Black History Month Kickoff 2023: A Reflection

by Chloe Tilley, Associate Editor

On February 1, 2023, I attended the Black History Month kickoff in the University Center Anchor Ballroom. The event was hosted by the Office of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Belonging (DEIB) at TAMU-CC and was delivered by Mr. Jordan Baylor, the master of ceremony. 

The kickoff also included booths of local Black business owners selling their art and products. I left with a nice-smelling candle by Carmen Jade Candles called “Lover’s Lane.” There were other booths that gave informative resources, such as the Corpus Christi NAACP and YWCA. At one of these booths handled by Dr. Yndalecio Hinojosa and Dr. Sarah Salter, I learned about the new African American Studies minor TAMU-CC is offering starting next semester. (Here is a KIII news report that talks about this new minor.) 

Mr. Jordan Baylor gave his introduction to the kickoff event, which was then followed by the Black National Anthem performed by Minister Marion Chambers. I had never heard of the Black National Anthem before and it was both very touching and refreshing; The American National Anthem was written by a white slave owner, so it was invigorating to hear a song of freedom written by a Black individual. 

The Black National Anthem was then followed by a welcome and proclamation done by Dr. Clarenda Phillips, the provost and Vice President of academic affairs at TAMU-CC. Her speech resonated to me because not only did Phillips greet the crowd, she invited and challenged us to become more proactive, so that Black History Month isn’t just a “box to be checked.” Everyday Black History is being made and we should do more to honor the contributions, sacrifice, and activism of Black individuals. 

After Phillips gave her amazing speech, Mr. Jordan Baylor took the stage once again as a guest speaker; He told his life story and how he grew up in a low-income, single-parent home. His high school counselor imposed the fact that he should go to community college because they believed that Baylor couldn’t go to the universities he wanted to apply to. Yet Baylor persevered and was admitted into TAMU-CC. Baylor’s speech was moving because he proved that anyone can achieve their dreams no matter what obstacle may stand in their way. 

Following Baylor’s speech, a poetry reading was performed by Dr. Rossy Lima, an assistant professor at TAMU-CC. Dr. Lima’s poem was titled “Many Islands” to show the intersectionality of the Latinx identity and culture and that we should honor our African and Black heritage. “Many Islands” was delivered eloquently and beautifully and made me proud to be someone who is half Black and half Mexican. I am many interconnected islands and I honor each of them for creating who I am. 

After Dr. Lima’s poetry reading, a mime performance was done by Ms. Brionne Rhodes. This performance was different from what I expected because it was gospel or praise and worship mime. She performed mime to the song “A Change is Gonna Come” by Sam Cooke. To be honest, I thought this performance would be comedic but it actually made my eyes well with tears because of how emotional it was. 

The mime performance was then followed up by an invocation by Reverend Tracey Anderson-Tellado who prayed over the food everyone was going to have. 

At some point in the evening, another speech was given by a man named Kevin Martin. His speech was similar to Dr. Clarenda Phillips in that he addressed the police brutality that Black people disproportionately face, particularly the recent beating and killing of Tyre Nichols. Mr. Martin said all of the other brothers (Black men) dying made him sad, but this particular death “hurt.” It hurt because a brother was called by other brothers. There’s an acronym that states “ACAB,” which means “All Cops are Bastards,” which, unfortunately, is the sad truth. The police system is inherently corrupt because it first began as a way to catch escaped slaves. This notion still perpetuates today through the prison system being a form of modern day slavery. All police, even the police of color, and even the Black police officers, are corrupt, and it’s sad to see that it was Black cops who beat an innocent Black man to death. 

The BHM Kickoff was entertaining, educating, and enlightening. It made me proud of my heritage and I am grateful to have attended several events that ICA planned for our University for Black History Month.