14 Apr 2023

SAU Named Among the Top HBCUs to Receive Cash Award from The Big Payback Reparations Tour and Debate

Photo Credit: Kadain Roper

Saint Augustine’s University (SAU) was recently named among four of the ten HBCUs in North Carolina to make The Big Payback’s Top Honors list. The university received the recognition just weeks after hosting a conversation and student-led debate around reparations for Black Americans inspired by the PBS documentary “The Big Payback,” co-directed by Erika Alexander and Whitney Dow, on March 21st.

“I wish to thank Dr. Evans, along with the faculty and students in the Arts & Communications Department, for lending their creative talents and voice to the topic of Reparations. The Big Payback Tour models the community engagement necessary to develop our students into leaders prepared to provide solutions in today’s world,” said SAU President Dr. Christine Johnson McPhail. “Furthermore, receiving this honor elevates all HBCUs’ significant role in the social justice conversation.”

The Big Payback Top Honors list also includes a cash award to four of the ten HBCUs in North Carolina that stood out during the tour. In addition, SAU received a cash award of $1,500 to use in any area the university sees fit.

“SAU is very proud and honored to be a recipient of The Big Payback Honors. We loved the Big Payback experience,” said SAU chair of the Department of Arts and Communications, Dr. Kaye Celeste Evans, who also served as the advisor of the performative debate team. “We will end our semester with a Big Payback exhibit in our Art Gallery. Our goal is to continue the conversation and work towards community action.”

SAU students from various majors, primarily from the Arts and Communications Department (Film, Music, Theatre, Visual Arts, and Media Communications), presented the performative debate. The production combined visual and performing arts elements, depicting the pros and cons of reparations while interweaving the history of Blacks in the United States. In addition, the SAU Reader’s Theatre Troupe performed while images that relate to reparations and the Black experience were in the background.

The cast of students and faculty who participated in the SAU performative debate is as follows:

Reader’s Theatre Performers

  • Steve Jones, Senior, Theatre Major
  • Zaria Jones, Sophomore, Theatre Major
  • Carlos Rowell, Junior, Theatre Major
  • Miles Beasley, Junior, Communications Major
  • Mr. George Jack, Associate Professor of Theatre
  • Dr. Kaye Celeste Evans, Chair, Arts and Communications Department

Multimedia and Visual Artists Component  

  • Imani Cosby, Sophomore, Visual Arts Major
  • Nahala Moore, Sophomore, Visual Arts Major
  • Bronte Weatherford, Sophomore, Visual Arts Major
  • Raven Rogers, Senior, Visual Arts Major
  • Kyrasani Mitchell, Junior, Visual Arts Major
  • Ms. Linda Dallas, Assistant Professor of Visual Arts
  • Ms. Janet Gustafson, Associate Professor of Film, Video Editing Specialist/Equipment Coordinator, Department of Media & Communications

Photo Credit: Raven Rogers

“Saint Augustine’s put it down!! Performing a multi-layered, cultural theater presentation debate, through spoken word/music and outstanding storytelling, they cleverly embedded a pro/con debate inside of a live action play with a filmed, multimedia component,” said Alexander. “St. Aug was bolstered, and we were greeted, by their fantastic Drumline. The entire event was professionally filmed by their communications department for archival and historic preservation. Also an activist hub, the campus attracted significant student attendance and community participation.”

Other winners included Johnson C. Smith University (Top Super Big Payback Honors) as well as North Carolina A&T University (The Big Big Payback Honors), and Shaw University (The Big Payback Honors).

“All eight participating North Carolina HBCUs made American history, believe it,” said Alexander. “You’ve changed the game, by taking on the topic of reparations for Black Americans and creating these historic HBCU debates.”

Click here to watch a replay of the performative reparations debate at SAU.