HBCU Brand Partners — HBCU stands for historically black colleges and universities — is Sheryl Wesley’s brainchild, and Legacy Week is her baby.
For the past year, Ms. Wesley has been dedicated to organizing HBCU Brand Partners’ first annual Vineyard Legacy Week. “A lot of people are coming to Martha’s Vineyard for the first time because of this HBCU event,” she said.
This event series is Ms. Wesley’s way to honor HBCU schools. In an interview with the Times, Ms. Wesley said, “Right now, I feel like [HBCUs are] under attack. We’ve been given promises from the White House about allocating funds, and we’re at the bottom end of receiving those. It’s been that way for many years.”
Ms. Wesley, a Howard graduate from the class of 1996, has worked diligently in cooperation with the alumni associations for 16 HBCU schools and countless Island businesses to put on this week of events.
All HBCU alumni are invited and encouraged to attend Legacy Week events. Ms. Wesley has dedicated an event to each of the following historically black schools: Clark Atlanta University, Cheyney University, Fisk University, Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University, Grambling State University, Hampton University, Howard University, Morehouse College, Norfolk University, North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, Oakwood University, Spelman College, Tuskegee University, Virginia Union University, Winston Salem State University, and Xavier University.
The week will kick off next Tuesday, July 25, with an opening reception at the Island Bar and Grill. Executive director of the Chamber of Commerce Nancy Gardella will lead a toast with the Legacy Week signature cocktail, and Richard Taylor will be selling and signing his newly published book, “Martha’s Vineyard: Race, Property and the Power of Place.”
The six-day string of events includes a mixture of Ms. Wesley’s specially coordinated events and classic Vineyard experiences. Among other things, guests are invited to a golf tournament at Mink Meadows on Wednesday (preregistration only), a Black Magic party at the Loft, meditation in Memesha, and an African-American tour. Other meet-ups are less formal, such as a gathering at Back Door Donuts, and an evening at Inkwell Beach. Ms. Wesley’s intent for this series is to encourage alumni to come together for a relaxing, enjoyable experience on the Vineyard, meanwhile helping to raise funds for HBCUs.
The idea for the organization came to Ms. Wesley after she chaired Bison on the Vineyard, Howard University’s signature fundraising event. After organizing that event for two years, one of Ms. Wesley’s co-workers came to her last summer and suggested she create an event for all HBCUs. She said, “I formulated [Legacy Week] around what I did for Bison on the Vineyard, with a special layer.”