Congressman Keith Ellison, musician Debbie Duncan headline third annual Black History Month Heritage Gala Feb. 21 St. Thomas Newsroom February 3, 2009 Congressman Keith Ellison, musician Debbie Duncan headline third annual Black History Month Heritage Gala Feb. 21 The Office of Institutional Diversity will host the third annual Black History Month Heritage Gala on Saturday, Feb. 21. The event will be held in Schulze Grand Atrium at the St. Thomas Law School in downtown Minneapolis.A reception will open the gala at 5 p.m. Dinner will be served at 6 p.m. followed by a musical performance with legendary jazz/blues artist Debbie Duncan, and the keynote address, delivered by U. S. Congressman Keith Ellison. This year’s theme is "Pilgrimage to the Promised Land: A Past to Cherish. A Promise to Fulfill." With the recent historical inauguration of Barack Obama as the first African American president of the United States, Congressman Ellison will deliver an inspiring message about our current realities, hope and change that is coming. Debbie Duncan will soothe souls with her impeccable artistry, using blended songs from the African American music tradition. The gala is open to the public. We recognize the unstable economic challenges and, therefore, have reduced ticket prices for this year’s gala. Tickets for general admission are $35 per person, and student admission is $15. (Students will be asked to show their college or university ID cards.) Corporate-group tables, which seat eight, are available for $275. Paid admissions include reception, dinner and entertainment. A limited number of tickets and tables are available.Funds raised from the Black History Month Heritage Gala benefit other important diversity priorities, programs and initiatives in the Office of Institutional Diversity. To purchase tickets: (1) download, complete and mail ticket order form with check or money order, or (2) use direct online payment with credit card. Please note that we will hold all tickets for you at the Law School Gala registration table. If you choose to mail the ticket order form you must do so by Monday, Feb. 16. For mail ticket orders, go to the OID Web site to download ticket order form. Complete this form and forward with check or money order payment to the address listed on the form. Checks and money orders should be made payable to the University of St. Thomas. (Write OID BHMG in the memo section of the check or money order.) If you choose the direct online payment method you are encouraged to purchase by Wednesday, Feb. 18. We accept Visa, Master Card, and Discover. (We do not accept American Express.) For online ticket purchases, go to the OID Web site and click purchase tickets online. Please complete all relevant steps. This is an official university-authorized merchant site and this process safeguards your confidential information. Rep. Keith EllisonKeith Ellison, 43, is a father, husband, attorney, former Minnesota state legislator, community advocate – and now a first-term U.S. congressman. Originally from Detroit, Ellison earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Wayne State University in economics in 1987. He then moved to Minnesota to attend the University of Minnesota Law School, where he earned his doctor of juris prudence degree in 1990.Ellison, his wife, Kim, and their four children have lived on the Minneapolis Northside for the past 18 years. Ellison is a Democrat and serves on the Financial Services and Foreign Affairs committees. He is the first African American elected to Congress from Minnesota, as well as the first Muslim ever to serve in Congress. Ellison’s philosophy is one of "generosity and inclusiveness." His experience as a community activist and his message of inclusiveness through democratic participation resonates throughout the Fifth District and Minnesota. His priorities in Congress are promoting peace, prosperity for working families, and promoting civil and human rights. Debbie Duncan Debbie Duncan may be considered the Upper Midwest’s "best-kept-musical secret," but she has become a local legend and treasure in her home of Minneapolis. Her personality, vitality, and versatility all contribute to that fact. She is a terrific entertainer, and this is certainly part of her appeal. Duncan was raised in Detroit by parents steeped in jazz, and was surrounded by the vibrant sound of Motown that was sweeping the country. She also has a strong love of folk, classical, and gospel music. The combination of these influences has given her the ability to blur the lines between jazz and popular music, and to sing with a rare level of emotional conviction that draws the audience into the heart of a song. Duncan hones her skills through years of experience. She studied classical voice for 14 years, including four years at Wayne State University. In Detroit she recorded back-up vocals for Mitch Ryder and Bob Seger. She then spent several years in the Los Angeles music scene recording back-up vocals for various artists and performing with her own jazz groups in popular settings. She has sung with Bobby Watson and Horizon, Roy Hargrove, Bobby Lyle, Jack McDuff, John Hendricks, Mark Murphy, Chicago’s legendary Von Freeman, Dee Dee Bridgewater and Rebecca Paris. For more information please call me (651) 962-6951, or Eliel Gebru, graduate diversity assistant, (651) 962-6178. I encourage you to visit www.stthomas.edu/diversity for more information about the Black History Month Heritage Gala and the Office of Institutional Diversity.