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Black History Month Play Raises Money for Scholarships

St. Martin de Porres Society of the University of St. Thomas The St. Martin de Porres Society of the University of St. Thomas hosted the 3rd Annual Black History Month Event with a play, "The Ballad of Emmett Till," and reception held Feb. 9 at the Ensemble Theater. The Society, whose mission focuses on engaging black alumni and students, partnered with the Houston Museum of African American Culture (HMAAC) and the Ensemble Theater for the event.

The Ballad of Emmett Till by playwright Ifa Bayeza is told through contemporary prose with the infusion of jazz. The play documented the 1955 lynching of Emmett Till, who played a pivotal role in launching a movement that would change the course of the nation. It is the first production by an African-American theatre company in Houston and it was made possible by the support and efforts of HMAAC and the Ensemble Theater.

St. Martin de Porres Society President Mitchell Fontenot ’00 said the story of tragedy and triumph reminded the group of the tremendous sacrifices so many made in the struggle for equality. 

“While historical events such as these are often difficult to revisit, it is essential that we remember how it's possible to overcome the greatest of challenges to serve some greater good,” Fontenot said.

About 70 people attended the event, including UST alumni and HMAAC board members. Proceeds from the ticket sales benefited both organizations, and UST raised funds toward a St. Martin de Porres Society annual scholarship.

“The Society hopes to award the first scholarship in Fall 2012 or Spring 2013,” Fontenot said. “The event fit nicely with our mission as we seek to recruit, retain and support African-American students at the University of St. Thomas. The event also provided us an occasion to bond with fellow alumni and friends of the Society.”

HMAAC is a contemporary museum for all people, dedicated to collecting, conserving, exploring, interpreting and exhibiting the material and intellectual culture of Africans and African-Americans in the Southwest for current and future generations. The Museum will celebrate the public opening of its new building at 4807 Caroline St. on Feb. 25.
HMAAC Chief Executive Officer John Guess Jr. said the Museum welcomed collaboration with the Society and was glad to receive a response from the African-American community. “The St. Martin de Porres Society is a special group of people,” Guess said. “They’re part of the African-American culture in Houston.”
Fontenot said the UST group is optimistic about future opportunities to collaborate with HMAAC.

“The event gave us the opportunity to establish a relationship with the Houston Museum of African-American Culture, which we're excited about,” Fontenot said. “We look forward to sponsoring events that will help fund scholarships for deserving students, promote the mission of the Society and support the University's efforts to attract African-American students into the UST family.”

The mission of the Society is to maximize black alumni participation in the affairs of the University and to promote personal growth within the black student body. The Society is devoted to supporting the recruitment, retention, development and graduation of UST’s current and prospective black students in the surrounding Houston community while helping to instill a sense of pride in their alma mater.

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