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Student-led Ivey event celebrates Black culture and diversity

Mar 3, 2023

Black Culture event

The student organizers: Top, l-r: Ryan Cunningham, Christopher Ojo, Spencer Gibbs, Cordlyne Nwankwo. Bottom, l-r: Tolani Akinyosoye, Tobi Ayodele, Orlando Scarlett.

Rachel Colucci is an HBA '23 candidate and a Communications Intern at Ivey. She attended Ivey's first-ever Black Culture Celebration, which was hosted by the Black Students at Ivey Collective on February 28, and shares details on the event and key takeaways from the student organizers. 

More than 100 Ivey and Western students, visiting exchange students, and alumni came together to celebrate Black culture and the diversity within the university’s Black community at the first-ever Black Culture Celebration at Ivey on February 28.

The student-led event at Ivey’s Grand Hall featured Caribbean and Nigerian food from local restaurants, Caribbean Stove and Vas Cuisine; a DJ; and performances from student poets, Fauzia Agbonhin and Ivey's own Cordlyne Nwankwo, an HBA ’24 candidate. It was hosted by the Black Students at Ivey Collective (BSIC), a group that supports Black students across Ivey’s programs, and was one of Ivey and Western’s Black History Month initiatives.

Ryan Cunningham, an HBA1 student who co-organized the event with a team of fellow HBA students, said the goal was to showcase Black culture through the students’ perspective as well as the diversity within Black culture.

“We wanted to share culture in a positive light within the Ivey community,” he said. “We recognized that it would be impossible to showcase all the diversity within Black culture, but we wanted to emphasize diversity and connections shared between cultures.”

Empowering students to share their perspectives

The initiative also gave Ivey students a chance to take on leadership roles in creating the event. The student organizing team led all aspects, from planning to execution, with support from Ivey faculty and other students. In addition to Cunningham, the organizing team included Tobi Ayodele, Cordlyne Nwankwo, Tolani Akinyosoye, Spencer Gibbs, Christopher Ojo, and Orlando Scarlett. See more on their responsibilities below.

The organizers said the event highlighted the need for more experiences to be told from the student perspective and they hope it will serve as an example for prospective students and other schools to co-develop similar initiatives and events.

“Black history events tend to be developed through the lens of what the institution sees, however, Ivey gave us the opportunity to celebrate our culture in a way that we believe was perfect,” the group said. “We hope that schools continue to give students the resources to celebrate their cultures and students feel empowered to take leadership.”

The organizing team also hopes that the event attendees will apply this learning to celebrate Black culture and diversity in communities beyond Ivey.

Meet the organizing team

Tolani Akinyosoye: Tolani Akinyosoye was one of the initial members to plan and coordinate this event. She led communication with performers, and oversaw details regarding logistics and relations with event flow and food vendors. 

I’m happy to be a part of making this event the first of its kind, and hope this continues to be a tradition for Ivey going forward!”
– Tolani Akinyosoye

Tobi Ayodele:  Responsible for logistics, Tobi Ayodele has been involved in creating the event since the beginning. By planning the layout, collaborating with the facilities team, and securing logistical elements such as parking and equipment rentals, she was instrumental in bringing the event to life. She also designed a website to assist students seeking more information.

Ryan Cunningham: Ryan Cunningham was involved in the initial stages of planning the event as well as organizing all the parties that were involved. He helped with promotion as well as managing the budget.

It was truly amazing to be part of creating something that will be the first of its kind and I hope we can set the ground work for future students to follow.”
– Ryan Cunningham

Spencer Gibbs: Spencer Gibbs was directly responsible for handling entertainment. He prospected different types of entertainment, found prices, and then handled relationships with the individuals. 

Cordlyne (Cord) Nwankwo: Cordlyne Nwankwo was one of the original members to plan this event. He was responsible for coordinating the entertainment and food, and he recited poetry at the event.  

Christopher Ojo: Christopher Ojo was responsible for identifying and approaching local businesses to establish partnerships with the event, as well as managing the relationships with said businesses.

Organizing this event has been a truly enriching experience, and I feel so grateful to be able to play a role in celebrating and promoting Black culture in our community. My hope is that this event will inspire others to recognize and appreciate the value of diversity, and to work towards creating a welcoming and inclusive space for all cultures within their communities.”
– Christopher Ojo

Orlando Scarlett: Orlando Scarlett helped with promoting the event on social media and was responsible for creating the beautiful graphics for the event.

Ivey's first-ever Black Culture Celebration