Unity and Awards Banquet

While many of Northeastern’s African American students were working to effect change on campus, not all were politically active. The staff of the African-American Institute wanted to recognize and further encourage those students who excelled academically and contributed to the university’s African American community.

So, they established a ceremony to emphasize the message that unity comes as a result of the work of those who strive for better tomorrows. On June 10, 1972, over 400 students attended the first annual Unity and Awards Banquet held in the African-American Institute. The ceremony’s guest of honor was George Rowland, first president of Northeastern’s Black Student Congress. Rev. John Baptist of St. Paul African Methodist Episcopal Church was the guest speaker. In his oration, the Reverend reminded students that no man stands alone; as there is a commitment to self, there must also be a commitment to the struggle for equal rights and to the community.

The Unity and Awards Banquet’s foundation was built upon the Seven Principles of Nzubo Saba: unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith. Awards were presented to students who took courses in the Department of African-American Studies, or who were involved in fine arts, community service, athletics, and campus organizations. The most coveted honor, the Nzubo Saba Award, was presented to students who embodied the Seven Principles. The first honorees were George A. Rowland ‘73, Linn Edwards, Ileen Dotson ‘74, and Myrielle D. Smith ‘75, each of whom received $100.

Over the years, the Unity and Awards Banquet drew renowned figures as guests of honor, including co-founder of Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and former chairman of the NAACP, Julian Bond in 1974; revolutionary poet, Sonia Sanchez in 1976; and former president of Morehouse College, Benjamin Mays in 1979. The Unity and Awards Banquet continues to honor those African American students who impact Northeastern’s community.