By Paula Ann Solis
The chronicle of momentous African-American events remembered throughout the nation during this year’s Black History Month is marked on Baylor’s campus by a mission of unity through the “not for us but everyone” campaign.
To help promote this message of togetherness, Tamera Mowry-Housley, popular ’90s television star and current co-host of the daytime talk show “The Real,” will be the keynote speaker during Black History Month’s most popular event on Baylor’s campus, the Black Heritage Banquet.
Philadelphia junior Chierra Williams said Mowry-Housley was chosen because of her ability to draw in an audience thatwould cross racial boundaries. Mowry-Housley is best known for her role on the sitcom “Sister, Sister” in which she starred alongside her twin, Tia Mowry-Hardrict.
Her national presence and biracial background are just two reasons why Williams, who is also the president of the Association of Black Students and chair of the banquet committee, said she actively pursued the actress a year ago to visit Baylor. Williams said Mowry-Housley’s speech, titled “Facing the Unknown,” will highlight her life’s journey and the challenges she has overcome.
“A lot of child stars get faded to the background or go down a road you don’t want to travel, but she didn’t,” Williams said. “But she did have some difficulties. So I think, us as college students, when we graduate, it’s kind of like, ‘Now what?’ So she’s going to tell us what do you do, what did she do and what we can take away from that.”
The banquet will take place at 7 p.m. Tuesday on the fifth floor of the Cashion Academic Center. Admission is available to students and members of the community for $15 and $20, respectively. Tickets can be purchased at the ticket office in the Bill Daniel Student Center. However, ticket sales will end 1 p.m. Wednesday and only an estimated 150 tickets remain available.
Williams said the response from the student body regarding this year’s speaker has been positive and she expects the audience to be diverse, a welcome change from what she said has been predominately African-American audience.
“A lot of people assume that Black History Month is only for African-Americans, but there have been a lot of influential people of other races throughout African-American history,” said Philadelphia junior Chierra Williams. “Yes, we’re celebrating black history and African-Americans’ impact on history, but we want to celebrate it all together. We want to educate people on Baylor’s campus on black history and also just come together.”
Anther notable guest includes Lorena junior Holly Tucker, a finalist on NBC’s “The Voice” in 2013. She will perform for the second year in a row at the banquet. A local jazz band and a spoken word performer, Rowlett junior Alysia Johnson, will also perform for dinner guests.
This attempt to diversify the presence at Black History Month events is a goal of all the organizations involved this year,said Killeen senior Alfred Rucker, who is also a member of Alpha Phi Alpha.
“A lot of different types of people are coming to our events and I think it’s a great way to intermingle and be a whole unit and it shows how diverse Baylor actually can be,” Rucker said.
Rucker said his fraternity, the Alphas as they are known on campus, is in charge of festivities for the first week of Black History Month. The first event, “Trapped Mind Enslaved Society,” was a forum highlighting modern-day issues. They will continue the week with “Motown Karaoke,” at 10 p.m. Thursday in the Penland Residence Hall.
Other groups organizing events this month include Baylor’s National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Heavenly Voices, Zeta Phi Beta and Big 12. All of these organizations have united this year instead of hosting individual events in order to better spread the news of Black History Month on campus, Rucker said. This move was the step needed to take Black History Month festivities to the next level, Williams said.
“It really has to do with the leaders,” Williams said. “If you have somebody set the standard, everybody else will follow. And I think this year the standard has been set.”
Williams said although students organized all the festivities this month, none of it would have been possible without the support from Baylor administration and the Multicultural Affairs department.
Pearlie Beverly, the director of multiculturalaffairs, said the students are self-motivated and do the real work behind the scenes. All they accomplish is due to their own determination to create events students will want to attend, Beverly said.
This year is another example of a rare opportunity for students to meet influential African-Americans because of student efforts, Beverly said. Past speakers have ranged from American philosopher Dr. Cornel West to gospel musician Kirk Franklin.
“You get an opportunity to basically meet a high-profile celebrity or a trailblazer, somebody you wouldn’t normally get to meet,” Beverly said. “It allows the students to see there’s positive change and they can be part of that change.”
Beverly said students do not need a dinner ticket to hear the keynote speaker. Chairs will be set alongside the walls and students can walk in for Mowry-Housley’s message to the students.
A complete list of Black History Month events can be found at baylor.edu/multicultural.
Williams said if students can only fit one event in their schedule, other than the banquet, she would suggest “The Evolution of Black History,” at 7 p.m. Feb. 26 in the Barfield Drawing Room. It will showcase various performers and tell the story of African-American struggles and successes.
“This is our history but we really want to share it,” Williams said.