Afrikan-American Affairs

Texas Gospel Fellowship performs a dance routine at the Barbara Jordan statue rededication in the FAC Tuesday evening. The ceremony was the statue’s first rededication since its erection five years ago. 

Photo Credit: Shelby Tauber | Daily Texan Staff

The Delta Sigma Theta Sorority and Afrikan-American Affairs, a UT student organization, hosted a rededication ceremony for the statue of former Congresswoman and UT faculty member Barbara Jordan.

The evening not only marked the rededication of Jordan’s statue, but also the centennial of the sorority’s founding. Jordan pledged to Delta Sigma Theta as an undergraduate at Texas Southern University.

Jordan’s memorial, located at the intersection of 24th Street and Whitis Avenue, is the only statue of a woman on the UT campus. The rededication was the statue’s first since its erection five years ago. Although the ceremony was originally scheduled to take place in front of the outdoor statue, the event was moved into the Flawn Academic Center because of rain.

Jordan was the first black woman elected to the Texas Senate and first black woman from the South to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives. She delivered the keynote address at the 1976 Democratic National Convention.

The rededication program featured several prominent speakers, such as President William Powers Jr., Student Body President Thor Lund, state Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas, and Gregory Vincent, vice president for the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement.

Each of the speakers lauded Jordan’s leadership ability and eloquence while calling for a renewal of her vision of equality and justice.

“Barbara Jordan would want us to rededicate ourselves to the work she did,” Powers said. “We must continue to fight for equality for all through higher education.” 

In addition to speeches, performances by the Innervisions Gospel Choir and the Texas Gospel Fellowship commemorated Jordan’s life and legacy. 

Alexius Thomas, president of Delta Sigma Theta’s Epsilon Beta chapter, announced the winner of a scholarship from the Barbara Jordan Freedom Foundation. Thomas said the sorority remains committed to Jordan’s mission.

“All of our programs focus on education and political issues, which is what Barbara Jordan would want,” Thomas said. 

Father and son Jason and Jayren Young, 6, enjoy refreshments and paintings in an African-American art gallery located in Jester Center during Black Family Day, an event hosted by Afrikan American Affairs that invited families to enjoy music, dance performances and tours of the gallery and Malcolm X Lounge.

Photo Credit: Danielle Villasana | Daily Texan Staff

African-American parents sometimes are concerned when their son or daughter arrives on the Forty Acres because the black population is so small, said Choquette Hamilton, director of the Multicultural Engagement Center.

Hamilton and UT faculty spent Saturday afternoon visiting with families of students at Black Family Day, an event planned to coincide with UT’s parents’ weekend by Afrikan-American Affairs, an organization run by seven UT students to promote unity within the African-American community at the University.

“I think this is an opportunity for parents to see there is a community on our campus for their son or daughter given the population is so small,” Hamilton said.

Hamilton, an education administration graduate student, said connecting with other African-American students can be a challenge at UT because only 4.3 percent of the student population is African-American.

“For some of our black students, they can go days without seeing another black student,” Hamilton said.

Black Family Day, which included musical and dance performances, tours of the Malcolm X Lounge, a gallery of African-American influenced art, and interaction with African-American faculty, is one of many ways the Afrikan American Affairs organization promotes the community during the year, said Rachel Pennington-Hill, co-director of operations for the group.

“Black culture just has a history of being more united,” Pennington-Hill said. “Maybe because of our history and because that’s embedded in our culture, we do things like family reunions, and all of these types of other events that emphasize the importance of family.”

Pennington-Hill, a finance sophomore, said Afrikan-American Affairs wanted to use family weekend to show parents what UT can offer their children.

“We really wanted to show parents that UT is a place that your child can learn and can play and can have a sense of family away from you,” Pennington-Hill said. “It’s to kind of put them at ease that there’s not no one there for their children.”

Biology freshman Raven Pierre said she got accustomed to being a part of a small minority presence from her high school experience but appreciates events on campus that help connect the African-American community.

“There’s a small black community on campus, so for us to have an event for our small community is really cool,” Pierre said. “My high school was a lot like UT, small black community, small Latino community, so it wasn’t that different from UT, but I do appreciate having the event.”

Pierre’s mother, Dianthia Hodges of Caldwell, also said she appreciated the Black Family Day Event.

“It helps knowing that there are other African-American students they can actually communicate with if they have problems knowing that they come from a similar background,” Hodges said.

Hodges said her favorite part of Family Weekend was something all parents got to experience — spending two days learning about campus, student organizations and meeting other parents.

“It helped becoming more familiar with the campus layout, in relation to where she lived and where her classes are,”
Hodges said.

Printed on Monday, October 24, 2011 as: Group seeks to connect small black community