By Shelby Peck | Staff Writer
Throughout Black History Month, the Baylor Black Faculty and Staff Association encourages everyone in the Baylor community to offer their support by attending events such as a walk-through library exhibit and pursuing opportunities to educate themselves.
Dr. Geoffrey Griggs, the association’s president and assistant director of multicultural affairs, said even though the calendar may hold special designations such as Black History Month or Hispanic Heritage Month, everyone’s history is important. He said individuals should be aware of where they come from and be open to learn about the pasts of others.
“A lot of times we think of specific months and think, ‘If I don’t identify with this group, this doesn’t apply to me,’ but these things impact everybody,” Griggs said.
He also said the association is planning several events to celebrate Black History Month, and everyone is welcome to join. One of the events, which was held last year as well, includes collaborations with Baylor’s Texas Collection and University Archives and Institute for Oral History, Griggs said.
“We’re having ‘Black History in the Archives.’ They have a lot of historical information and pictures from here in Texas and Waco that a lot of people don’t know about,” Griggs said.
The event will be held from 3:30 to 5 p.m. on Feb. 23 in Carroll Library. BFSA has been publicizing the event since earlier this year with the hopes of having more people join in on the opportunity to walk through the exhibit.
“It’s just a wonderful time for people if they have some time in their day to go check out all of the history they have over in this building,” Griggs said.
The association’s president-elect, Adrienne Cain, said via email that the Institute for Oral History holds interviews conducted with “Baylor pioneers” such as the Rev. Robert Gilbert and Barbara Ann Walker, the first Black Baylor graduates, and Dr. Vivienne Malone-Mayes, the first Black Baylor professor.
“I encourage people to listen to their stories to learn more about their experiences within the history of Baylor,” Cain said. “Their stories are accessible through Baylor’s digital libraries with a simple name search or on the Waco History app.”
Griggs said the association’s other plans this month include events providing educational opportunities for their members and hosting their traditional mixer with the Black Student Coalition.
“We, as an association, are doing things with student groups on campus like having those mixers with students so that they can see our faces and know we’re here to support them and be a resource to them in whatever they need,” Griggs said.
Griggs, who has worked in multicultural affairs at Baylor since 2013, said he assisted Director of Wellness Dominique Hill in creating BFSA a few years ago. Because he was so involved in the organization’s formation, he was reluctant to accept the presidency; however, he eventually agreed to the position.
“Being able to see it from the ground up has been a memorable experience,” Griggs said. “It has provided an avenue for me to have opportunities that I felt didn’t exist before.”
Griggs said he is also a member of the first cohort for the association’s AIM Leadership Collective, a development program for a designated group of faculty and staff that launched in 2021.
“I can’t think of many other opportunities we have a space to allow for these individuals to interact,” Griggs said. “There’s more at Baylor than I knew about.”
Griggs also said in his eight years at Baylor prior to his membership in AIM, he had never interacted with some of those who are now in his cohort. While his job with Student Life may not have allowed him to meet faculty and staff from other areas of campus, they were introduced through AIM and BFSA.
“As a Black faculty member, there aren’t very many of us here — and those of us that are here are kind of siloed to our departments and in our research,” Cain said. “[The association] has provided a community for me here with people who have a shared experience and are dedicated to making Baylor a place where everyone belongs.”
Cain also said she would like to use her role as president-elect to focus on the recruitment and retention of Black faculty, staff and students at Baylor by creating spaces for them to belong and be mentored. Further than that, she said she would also like to strengthen the association’s bond with the Waco community.
“We tend to live in our ‘Baylor bubble,’ but we have so many opportunities to connect with and support organizations and businesses in Waco, as well as provide outreach to school and community centers here in the city,” Cain said.
Griggs said anyone who wishes to be involved and support BFSA, especially throughout February, is welcome. He said everyone has room to grow and should embrace whatever opportunities to educate themselves to the fullest.
“The great thing about [the association] is that we’re not limited based on color. We have a lot of people who support our mission and what is driving us to make Baylor a better place,” Griggs said. “We love the support and what they bring.”
Cain said membership in BFSA is open to any faculty, staff or graduate student who understands the association is “dedicated to the recruitment, retention and needs of Black faculty, staff and students here at Baylor.”
To join, they can visit the association’s website and pay an annual $25 membership fee. Membership for graduate students is free for the first year.
“Go and check it out, support, learn and educate yourself, but have a good time,” Griggs said. “Know that this is your history as well and an opportunity for you to embrace it to the fullest.”
If anyone has questions about membership in the Black Faculty and Staff Association or any of the events being held during Black History Month, they are free to contact firstname.lastname@example.org.