African American alumni living in Los Angeles have founded the first chapter of the EBONI Alumni Association of Emerson College.
The organization, which takes its name from the student group called EBONI (Emerson’s Black Organization with Natural Interests), is recognized as a special interest group within the Emerson College Alumni Association. Additional chapters are planned for the District of Columbia, New York, Boston, Atlanta, and Chicago.
The overarching goal of the EBONI Alumni Association is to “help Emerson invest in diversity and transform the landscape of the communications industry,” according to the group’s mission statement. The group also seeks to “establish the Emerson College legacy of ‘excellence in communications’ as a presence in the consciousness of black people nationwide” and “encourage and inspire African American participation and financial support.”
The association plans to:
- Engage the African American community of undergraduate, graduate, and EBONI alumni
- Heighten awareness of the Emerson brand to prospective students
- Develop mentorship and internship programs
- Increase awareness of the Mary Burrill Scholarship for diverse students
- Organize events that “affirm and illuminate” its mission.
The group was organized by Brent Jennings ’74, Susan Banks ’76, Leslie M. Davis ’80, Judyann Elder ’67, Stephen Farrier ’75, Marlene McCurtis ’79, Kim Swann ’81, and Daphne Valerius ’06.
Jennings traces the origins of the new association to an EBONI alumni reunion organized by Debra Jervay-Pendergrass ’73 and several others during Alumni Weekend 2003.
“We’d lost touch with Emerson over the years, and we felt it was time to reconnect,” Jennings said. “We got to know (former president) Jackie Liebergott and the folks in the Alumni Office. We learned about all the exciting stuff that was going on, and we became excited again about the College.”
In the years that followed, the group discussed diversity on campus and supported fundraising for a diversity scholarship named for Mary Burrill, Class of 1904, a renowned playwright and educator and one of Emerson’s first African American graduates.
In 2011, EBONI alumni in Los Angeles hosted a reception for President Lee Pelton and renewed their interest in supporting Emerson.
“We built up a lot of momentum back in ’03, but we dropped the ball,” said Jennings. “We were determined not to let this happen again, and that’s how the EBONI Alumni Association of Emerson College came about. It’s an idea whose time has finally come.”