In 2023, the University of California, Riverside’s (UCR) Black Alumni Chapter (BAC) met a fundraising goal and established a scholarship fund for current students. In two years, they were able to raise enough money to establish their endowment fund, making over $50,000. In April of 2023, the Black Alumni Chapter Endowed Scholarship was finalized.

Keona Henderson, the past Black Alumni Chapter (BAC) president from 2019 to 2023, explains how the creation of the fund was spurred to “… help ease the concern of college affordability for African and African-American students at UCR.” When she had first come into the chapter as secretary to the previous president in 2018, there had been “conversations about the issue of [the] lack of funding.” She recalls how “our scholars were always reaching out to us requesting funds for things that they needed, programs, conferences, grad school applications, [and] general relief.”

Courtesy of Robert Bailey BAC Historian

So when former BAC President Henderson started her term, she along with Dr. Jamal Myrick, who was starting his term as Interim Director of African Student Programs (ASP), began to formulate a plan for what they could do to assist their scholars. Former BAC President Henderson affirmed “We said we’re gonna set out to reach this goal, envision what everything could be and reach for the stars. And we were able to achieve it.”

There were a handful of hurdles that the BAC had to overcome in order to establish the fund. Current BAC president, Marvel Johnson, recollects how when she had joined the chapter, the BAC were in the midst of planning their first Inaugural Scholarship Gala. They had planned the gala to occur in April of 2020, but were set back due to the emergence of Covid-19 and quarantine.

Former BAC President Henderson shares how it felt as if the gala “was ripped from us. There was a global pandemic happening, so there was nothing we could do about it. We cared about the safety of others. And at the same time, it felt like everything we had worked so hard for was gone.” She further explains how the pandemic was an interesting time to pursue fundraising efforts and that “everyone was suffering, and everybody was isolated. The money was low. Mental health was at an all time low. There were restrictions. How are we to ask people to donate money when everybody is dealing with a pandemic?”

The first thing that the BAC did amidst the pandemic was to postpone the gala. In the meantime, they held some virtual fundraisers and began to strategize on how to keep their alumni network and scholars engaged. Former BAC President Henderson recalled how during the first 90 minutes of their virtual fundraiser, they had managed to raise $3,900. Current BAC President Johnson adds on, reminiscing how they also held their “[Black Organization Leaders Development Program], virtual mentorship, so we can meet with scholars one-on-one virtually, or groups online. We didn’t let the pandemic stop us.”

Dr. Myrick explains how during this time, “both Black Alumni Chapter [and] African Student Programs never really stopped working. Like Marvel said, there were still programs happening, we were still engaging. I would say that was a testament to what a lot of the Ethnic and Gender centers do.”

Despite the uncertainty of day-to-day life in the pandemic, the BAC and ASP held on. Former BAC President Henderson illustrated “Good seeds had been planted, and it was going to snowball in a huge way that was going to change the trajectory of our history, our legacy, the lives of the scholarship recipients in our community … We called in favors from our alumni network, our community, people we went to school with for help mentoring our scholars and providing resources.”

One of the values that both the BAC and ASP prioritize is collaboration. Dr. Myrick shares how “we would share our updates and send out our quarterly reports … within the community here in ASP and our black scholars” in order to maintain a connection. He explains how he feels it is “important that all our stakeholders have a stake and are aware of what our scholars are doing” and that they want “folks [to be] aware of what’s happening” and to “get engaged.”

Current-BAC President Johnson explains that “our scholars really needed support. Alumni were willing to come together with our scholars to give time and talent … We had alumni who came back to campus when it was safe to do so in person, [and some] were meeting virtually to lead or mentor scholars or connect them to their next professional opportunity, whether it be an internship or an actual job.”

With the establishment of the fund, the BAC and ASP have a handful of plans of what they plan on using them for. Dr. Myrick builds off of previous explanations on how they want scholars to have their basic needs met, and that the fund can also be used for “scholarships, grants, if [students] are not able to pay rent.” Other plans for the fund are to use it to generate  “some transformative experiences. Whether it’s going to professional conferences … like a leadership development conference or even our Alternative Break experience.” 

The reason why they do all this, as Current-BAC President Johnson explains, is because “it’s a wonderful [experience] to be able to award our scholars who have served in leadership positions in the black community … We just want to see how people are making an impact in the community … That’s what we really care about, helping to preserve black brilliance that’s on campus.”

The BAC were finally able to host their gala in November of 2022. Former BAC President Johnson reminisces on how “it was unreal. A lot of people didn’t think we could not just successfully raise money, they [also] didn’t think we could have a successful event … We had the entire room full. We had held the gala at the Alumni Visitor Center on campus. The tickets were basically sold out. We had Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Brian Haynes speak, we had three of our brilliant Black Alumni receiving an award for preserving black brilliance. It was a wonderful event, and we did [reach our goal] of $15,000 in sponsorships during the event.”

The gala was explained to be more of a three day event. The day prior, alumni and scholars over the age of 21 were able to go to a winery and enjoy themselves. The day of the gala was spent celebrating “preserving black brilliance.” And the day after, a scholar shared a documentary which they had created, now housed in the archives of Rivera’s fourth floor.

As of now, current-BAC President Johnson explains that “we’ve given 10 scholarships. Black scholars have been supported via the Summer Bridge experience. We’re expecting to open another Black Alumni Scholarship application cycle.” The contributions made to the fund go to help maintain “unity and community on campus at UCR. Any questions you can email me at”

Dr. Myrick also encourages people who are looking to get involved in the program. If anyone is interested in “support[ing] sponsors, or giv[ing] my scholars internship jobs, or maybe grant money, [or] in getting tap[ped] with African Student Programs … All they need to do is reach out to me by email address at And I’m always open to collaborating as long as it is for the benefit of my scholars.”

Former BAC President Henderson ends by stating “I encourage people to give their time, talent, and treasure to our scholars because they really need it. They are deserving of it. And to reach out to Black Alumni Chapter and African Student Programs. We thank you in advance.”

The next UCR Black Alumni Chapter Scholarship Gala is planned for Feb. of 2024.