On April 4, 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was assassinated. This tragic event struck the African American students on campus and sparked the formation of the African American Student Union (AASU), then called the Georgia Tech Afro-American Association. After fifty years as the oldest student-run minority organization on campus, AASU held their “Golden Gala” to celebrate this important anniversary and establish a scholarship for members of AASU.
This gala was held on Friday, Oct. 12 and entertained about 200 alumni, students, staff and other members of the campus community at the Renaissance Atlanta hotel.
This gala featured a number of special guests, including a number of AASU alumni, Tech President G. P. “Bud” Peterson and Rodney Atkins — who donated Tech’s statue commemorating the life of Rosa Parks — as keynote speaker. Ticket sales outstripped the hopes of the members who planned the gala, and the revenue generated from the event went towards the creation of a scholarship program. Beginning next year, AASU will be able to bestow three scholarships: one to an incoming student, one to an AASU undergraduate and one to an AASU graduate.
The night went off without a hitch, much to the delight of organizers. Danea Manson, fourth year CHBE and planning chair for the event, said that she was “really, really happy about it. We had about 200 people who bought tickets and attended.”
The gala’s other speakers included William Stanley, the first black Architecture graduate and original founder of the organization, and Sinet Adous, second year INTA and convocation speaker, performed a spoken word piece.
A central focus of the night, as it is of all of the work done by AASU, were their eight pillars of unity: self-cultural awareness, effective leadership, community service, scholarship, coalition building, social awareness, political awareness and economic empowerment. Current AASU members recognized sixteen of those who had come before them for their accomplishments.
“We honored members of the community who have showed a dedication to those pillars throughout their time at Georgia Tech,” Manson said.
The gala concluded with closing remarks from Peterson. It was sponsored by several organizations such as the Tech Office of Institute Diversity, College of Engineering, BP and M. E. Cubed Engineering.
Through the process of preparing the gala, Manson and her colleagues struggled to get in contact with AASU alumni who had been distant from the organization’s activities. They were able to reconnect with a huge alumni network, and they hope that they will be able to keep this relationship flourishing.
The history of AASU is integral to their past and present work, and this history was also an important part of the gala.
“As the oldest minority student led organization on campus, we have so much history in what we have done,” said Manson, “not just for black students on campus but the Georgia Tech community as a whole.”
Traditionally, AASU’s role on campus has been to provide a social and academic outlet and resource for black students.
“It’s creating a more inclusive campus,” said Manson. “It not only provides an outlet for black students but it also allows students from other races and other groups to get insight into the challenges the black community faces.”
AASU meets weekly in order to discuss issues that face the African American community at Tech. They discuss both light-hearted topics, like events in popular black culture, and more serious topics, such as a recent voter registration informational meeting.
In addition, AASU holds both on campus and outreach events throughout the year. From Oct. 26 to 28, they will host the annual Black Leadership Conference. This year, the event will be titled “TECHture” and focus on tech jobs in the African American community. For more information, visit gtaasu.org.