The Society of Afrikan American Culture hosted “Remembrance of Things Present,” a commemorative forum and lecture last Wednesday in celebration of the 40 years that SAAC has served “as the voice” of African American students on campus. During the program attendees talked about several discussion questions regarding the organization’s founding, past initiatives, and present-day leadership.

To focus the attendees on the current participation within SAAC and other minority programs on campus, each table of attendees in the forum was instructed to respond to a list of questions. They were also asked to indicate ways to improve the morale of students so that they are more compelled to participate and commit to leadership roles within their communities.

The first question posed referred to the effectiveness of SAAC itself. Deidra Dunn, a sophomore in chemical engineering, said “We need to be more involved with politics, and be more proactive.”

The next question asked was, “Is there a divide between N.C. State and Historically Black Universities?”

Kornelius Bascombe, a sophomore in criminology, said “People from other schools find out that we are from NCSU, and we are looked at as being ‘better’ than them or their university,”referring to the misconception some students have that African-American students that attend N.C. State are against attending HBCUs or they hold themselves to a higher esteem since they attend a predominately white university.

The next few discussion questions brought the forum into perspective by reconvening with points that emphasize the history of SAAC and its role on campus.

Josh Poteat, a sophomore and member of SAAC, responded by saying, “SAAC is the ‘political arm’ of African-American students at NCSU and helping us get where we need to go.” Following Poteat’s comments, Bascombe continued by saying, “SAAC needs to stay abreast of the issues going on at NCSU and other campuses.”

Following the group discussion questions, Khalia Braswell, freshman in computer engineering and Ashley Brown, freshman in political science, who are co-historians for SAAC, introduced a video presentation, which was narrated by Dunn. The video’s content was reflective of the many programs and service missions, as well as the impact SAAC has had on the University and abroad. It posed the question, “Does SAAC still have a role on our campus?”

Dr. Tracey Ray, director of Multicultural Student Affairs and advisor for SAAC, facilitated the Presidential Forum section of the program. Dr. Ray was the president of SAAC in 1998. She said she remembers vividly the beginnings of an organization that has remained a vital necessity to the African-American community at N.C. State. She recalls the organization holding its meeting in the West Dunn building, which currently houses Telecommunications and University Food Services.

“All programs, all meetings, and activities” were held in this space, said Ray. In 1987, Kevin Howell was the first black elected Student Body President. Soon after his election, students rallied on UNC-Chapel Hill’s campus in order to promote their desires for a free-standing African-American cultural center.

“UNC students had already gained financial support” says Ray.  “Michael Jordan and his family agreed to support the Black cultural center- the University just didn’t want it,” she continued.

Ray then turned her attention to her role as SAAC president, which did not come easily. “I was reluctant at first,” said Ray.

Delisa Adams, the current SAAC President, said, “I knew how things could be,” when speaking about her initial nomination as president. Although Adams accepted her role as the 2008-2009 SAAC President, she admits it has not been carefree, by any means.  “It frustrates me when I don’t see this room filled;” citing a lack of commitment and involvement from students. “People feel obligated to be involved, but should not just be participating just to get a free t-shirt” Adams added.

Ray said, “It doesn’t take everybody, it only takes a few.” This quote was shared from the great Dr. Augustus Witherspoon to Ray during a luncheon at a local favorite “down-home”restaurant.

She urged students to think more along the lines of cooperation rather than competition. Ray ended by reminding students of the great successes that have stemmed from SAAC’s involvement, leadership and advocacy over the years.

In ten years, African-American graduates have increased fourteen percent, five student body presidents have been African-American consecutively from 2000-2005, “It was not by accident but by strategy” she said.

Ray also encouraged students that during their reign in leadership, they should not only serve the community but “lift other students as they climb,” the leadership ladder. At the end of the program SAAC was presented with two plaques that listed presidents from years past including the current president. This classic memorabilia will now hang in the SAAC office space housed in the African American Cultural Center.