Islanders Reflect, Ponder, Question During Black History Month

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – A historic hard freeze that affected campus operations for the better part of a week and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic couldn’t dampen the annual Black History Month celebration that took place at the Island University. Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi celebrated Black history, culture and achievements during the annual celebration that brings to light past and current struggles in American society with a series of events that began on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day in mid-January and ran through Feb. 25.

Dr. Amanda Drum, Executive Director of Student Engagement and Success, said planning events for Black History Month during an international pandemic created challenges that were overcome through varied methods of delivery and the use of risk management protocols. 

“While many programs were held virtually, the university created guidance so that students, faculty, and staff can safely gather to learn and celebrate,” Drum said.

The celebration shifted into high gear with the annual Kick Off keynote luncheon, which was held on Jan. 27 in the University Center. The event, which featured keynote speaker and alumnus Dr. Don Trahan, Jr.  ’08, ’10 as well as a gallery walk, was livestreamed on the Islander Cultural Alliance Instagram page.

Trahan shared details about his higher education journey, which began at the Island University where he earned a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and a Master of Arts in Clinical Psychology, and continued at The University of New Mexico where he earned a Master of Arts in Educational Leadership and a doctoral degree in counseling.  

“One of the things that I’ve learned is that I’m not competing against anybody except me. You may be questioning what you can do, you may be saying – ‘I’ve never done this before or no one in my family has ever…’ – be the change: Don’t give in, don’t give out, don’t give up.  Because if you do, you’ll look back later and say I should’ve, I could’ve, I would’ve, but I didn’t,” Trahan told the crowd. 

On Feb. 9, Dr. Chalandra M. Bryant of the University of Minnesota spoke about “Race, Love, & Marriage” during a virtual event sponsored by the Division of Research & Innovation.

The goal of her research is to examine the effect of social, familial, economic, occupational, and psychological factors on marital and health outcomes, as African American couples transition through the newlywed phase of their relationships.

“Given that relatively little is known about the marital relationships, the impact of distinct stressors, and the interrelationship between health and marriage among African Americans, it is important to conduct a within-group study in order to carefully examine these issues,” Bryant said. 

In the final days of this year’s celebration, ICA honored five recipients – three student and two staff/faculty recipients – with the Spirit of MLK Award. The list includes:

  • Don Albrecht, former Vice President for Student Engagement and Success who retired in February 2021 after 8 years of service at the Island University
  • Dera Iwuagwu, psychology major
  • Brian Owens, ICA student Program Coordinator and management information systems major
  • Willis Wilson, Head Men’s Basketball Coach
  • Theodore Woods IV, graduate student in Public Administration with an emphasis in Healthcare Administration

Woods provided musical entertainment and inspiration at the event – he played piano and sang familiar songs like “Lean On Me” as well as a gospel medley that he arranged.

“It was an honor to be able to share a variety of Black musician compositions. All of the songs picked for the program had a purpose, which is to uplift the audience and give credit to Black musicians who do not always get recognized,” Woods said.

Iwuagwu said she was pleasantly surprised to learn that she had been nominated, which she assumed was due to her online activism and voter awareness efforts. She also said she was pleased to see support for Black History Month at the Island University.

“It truly means that the rest of the community recognizes that we are here,” Iwuagwu said. “Even though we are a small demographic at TAMU-CC, events like Black History Month show that we are heard, that officials understand who we are, and are siding with us. It feels really good and encouraging.”