Black History Month Kickoff: A Time to Reflect and Continue the Narrative


Brionne Rhodes wows the audience with her expressive mime performance. Photo by Lillian Crane

Lillian Crane, Photographer

On Wednesday, Feb. 1, the office of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DEIB) Committee hosted the 2023 Black History Month Kickoff. The event invited both the TAMU-CC and Coastal Bend communities to celebrate with guest speakers, entertainment, Black-owned businesses, and delicious food.

The event began with mingling between guests from all backgrounds in the Anchor Ballroom. This also gave everyone plenty of time to explore some of the various shopping opportunities, including Black-owned businesses in the community that sold art, jewelry, candles, and baked goods. 

Vendor displaying artwork at table
Oscar Wheat shows off his amazing artwork for sale at the Black History Month Kickoff. Photo by Lillian Crane
Different vendor selling jewelry at table
Vanessa Richardson smiles as she helps a guest at the table for her small business. Photo by Lillian Crane
Different vendor packing basked good for customer
Renita Newton happily packs up a baked good for a customer. Photo by Lillian Crane

Once everyone got a chance to get seated, Dr. Clarenda Phillips, Provost & Vice President of Academic Affairs, gave a passionate welcome to the attendees. “So I’m supposed to deliver a welcome this evening in honor of Black History Month. But what I want to deliver is a call to action.” 

Phillips reflects on the past and progress of the month’s celebration since being signed into law back in 1986. She stressed that there is still more to be done for the African-American community and that there is more to learn about in order to improve the lives and well-being of African-Americans. “Let’s not celebrate Black History Month or any other month just to check a box,” she addressed.

Dr. Philips performing speech at podium
Dr. Clarenda Phillips, Provost & VP of Academic Affairs, gives a passionate welcome and call to action to the audience at the beginning of the Black History Month Kickoff. Photo by Lillian Crane

After Phillips concluded her speech, Jordan Baylor, an admissions counselor at TAMU-CC, took to the stage. Baylor recounted his experience as a first-generation college student from a single-parent household. He tells the audience how he knew he wanted to pursue higher education and emphasized the support his mother gave him going into college, but he also expressed his drive and passion for going as well. “There has been too much history of Black Americans, Black young men, not attending institutions of higher education and successfully completing a degree plan, let alone graduating with a degree, and so I knew that I had something to do.” Representation for Black students to feel welcomed at the university was a passion for Baylor, who continued to bring awareness to the absence of that reflection. “I wanted to be a part of an initiative to bring students of color, especially Black students onto a university campus.”

The kickoff also showcased a lineup of diverse entertainment. Dr. Rossy Lima, Assistant Professor of Translation, read her poem “Many Islands.” Lima wanted to highlight that Black people are part of Latinx history and to encourage the community to be proud of their Black heritage as well. After the poetry reading, Brionne Rhodes, a performer at the kickoff, gave an expressive mime performance before dinner was served. Trap House Kitchen, a Black-owned soul food restaurant, catered for the event with comfort foods like macaroni and cheese, cornbread, corn on the cob, and more while Ree’s Sweets and Savories, another local business, served peach cobbler for dessert.

Performer miming on stage
Brionne Rhodes wows the audience with her expressive mime performance. Photo by Lillian Crane

TAMU-CC students took time to reflect on what the celebration of this month means to them. Jazmeyne Evans, a junior in healthcare administration, expressed, “Black history is everything. Our past, present, and future. The good and the bad. It’s my entire existence.” Evans detailed the many aspects in which Black History Month impacts their identity from the food they eat to how they interact with music and fashion. “I love being Black. I love not only sharing my culture with others but finding a community no matter where I go and feeling like I’m home.” 

Love Dominique, a sophomore in Marine biology, explains “I enjoy hearing other people’s stories. It helps me grow as a person because some people have probably experienced like way worse things than me, and it’s honestly a reality check for me because sometimes you can forget what other people go through, but because of that I can help other people grow and share other experiences with other people.”

Dr. Le’Trice Donaldson, Assistant Professor of History is helping to organize the Black Studies minor being introduced by TAMU-CC next Fall. “The impact I’m hoping for will be to provide new educational opportunities for our students here as well as helping them not only learn about Black history but to learn about themselves,” Donaldson states. The curriculum is aiming to have an introductory course as well as classes in sociology, linguistics, and more. Donaldson emphasized the point that Black History isn’t just a subject we learn in school, it is an everyday part of people’s lives.

TAMU-CC will have a few more events to celebrate Black History Month. This will include Michelle Mayne-Graves Lifeline Quartet on Feb. 17, a screening event of Talking Black in America, and the 2023 Spirit of MLK Exemplary Awards on Feb. 27, as well as ongoing events at the Mary and Jeff Bell Library until the end of the month.