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The University of Tennessee, Knoxville’s annual celebration of Black History Month kicks off today, virtually and in person, with the first of many events planned throughout February. The month will include film screenings, the 16th annual Black Issues Conference, art showcases, and more.

The lineup of events will be hosted by departments and student organizations from across campus including the Office of Multicultural Student Life, UT’s NAACP chapter, the Black Cultural Programming Committee, Diversity Educators, the Programs Abroad Office, the Pride Center, the Creative Writing program, and other campus partners. The variety of programs aim to honor Black history and cultural contributions while providing space for meaningful reflection.

Aaron Dixon, a coordinator in the Office of Multicultural Student Life, has contributed countless hours of preparation to plan and coordinate many of the upcoming events. He notes that these events not only allow the UT community to celebrate but also highlight Black figures who have contributed—and continue to contribute—to society.

“Often we think of Black history as something that has happened in the past, but Black history is created and evolves every single day,” Dixon said. “We are able to raise awareness of Black history to the UT community by providing programs that showcase the work and tell the story of Black filmmakers, speakers, academics, students, as well as well-known Black figures.”

“It’s important that we celebrate Black History Month. There are so many trailblazers from our campus that we must hold up as exemplars to honor, including Theotis Robinson, Willie Mae Gillespie, and Charles Edgar Blair, who were our first Black undergraduate students on campus,” said Tyvi Small, vice chancellor for diversity and engagement. “It’s imperative that UT honors those who have paved the way and laid the foundation for us. Black History Month has always been an opportunity to recognize those who have left lasting legacies by challenging the status quo, advocating for equity, and fighting for justice for all.”

Office of Multicultural Student Life Coordinator Aaron Dixon and Assistant Director Ronni Williams hold a Martin Luther King Jr. photo collage
Office of Multicultural Student Life Coordinator Aaron Dixon and Assistant Director Ronni Williams hold a Martin Luther King Jr. photo collage, created during a MLK celebration on January 18, 2021.

This year’s programming looks to show the impressive reach of Black history, expanding beyond well-known figures such as Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, and Harriett Tubman.

“Those icons have contributed much to Black culture and laid a solid foundation, but there are also current people who are making magic in this very moment,” Dixon said. “Abby Phillip, Tabitha Brown, and Brigitte Fielder are three strong Black women who are leading the way in their respective spaces of influence, and Dr. E. Patrick Johnson’s research on race, gender, and sexuality has made him one of the most prominent academics in these subject areas.”

Here are some of the featured events that will take place throughout the month:

Black History Month Film Series, throughout February
Join the Office of Multicultural Student Life and the Black History Month Planning Committee for a film series highlighting the works of Black film directors. Two featured films are BlacKkKlansman and Moonlight, in collaboration with the UT Pride Center. Register for either or both of the films. 

BlacKkKlansman—February 1, 7 p.m., Student Union Room 180

Moonlight—February 26, 7 p.m., Student Union Room 180

The 16th Annual Black Issues Conference, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, February 6
The Black Issues Conference is a one-day conference that provides a forum for students, faculty and staff, and community members to discuss issues affecting the African American community. This year’s conference, with the theme “Manifesting Hope, Health, and Healing,” will focus on the state of Black health in America. The conference will feature select breakout presenters and keynote speaker Tabitha Brown, a healthy lifestyle influencer. Registration for the conference closes February 4.

Black History Month Keynote Abby Phillip, 7 p.m. Monday, February 8
Abby Phillip is a CNN political correspondent, Washington Post reporter, and author based in Washington, DC, with experience covering a wide range of political topics, campaigns, and elections. Register for the event.

Let’s Talk About Study Abroad Webinar Series, 5 to 6 p.m. Wednesday, February 10
The Programs Abroad Office will jump-start its webinar series by featuring the education abroad experiences of several Black UT students. Panelists will discuss their motivations for traveling abroad, share their experiences, and give advice to fellow UT students who are thinking about a #VolsAbroad opportunity.

Diversity Dialogue Series: Hair and Hierarchy, 6 p.m. Thursday, February 11
The Office of Multicultural Student Life’s first Diversity Dialogue of the spring semester will highlight the strength, power, and beauty in students’ hair. The event will feature student photographer Yousef Sindi and the physical gallery will open at 6 p.m. on February 11 in the Frieson Black Cultural Center.

Frederick Douglass Day Celebration, 11:30 a.m.–2 p.m. Friday, February 12
Join UT’s English department to celebrate Black literary history. The event will celebrate Frederick Douglass’s birthday and transcribe the records of Tennessee’s own Mary Church Terrell. Register for the event.

Black Arts Showcase, 6 p.m. Monday, February 15
The Black Arts Showcase will allow students to show off their many forms of Black excellence. The showcase will highlight works by talented students that include dance, song, poetry, and more. This event will be held in a hybrid format, with a capped in-person attendance in the Student Union Room 180, and Zoom livestream.

See the full lineup of events by following the BHM21 tag on the UT campus calendar.

CONTACT

Maddie Stephens (865-974-3993, msteph44@utk.edu)