their work and community.
This award represents Dr. Holmes well; she dares to reach back to her history, personal and collective. The night ended with a get-together with many of the students present. The third annual Black Excellence dinner sought to honor distinguished alumni and professors and close the boundaries, through positive dialogue, between color, while enriching and diversifying the Hope community.