First Lady Deborah Bynum poses with luncheon guests. (Photo by Charles A. Smith)

First Lady Deborah Bynum poses with luncheon guests. (Photo by Charles A. Smith/University Communications)

Mrs. Bynum and distinguished guests of the luncheon. (Photo by Charles A. Smith/University Communications)

Mrs. Bynum and distinguished guests of the inaugural scholarship luncheon. (Photo by Charles A. Smith/University Communications)

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President Bynum and First Lady Bynum pictured with luncheon guests. (Photo by Charles A. Smith/University Communications)

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On Friday, a sold-out audience, with a vested interest in the academic success of Jackson State students, joined the first lady of JSU, Deborah E. Bynum, for her inaugural scholarship luncheon at the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum.

The luncheon’s purpose was to assist with alleviating some of the financial burdens students face during their tenure at JSU.

“As first lady of JSU, it is important for me to help provide gap funding for our students. My goal for the proceeds from this luncheon is to establish merit and need-based scholarships and an endowment for our students,” Bynum said.

Using their creative talents, the university’s MADDRAMA Performance Troupe paid homage to Bynum by performing their rendition of Maya Angelou’s celebrated poem “Phenomenal Woman.”

With tears in her eyes, the First Lady shows her compassion for MADDRAMA after their epic performance of Maya Angelou's infamous poem 'Phenomenal Woman'. (Photo by Charles A. Smith/University Communications)

With tears in her eyes, the First Lady shows her compassion for MADDRAMA after their epic performance of Maya Angelou’s infamous poem ‘Phenomenal Woman’. (Photo by Charles A. Smith/University Communications)

Directly after, Maggie Wade, honorary co-chair and news anchor for WLBT, introduced the event keynote speaker, Senator Barbara Blackmon.

Blackmon’s speech correlated with this year’s homecoming theme – Thee Revolution.

Demonstrating immense passion Blackmon said, “Thee I love, are you prepared to be a revolution?”

Blackmon enthusiastically gave the crowd illustrations of revolutionary leaders such as Mohandas Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, and Shirley Chisholm whom all lobbied for fundamental change.

“Gandhi fought for Indian independence from the British rule; King protested for civil rights of all people and particularly equal treatment for blacks in America,” she said. “Malcolm X epitomized the black power philosophy and became frustrated with the non-violent movement in fear that we would lose control of our own struggle for social justice, and Shirley Chisholm advocated for all minorities while introducing more than 50 pieces of legislation championing racial and gender equality.”

She further explicated the importance of black-established businesses that would create employment opportunities for people who live in those communities.

Keynote speaker Senator Barbara Blackmon gives a passionate speech to a sold-out audience.

Keynote speaker Senator Barbara Blackmon gives a passionate speech to a sold-out audience.

“The black dollar is extremely powerful. We spend 1.1 billion dollars annually on beauty. Imagine if we were spending that amount of money within our community, imagine what we could build. Our dollar is indeed powerful,” Blackmon said.

Concluding her speech, the senator left the audience with these words, “Don’t forget where we come from Tigers. Thee Jackson State has been, is and will always be a beacon of change. As Tigers, we may bend, but we won’t break. Go forth ‘Thee I Love’ and continue to fight for thee revolution that you wish to see.”

Seemingly astounded by the enthusiastic originality of her speech and her unmatched support of JSU, the audience gave her a standing ovation.

Inauguration chair Veronica Cohen, vice president of Institutional Advancement and External Affairs, along with her co-chairs concluded the occasion by presenting first lady Bynum with a bouquet of flowers and a check in the amount of $25,576.19 for student scholarships.

The funding received by donors who support the first lady’s initiative will be matched dollar for dollar by Title III.
Co-chairs for the luncheon were Maxine Greenleaf, executive director of University Communications; David Howard, researcher/program analyst; Constance Lawson, chief development officer for Major and Planned Gifts; and Carol Woodson, director of Events and Visitor Services.

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Inaugural chair Veronica Cohen, vice president for Institutional Advancement and External Affairs along with her co-chairs presented a check to Mrs. Bynum for more than $25,000 for student scholarships. (Photo by Charles A. Smith/University Communications)