Emerson’s Black Organization with Natural Interests (EBONI) was granted $18,280 from the Student Government Association Tuesday to bring journalist Don Lemon and human rights activist John Bul Dau to speak at the college for African American Heritage month.
According to EBONI President Jessica Joseph, the organization has invited keynote speakers to Emerson for African American Heritage Month for the past five years, including Angela Davis in 2011, whose visit cost $13,050, and Terrence Howard in 2012. She said this year EBONI is getting the two speakers for the price of one.
The original appeal asked for $19,280, but Communication Sciences and Disorders Senator Katie Ruggiero made a motion to reduce it by $1,000, after SGA members discussed that EBONI should increase its fundraising efforts.
Caitlin Higgins, SGA vice president, spoke in favor of reducing the appeal, and said the organization should independently raise more money.
“I think appeals should be a last resort, and I’m hesitant because your org didn’t fundraise,” Higgins said. “Personally, I would like to see you guys fundraise on your own rather than a sponsorship.”
EBONI received $8,420 in co-sponsorships for the event from other campus organizations and offices, including the president’s and dean’s offices, WEBN, WERS, and career services.
According to SGA appeal procedures, organizations must independently fundraise 10 percent of the amount they ask for.
Kassie King, SGA elections commissioner, said the organization should use money from its Financial Advisory Board (FAB) packet, which allocated the group $10,000 at the beginning of the semester.
EBONI said they have used $1,825 already and have $2,000 reserved for a Martin Luther King luncheon, according to Joseph. She said EBONI plans on using the rest of the money for other African American Heritage Month events.
Class of 2014 Senator Ben Halls said SGA should give EBONI the full amount it asked for.
“You can’t appeal for the money in your FAB packet, and you can’t come to appeal to get the money,” said Halls. “So how else is an organization going to put on these amazing events if we can’t grant them the money here?”
In a 10 to 2 vote, the appeal for $18,280 was approved.
With this money, Don Lemon, CNN’s first openly gay black news anchor, and John Bul Dau, a former “Lost Boy” of Sudan and genocide survivor, will be speaking at February’s events. Both, according to Joseph, embody this year’s theme, “We are the Black Diaspora.”
Joseph said during her presentation to the SGA that she believes each speaker can relate not only to African-American students, but all students.
“These two speakers really do embody everything that Emerson stands for,” said Joseph, a senior marketing communication major. “Don Lemon, we have so many journalism students here, so many people that look up to him, even those who aren’t journalism students.”
EBONI has hosted African American Heritage Month for the past 40 years at Emerson, according to Joseph. She said the guest speakers are one event in a series during the month to highlight notable members of the black community and African diaspora.
A date for the guest speaker event has not yet been scheduled.