Gallaudet University officially launched its Necessity of Now (NOW) fundraising campaign during its Homecoming celebration, held October 19 to 22, 2023. Evon J. Black, ’87 & G-’96 (Photo: Caption Anywhere) The campaign commenced on Friday, October 20, with two public events: A presentation by Evon J. Black, ’87 & G-’96, associate director of the Center for Black Deaf Studies, on Louise B. Miller and her historic fight for educational justice for Black Deaf children, and a campaign kickoff party attended by several hundred people. Both events were held at the Kellogg Conference Hotel. The Kickoff NOW campaign launch party featured music by DJ Kazeem (Kazeem Babatunde, ’09), a performance by Deafinitely Dope (Matthew Maxey, E-’10) of the songs “Mama” by Boyz II Men and “I’m Blessed” by Charlie Wilson, and a stand-up show by Queen Foreverrr (Sheena Lyles, E-’07). The campaign was also the centerpiece of the annual President’s Circle Donor Reception held at the Peikoff Alumni House (Ole Jim) before the Kickoff NOW party. More than 70 donors and supporters attended the President’s Circle Donor Reception. NOW spotlights the history, culture, and achievements of Black Deaf people who continue to face barriers with educational success and employment opportunities. The campaign supports future economic equity and inclusion by funding an outdoor equitable learning space called the Louise B. Miller Pathways and Gardens: A Legacy to Black Deaf Children, student scholarships, and programming and research at the university’s Center for Black Deaf Studies (CBDS). The fundraising goal is $23 million, with $13 million designated for the Pathways and Gardens, and $10 million for student scholarships and CBDS. “We need to let the world know about Louise B. Miller and her fight for Black Deaf education. She is a ‘shero’ we need to recognize,” said Evon Black during her remarks at the Kickoff NOW party. NOW honors the enduring impact of Mrs. Miller, who led the fight for educational justice for Black Deaf children during segregation. She and fellow parents of Black Deaf children in Washington, D.C. won a civil lawsuit against the District of Columbia Board of Education for the right for Black Deaf children to attend Kendall School, their local school for the deaf located on Gallaudet’s campus. However, Black Deaf students were placed in a segregated school in an inferior building with fewer resources, known as Kendall School Division II for Negroes. It operated for two years until 1954 when the U.S. Supreme Court, in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, ruled that school segregation was illegal. Their earlier case was an important precursor for the landmark Supreme Court decision, and it also marked a watershed moment in Black Deaf history and in the American Civil Rights Movement. “We are standing on the shoulders of Mrs. Miller and the students from Kendall School Division II,” said Black as she called on the community to contribute to this important cause. “The world needs to know that Black Deaf people have contributed to the larger landscape of civil rights in America. We are creating new narratives that recognize our contributions and advancements. We are moving from sorrow to beauty, from grief and pain to resilience.” Black said that Mrs. Miller’s spirit was alive and well in the room that evening and she asked the attendees to recognize and applaud Miller’s son, Gerald, and the Kendall School Division II students who were at the party. L: Nicholas Kiego and R: President Roberta J. Cordano (Photo: Caption Anywhere) The campaign is led by the university’s first Executive Director of Institutional Advancement who is deaf, Nicholas Kiego, ’09, and a deaf-led fundraising team. Kiego showed a video montage of renderings of the forthcoming outdoor learning space. He also told attendees that the launch party was being held on the site of the former Kendall School Division II. “This campaign is inspired by a mother’s love,” Kiego said. “The outdoor learning space recognizes the Black Deaf experience, and it is going to be a large and beautiful space that will be established in the area in front of the Kellogg Conference Hotel and behind Peikoff Alumni House (Ole Jim).” Gallaudet University President Roberta J. Cordano noted that the launch of the campaign was the culmination of years of work by the university and the entire community to address equity and belonging. “Even before I started my presidency in 2016, our students had a list of demands that they wanted me to fix,” she said. “We needed to address racism and address the experiences of Black Deaf students and of Latine students. What was important to the students was that we do the right thing.” President Cordano expressed great confidence in the community’s ability to reach the $23 million fundraising goal. “We will get there because of people like you – our alumni, faculty, staff, members of the Board of Trustees, sponsors, donors, friends, and allies,” she said. To learn more about Miller’s historic fight for justice and the campaign, and to make your contribution, please visit gu.live/NOW.