ELIEZER SANTIAGO — Staff Writer
As the lights dimmed, the music rose filling the ballroom with the sounds of the West Indies. Masks were donned by guests as they prepared to celebrate their heritages.
The Heritage Ball, hosted by the Multicultural Center, Black Student Union, Organization of Latin American Students, African Student Association, Men About Business, West Indian Society, and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, is an annual event that takes place in the ballroom of the Adanti Student Center.
“It brings different ethnic groups together. You’re learning about Spanish, Jamaican, African, and other ethnic groups and their heritages,” said Mahogany Grimes, a senior studying social work at Southern and the co-chairperson of BSU. “Even though there’s a party, there is an educational part that’s very important to us.”
The heritage ball was started in 1999 by Aaron Washington, director of Student Affairs at Southern. According to Grimes, Washington started the Heritage Ball to get students to recognize their cultures and their roots.
Different foods representing the different cultures were served at the ball, and accompanying the food were different performances from the different organizations hosting the event—such as dances by OLAS.
Each year the committee comes up with a theme for the ball. In the past, themes like The Harlem Renaissance and “Certificate of Diamond” have graced the ball.
This year the theme for the ball was “Hidden Prestige.” The committee turned the Heritage Ball into a masquerade leaving masks on the table for guests to wear while at the event.
“What’s in a mask?,” asked Kaiesha Johnson, a senior at Southern studying sociology. “It’s the different faces of different cultures. Through a mask you can disguise. You can be whoever you want.”
Johnson, who was Miss Heritage Ball in 2009, said that the committee wanted to pay tribute and expose guests to the different masquerade events around the world such as Carnival in Brazil.
A power point presentation was shown at the ball giving guests a brief history of masquerades and an explanation as to why masks are used symbolically.
This year the Heritage Ball named Brandon Rothschild, a sophomore from the NAACP, as Mr. Heritage Ball, and Niurka Callado, a senior from OLAS, as Miss Heritage ball.
Each year students have to apply to the Heritage Ball Committee in order to run for Mr. and Miss Heritage Ball. Along with the application, applicants must submit an essay explaining why they should be Mr. or Miss Heritage Ball.
The committee then chooses the best essay and applicant to crown.
After the crowning of the Mr. and Miss, the dance floor opened up for a night of celebration, and even though there were less people in attendance than previous years because the ballroom dividers were up to half the size of the room, the dance floor was still packed.
The DJ got guests moving by playing Reggae, Reggaeton, Dance Hall, Hip Hop, Salsa, and many other ethnic styles of music.
“It’d be nice if more people came together,” said Mary Tracey, a senior studying biology at Southern. “The ball brings people together, but if more organizations [on campus] came I think it’d be better.”
Tracey was a guest at the ball and said that although this year was fun, if more people came, the Heritage Ball could have more meaning.