On Saturday, May 14, the Minneapolis United Negro College Fund (UNCF) hosted the fourth annual Twin Cities Masked Ball at the Mall of America’s Radisson Blu Hotel ballroom. The UNCF black-tie dinner affair was sold out by May 2 at $150 per ticket.
Proceeds from ticket sales, the live auction items, and pledged donations were all earmarked for the UNCF Twin Cities Hope Scholarship for Minneapolis students, UNCF member institutions nationwide, and the UNCF Campaign for Emergency Student Aid (CESA). CESA helps college seniors pay off final school debts in order to graduate from UNCF member colleges and universities.
Master of ceremonies for the evening was Emmy Award-winning, Twin Cites-based actor, singer and arts educator T. Mychael Rambo, who has long been an acting staple in local theaters. Representatives from more than 400 businesses, civic and education leaders attended the event. Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges, former Minneapolis Mayor Sharon Sayles Belton, and Dr. Michael L. Lomax, UNCF’s president and CEO, were a few of the notables in attendance.
“UNCF has a rich 72-year history and has raised more than $4.5 billion to support college for students of color,” said Hodges. “Their work is crucial to ensure deserving students have access to high-quality higher education.”
Asked what the UNCF target goal was for the event, Lomax replied, “It is actually $500,000 tonight, but I believe that Minnesota will surpass that number. So check back with me at the end of the night to see if my prediction is correct.”
In fact, the event raised just over $700,000 for the evening. “I think it’s great,” said Lomax. “Seven hundred thousand now, and the next time it will be over $1,000,000.”
Two “masked awards” were presented during dinner to acknowledge those who work to support the success of Black students. The first to Dr. Marcia Halvorsen, a St. Paul native and emerita professor of economics at University of Redlands. Halvorsen is a former faculty member of Spelman College, joining the college after first asking the founder of the Children’s Defense Fund, Marian Wright Edelman, what she could do to help the Civil Rights Movement. Edelman suggested that she teach at a historically black college or university (HBCU).
“I was terrified when I first arrived at Spelman College,” said Halvorsen, “because I didn’t know anything about Black people or Black culture at that time.”
In spite of rejection from her family for making the decision to teach at an HBCU, and the initial mistrust and additional rejection from the Spelman College students, Halverson shared her story about overcoming her fears and continuing to teach at Spelman from 1964 to 1975. She established the college’s first major program in economics.
Eric and Dr. Ella Mahmoud also received a masked award for their dedication and support of UNCF’s work. Eric Mahmoud is president and CEO of the Harvest Network of Schools; and Dr. Ella Mahmoud is the founder of Seed, Inc. and executive director of Seed Academy.
After the awards, the auction began and was so successful that a few items were purchased over and beyond their value in support of the cause. One gentleman won a $500 Target gift card and then donated it back to support UNCF. The evening was topped off with music from DJ Sxooba, which quickly filled the ballroom dance floor.
The UNCF Twin Cities office is located at 1201 Marquette Avenue, # 300 Minneapolis, MN 55403. For more information about being an UNCF volunteer or making a donation, call 612-338-5742.
James L. Stroud, Jr. welcomes reader responses to email@example.com.
James L. Stroud, Jr. is a contributing writer and photographer at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.