Celebrations before renovations

Jackie Valley

Students and faculty prepare for the future of Oscar Ritchie Hall

Memories provoked both laughter and tears Saturday at the Oscar Ritchie Gala – a tribute to Oscar Ritchie Hall before renovations begin this fall.

Sasha Parker, president of Black United Students, said about 200 students, alumni, faculty and administration members attended the open house, which included food, a jazz band, a documentary about the hall’s history and a PowerPoint presentation depicting the future of the building after its renovations.

“To a lot of black students, Oscar Ritchie Hall becomes a home to them,” she said, adding Pan-African studies professors become “second parents” to many students.

In addition, Traci Easley-Williams, a Pan-African studies and journalism and mass communication professor, said during a “faculty roast,” students from the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s gave moving tributes to professors.

“It was a lot of fun and jokes, but a lot of it became serious in the end,” she said.

Easley-Williams said the event mirrored the legacy of Oscar Ritchie Hall itself, as a “place to come and feel comfortable.”

“I think it just brought back great memories,” she said. “There are a lot of other schools that don’t have a place for Pan-African studies.”

Shanelle Smith, president of KSU-NAACP, said the gala provided students an opportunity to make one last memory in the hall before its renovation.

“A lot of us shared many memories in that building, so it was our chance to say goodbye,” she said.

Smith, Parker and Bruce Mitchell, a graduate assistant in Pan-African studies, organized the event.

After years advocating for the renovations, Easley-Williams said the audience erupted in applause when pictures of the changes to Oscar Ritchie Hall were revealed.

“I think we’re one of the last places to be renovated on campus,” she said. “But our time has come, and we’re really excited.”

Easley-Williams said Oscar Ritchie Hall will be closed next year when renovations begin, but it is expected to reopen in Fall 2008.

Contact student politics reporter Jackie Valley at [email protected].