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Black and White Ball brings old friends together

Sunday, August 4, 2013 | 6:00 a.m. CDT
About 150 people gathered at the Hilton Hotel on Saturday for the Black and White Ball, the main event of a weekend full of festivities intended to reunite black graduates of Columbia's public schools.

COLUMBIA — On Saturday morning, Ceizon Malveaux, 3, arrived at the Armory Sports and Recreation Center parking lot dressed as a train conductor. Three of his cousins joined him in the same attire.

Each of them sat inside separate rain barrels that had each been cut out to look like cars on a train. The train cars were pulled by a lawn mower driven by their grandfather, Jim Turner. All five of them composed a float called The Turner Junction.

The Turner Junction was just one of the 20 floats at the Black and White Ball Parade on Saturday morning. The parade was one of three events that took place during first day of the Black and White Ball weekend. This weekend is the 19th gathering, which occurs every three years.

The Black and White Ball reunites black alumni of Columbia Public Schools. The event is celebrated to maintain the city's tight-knit African-American community. Alumni come from all over the country. The parade was just the start of a full weekend of festivities.

Parade

Each float had its own theme. Some of them celebrated class reunions and others — like the Turner Junction — celebrated family reunions.

Next to the Turner float stood Terry Beverly, 62, who formed part of the Douglass High School class of 1969 float. He currently lives in Grand Rapids, Mich. and traveled to Columbia for the Black and White Ball events. 

"I come for every Ball, every three years," Beverly said. "It's a 10-hour drive but it's worth it."

As the parade floats went down Park Street, residents watched from their houses and waved. Music played from speakers on the floats, and as some danced, others threw candy at observers.

The Turners could be heard chanting, "We are the Turners, the mighty, mighty Turners."

The parade ended at Douglass Park where the floats were parked, and around 100 people gathered after the event, hugging each other with excitement as they caught up.

As the song "Got To Be Real" by Cheryl Lynn played on speakers, Brenda Washington Hartley, from the Douglass High School class of 1965, joined her classmates dancing beside her. 

"We're a tight-knit class," Washington Hartley said. "We even have a communication system set up and connect through conference calls."

Denise Tucker, 57, also took part in the festivities. She came with her brother, Raymond Linzie, 68, who was in the Douglass 1965 class. 

"When we were kids this was all houses and look at it now full of people," she said. "My cousin came from Miami just for this."

All-star basketball

A few hours after the parade, with people still hanging around the park, about 50 people gathered on the bleachers for the new event on the Black and White Ball itinerary: an all-star basketball game that consisted of players from ages 12 to 16.

Rico Miller, 41, a referee for the game, blew his whistle at around 3 p.m. Ten players, half in white and half in red, took to the court around him. 

As the game started, family members started cheering. "Nice pass" and "Get it" could be heard coming from the bleachers.

Mark Tillman, 16, played for the white team and wore a No. 7 on his t-shirt. As he dribbled the ball, his mother, Evelyn Tillman, cheered from the bleachers.

"I come every time he plays," Tillman said. "I don't miss it."

Mark's sister, Mariah Tillman, 16, who goes to Rock Bridge, was cheering for her brother. She was joined by her friend and Mark's girlfriend, Kiara Baker.

Both come to the basketball court frequently to watch their siblings and friends play.

De-ante's mother, Vodica Wiltz, came to support her son De-ante Smith, 16, who wore a No. 6 and played for the opposite team. She was joined by her husband, Johnny Nash. 

"I'm just always here," Wiltz said. "You got to support them."

As the white team scored and won the game 54 to 51, the words "NBA status" were heard drifting from the bleachers in reaction to the victory.

Black and White Ball

At around 8 p.m Douglass High School graduates lined up at the dance floor of the Hilton Garden Inn, for the ball in the Black and White Ball. The earliest class to be represented had graduated in 1947, when Columbia's schools were still segregated. As the men and women lined up to pose for a picture, pictures of their graduation yearbooks were projected in the background. 

"We are the Douglass bulldogs, and we're still here," the announcer said over the microphone.

They all proceeded to sing the Douglass High Schoool Anthem. The nearly 150 people there responded with an applause.

As people sat down, Linda Palmer was chatting with a few friends from her childhood. Palmer flew in from Los Angeles for the ball.

"This is home to me," Palmer said. "I always come home for Black and White."

Kevin Dean also traveled great distances to make it to the ball. "I'm an international attendee, but I never miss it," he said. Dean currently lives in the Bahamas and came back to reunite with childhood friends.

As lights dimmed and the music started playing, the DJ was heard announcing, "Come out to dance, kick your shoes off and relax."

Some proceeded to take to the dance floor. Others stayed in their seats with appetizers and drinks.

"Every three years we all come to meet," said Darlene Doxley Mathis, 56, who attended Douglass until the 4th grade. "No one misses out."

Supervising editor is Elizabeth Brixey.


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