Black Awareness Association members Sherry Patterson, Michelle Monts and Claudia Paige sat at Paige's kitchen table earlier this week, cracking jokes and hot-gluing together Marti Gras masks for this weekend's Blue and Black Ball, the final event of Black History Month in Juneau.
"I got to figure out that glue gun," said Monts, looking sideways at the plastic gun in one hand, holding sparkling ribbon in the other.
"Uh-oh, people, watch out," teased Patterson.
After a month of black history exhibits, entertainment, speakers, song, prayer and feasts of sweet potatoes, ribs and collard greens, the Blue and Black Ball will be the month's grand finale, according to organizers. The ball will be held at 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 28, at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Hall.
The event will include a cash bar and dinner. Thunder Mountain Big Band will play, along with DJ Andy and DJ Juan. Proceeds go to the Black Awareness Association.
Organizers called the event a "Blue and Black Ball" because of the dress code: denim and leather.
"When we started this, the guys didn't want to dress up," Paige said.
This year, a Mardi Gras theme was added because so many Black Awareness Association members are from Louisiana. The menu will be Cajun.
The women said all of the Black History Month events have been well-attended this year. They were especially impressed with the Rev. Lester Monts, Michelle Monts' brother-in-law, who spoke Saturday, Feb. 15, about the role music plays in black culture.
Patterson and Monts said they were surprised to see that Monts' lecture captivated their teenage sons.
"My son was like, 'I want to finish my application to Morehouse,' " Michelle Monts said. Morehouse is a historically black college for men in Georgia.
"You could just see the pride coming up in them," Patterson agreed.
The proceeds from the ball will go to support next year's Black History Month events. The women also plan to draft a letter to the Juneau School District to encourage some Black History Month education in February.
"(Our history) is not taught here, " Paige said. "All of our kids are a product of their environment, and it's white. They don't know about blackness."
Patterson added that educating youths about their heritage is one of the main aims of the month.
"It makes all the work worth it," Patterson said.
Tickets to the ball are $15 for a single and $25 for a couple and are available from Juneau Black Awareness Association members or by calling Michelle Monts at 790-2685.
Julia O'Malley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.