Purdue’s Black Cultural Center officials say they’re pulling out all the stops on the center’s 50th anniversary celebration this weekend.
Renee Thomas, the director of the BCC, said it’s been decades since the last big celebration.
“For the 10th anniversary of the BCC, there was a major event … which led to the founding of the Purdue Black Alumni organization,” she said.
Forty years later, BCC is inviting back the retired director who planned the 10th anniversary — Antonio Zamora, also the group’s first director.
“Some of the things I knew then, I brought to Purdue, and they were new to Purdue,” Zamora said recently.
“I was passing around my experience and my knowledge of culture, and the arts,” said Zamora, who has also been a soprano saxophone musician his whole life.
With a great passion in music and art, Zamora improved the participation of African-American students on campus by enhancing the shared culture. He created the Black Voice of Inspiration, a choir, in 1975 with three students. It now features hundreds of members.
Black student enrollment nearly doubled during the 22 years that Zamora was director. Zamora will receive the Cornerstone Award at the 50th anniversary gala for his foundation efforts and long-term involvement from 1973 to 1995.
Notable alumni who graduated during Zamora’s term including two of the three BCC philanthropic award recipients: James Cash Jr., a Harvard professor emeritus who graduated from Krannert’s School of Management in 1976 as a doctoral student; Roland Parrish, the CEO of Parrish McDonald’s Restaurants and who graduated from Krannert with a master’s degree.
With Parrish’s generosity, BCC plans to launch a new program in the coming fall — the Roland Parwrish lecture series — which will invite high-visibility speakers to campus, according to Thomas.
Mamon Powers, who graduated from the College of Engineering in 1970, will also be honored for his generosity of more than $100,000 to BCC.
BCC is expecting around 250 alumni and current students for the event.
Carla Smith is the administrative assistant of BCC and the team leader for the event.
“We have some Purdue students that will attend the event that are here over the summer months,” Thomas said, “also some of the individuals who participated the original protest that led to the founding of the BCC from 1968.”
That protest saw hundreds of black students taking red bricks to Hovde Hall to request a cultural center for African-American students.
Though intended to be dress-up-worthy, the Saturday night gala is expected to be a lot of fun, too.
“Not only is it a wonderful opportunity to dress up, but bring some comfortable shoes,” Thomas said, “because we have a phenomenal DJ that’s going to be providing musical entertainment and dancing after the formal part of the program.”
The gala, which will be in the North Ballroom of the Memorial Union, will be well decorated.
“I’m hoping with all the attention to detail that people won’t remember that this is the North Ballroom,” Smith said.
Before the gala on Saturday night, other activities for participants include golf, a cookout and a sweetheart game show where jubilee attendees can register to form their own teams.
According to BCC, the registration fee for the whole weekend is $175.
People who want to go to just the gala, which is $50, should email the BCC since the deadline for individual tickets has passed.