Halloween has just gotten more interesting.
While a dozen or so local and touring acts play Freakfest 2007 on State Street on Saturday, Oct. 27, a classic rock colossus will perform at Monona Terrace.
That's the name of the Homecoming Reunion for the African American Alumni Association at the UW-Madison, which is holding a three day celebration town over the last weekend in October.
"It's a reunion -- we call it a family reunion -- and we're inviting everybody to come back and celebrate with us," says C.R. Wormsby, a UW alumnus who is the event manager for Badgers Then and Now and currently lives in Mobile, Ala.
"Some of us come to Homecoming every year, and we realized there is nothing to do after the game," she says, "so we decided to have a benefit concert to raise some money for scholarships."
The concert will be held in the Exhibition Hall at Monona Terrace, and will feature the current incarnation of WAR, the group that forged rock, Latin, soul, R&B, and jazz to create such iconic songs as "Low Rider" and "Why Can't We Be Friends?" Open to the public, tickets are $35 and the music is set to start at 9 p.m., with a dance scheduled to follow afterwards.
The Homecoming 2007 celebration also includes a golf tournament at Yahara Hills, a tailgate buffet before the Badgers football game against Indiana, and a Gospel brunch at Monona Terrace. The centerpiece of the weekend, along with the concert, is an awards dinner at Monona Terrace scheduled earlier that Saturday evening.
The dinner celebrates the 40th anniversary of the Five Year Program at the UW, an early project to foster diversity in the university.
"Wisconsin was one of the few schools then that really made a major effort at recruitment of black students," says Wormsby. The project provided financial assistance and tutoring for disadvantaged students.
It was launched and supported by Ruth Doyle -- the mother of current Wisconsin governor Jim Doyle -- a longtime public figure in Madison who passed away in May 2006.
Her legacy is honored in the Ruth Doyle Lifetime Achievement Award, which will given at this banquet at Monona Terrace hosted by Badgers Then and Now. The honoree is Dr. James Baugh, a longtime activist in Madison and official in both the Wisconsin and federal governments who succeeded Doyle as director of the program at the university.
Wormsby notes that Governor Doyle and UW-Madison Chancellor John D. Wiley will be attending the event, along with alumni from around the nation. "It's the place to be if you want to have a good time and help with the cause," she says.
The UW, of course, has a poor reputation for the diversity of its student body. In 2005, only some 10% of students were African-American, Hispanic, American Indian, or Asian, a situation that prompted several global employers to stop their recruitment efforts at the College of Engineering. While the university is working to change this through its "Creating Community" branding of Plan 2008 and other initiatives, alumni groups are also working to address the issue.
Badgers Then and Now has three goals:
- To increase the number of Black students at UW.
- To provide scholarships to facilitate the enrollment of Black students.
- To provide mentoring and networking opportunities between graduates and current enrollees.
"We want to make sure there is a continuous group of African American students graduating from the UW, so we wanted to contribute to a scholarship fund with the UW Foundation," explains Wormsby. "This concert is our fundraiser to make this contribution." Tickets for the event can be purchased at the Wisconsin Alumni Association offices (in the Below Alumni Center on North Lake Street and Lake Mendota) and online.
"Our goal is to increase the enrollments of blacks in the UW," says Wormsby, "because we're proud of being graduates of the university and know it provides a good education."