Black Family Day connects small UT African-American community

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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