Black History Month Celebrations Showcase Students, End with Big Finale

From the kickoff celebration at the beginning of February to The Big Dinner at the end, The University of Texas at Dallas’ Black History Month events were the culmination of months of work by students from 16 campus organizations.

Child learning and development senior Annette Addo-Yobo gave a powerful spoken word performance at The Big Dinner.

Black History Month activities drew hundreds of students for education, food, concerts and movies to celebrate the commemorative month. Software engineering senior Gerry Bogonko, chairman of this year’s planning committee, said the group begins meeting each fall.

“It’s very much a collaborative project,” said Bogonko, who also serves as vice president of the Black Student Alliance and a multicultural peer advocate in the Multicultural Center.

Arthur Gregg, assistant vice president for multicultural affairs and director of the Multicultural Center, said Black History Month has transitioned from being planned by staff to students since he joined the University 22 years ago. He said the focus has changed to reflect students’ interests.

“Five years ago, we didn’t have Africa Night to learn about the continent of Africa and African culture, or Habesha Night to celebrate the culture of Ethiopia and Eritrea,” Gregg said. “Students came up with those ways to highlight their histories.”

This year, the group added a panel featuring UT Dallas alumni, who discussed their journeys as college students. This year’s theme, “We the People,” commemorated 150 years since the 15th Amendment was ratified, which makes it illegal to deny a citizen the right to vote based on race.

Edlen Cowley at podium.

“You need to be thankful and leverage the opportunities in front of you. Make a difference so that years from now, you will be able to invest in young men and women sitting here.”

the Rev. Edlen Cowley BS’93, keynote speaker at The Big Dinner

The Big Dinner, an African American heritage celebration, featured keynote speaker the Rev. Edlen Cowley BS’93, senior minister at Fellowship United Methodist Church in Trophy Club, Texas. Cowley said he was excited to see how Black History Month at the University had grown since he was involved in what is now the Black Student Alliance in the 1990s.

During his address, Cowley encouraged students to become leaders of their communities and to give back once they finish their education.

“You need to be thankful and leverage the opportunities in front of you,” Cowley said. “It’s not only our right; it’s our responsibility. Make a difference so that years from now, you will be able to invest in young men and women sitting here.”

In addition to Cowley’s keynote address, The Big Dinner featured food from Sweet Georgia Brown Bar-B-Que and a spoken word performance by child learning and development senior Annette Addo-Yobo.

The organizations that contributed to Black History Month at UT Dallas included the African Student Union, Black Congress, Black Student Alliance, Habesha Student Union, Meteor Theater, National Society of Black Engineers, National Pan-Hellenic Council, Sigma Kappa Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Sigma Mu Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Tau Pi Chapter of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Tau Xi Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Sigma Lambda Gamma National Sorority, Student Counseling Center, Student Union & Activities Advisory Board, Student Wellness Center and University Recreation.

Africa Night, which celebrated African culture, history, food, fashion and dance, was one of the Black History Month events organized by UT Dallas students.

Media Contact: The Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, [email protected].