Black History Month: A Time for Conversation and Celebration at the Island University

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – Islander students, faculty, and staff at the Island University celebrated Black history, culture, and achievements during the annual celebration that brings to light past and current struggles in American society with close to 20 events that were held throughout the month of February.

The kickoff, which was held Feb. 1, formally launched the campus community celebration with a festive program that included opening remarks by Dr. Clarenda Phillips, TAMU-CC Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs, and Dr. Le’Trice Donaldson, TAMU-CC Assistant Professor of History. The event also included poetry readings, a saxophone performance during a soul food dinner, and a mime performance by four female dancers with the St. John Baptist Church Youth Ministry.

Donaldson recounted the origins of Black History Month in her remarks and shared a few details about the history of soul food – chitlins, ham hocks, collard greens, and cornbread.

“Some people might say soul food is a home-cooked meal, but to my family and to other black American families, soul food is a tradition, a way of life, handed down from generation to generation,” Donaldson said.

Other BHM events included an African American Dialect panel discussion and a film discussion. Many of the events were hosted by the Islander Cultural Alliance.

A campus visit by Dr. Terrence Roberts of the Little Rock Nine was the highlight of the month-long celebration. During his visit on Feb. 10, Roberts met with Islander students for a mentoring session. Later that evening, he shared his life’s experiences with the community during the  Distinguished Speaker Series, held in the Performing Arts Center.

“All of us have stories. And I’m convinced that it’s when we are able and willing to tell the truth about who we are and who we have been to each other, then we can form bonds that will perhaps be solid enough to build a stronger society,” Roberts said.  

Student mentoring luncheon

During his visit on Feb. 10, Dr. Terrence Roberts met with Islander students for a mentoring session.

Roberts was one of the Little Rock Nine, a group of African American students who was, in 1957, the first Black students to attend classes at Little Rock Central High School thereby ushering in the age of integration in public schools across the United States.

Sophomore nursing major Jessica Caynon ’24 was able to attend Roberts’ mentoring session.

“I think Black History Month is not just important for Black students who are actively building Black history,” Caynon said. “I also think it’s important for other people who might have never learned about Black history or maybe have a different point of view.”  

Samantha Ramirez ’23, a junior kinesiology major, says she appreciated the opportunity to meet Roberts and listen to his words of wisdom.  

“I will say that I was nervous coming into this, but Dr. Roberts’ personality, wit, and humor was very comforting,” Ramirez said. “It was very easy to comment, listen, and take in all his words.”

Dr. Shawnrece Campbell, Dean of the College of Liberal Arts, hosted a Writing Through Healing workshop on Feb. 15. For her workshop, Campbell said she drew inspiration from the 2022 theme for Black History Month, which is “Black Health and Wellness.”

Psychology junior Emilee Ahrens ’23 said she enjoys journaling and was excited to attend the workshop.

“The most satisfying part of the event was Dean Campbell emphasizing how important it is to reflect on your mental state and what emotions can be lingering under the surface that have not been dealt with that may cause problems later,” Ahrens said. 

To close out the month, there was a Meet and Greet with Dr. Kelly Miller, President and CEO of TAMU-CC, and the ICA honored students, faculty, staff, and community members who demonstrate the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in the annual award celebration.

The list includes:

  • Community activist Curtis Clark
  • Meagan Pendleton ’22
  • Daniel Bartholomay, TAMU-CC Assistant Professor of Sociology
  • Amanda Marquez, TAMU-CC Assistant Professional Professor
  • Ana Salazar, University Counseling Center Professional Counselor
  • Katherine Taken Smith, TAMU-CC RELLIS Campus Professor of Marketing (unable to attend)

Pendleton, a sociology senior, is president of Islanders for Social Justice, a member of Student Volunteer Connection, and a McNair Scholar.

“I’m humbled to have been nominated and to receive the award. As someone who wouldn’t necessarily be considered part of a marginalized group of people, I have the privilege of being able to lift up the voices of those who don’t have that opportunity,” Pendleton said. “I find what drives me is being able to utilize that for maximum potential in order to uplift other voices.”