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Dinner Culminates Month of Black History Celebration, Connection

As a finale to Black History Month activities at The University of Texas at Dallas, there’s one final celebration that draws the month’s biggest crowd.

The Big Dinner, an evening of food and entertainment, has become a popular tradition that this year drew 250 attendees to the Student Union Galaxy Rooms.

The celebration started 16 years ago as a small potluck gathering for faculty and staff. This year’s event featured a catered soul food meal, a poetry reading, a performance by the UT Dallas Jazz Ensemble and a keynote address by Justin Henry, a lawyer and Dallas Independent School District trustee.

Axum Taylor, an interdisciplinary studies sophomore, gave a spoken-word performance of her poem “The Little Black Girl That Could.” Taylor recently won the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity’s Miss Black and Gold Scholarship Pageant at the campus and state level, where she first performed her work as part of the talent competition.

These events have been a very large part of me being able to be part of my community while at UT Dallas. It really gives me an opportunity to connect with more people who are outside my immediate circle. It brings me joy that we are being celebrated.

Jasmine Banks, arts, technology and emerging communication junior and captain of the UT Dallas Cheerleaders

One of the most important parts was simply coming together, participants said.

“When I see people celebrating the history of black culture and the black experience, it makes me feel like I’m part of a community that is bigger than myself,” said Patrick Nnoromele, a Eugene McDermott Scholar and molecular biology freshman. Nnoromele served as one of the masters of ceremony for the event with Venisha Harmon, a historical studies sophomore.

Dr. George Fair, vice president for diversity and community engagement and dean of the School of Interdisciplinary Studies, said, “It’s a real pleasure to see students, faculty and staff come together and just enjoy being together for a dinner.”

The dinner wrapped up a month of campus events that included a kickoff celebration, a concert, community conversation and health fair. The Multicultural Center hosts the cultural celebrations in conjunction with a planning committee of students, faculty and staff. The center collaborated with the Student Counseling Center, the Student Wellness Center and 12 student organizations.

Jasmine Banks, an arts, technology and emerging communication junior, said she felt more connected to others on campus after attending several Black History Month activities.

“These events have been a very large part of me being able to be part of my community while at UT Dallas,” said Banks, captain of the UT Dallas Cheerleaders. “It really gives me an opportunity to connect with more people who are outside my immediate circle. It brings me joy that we are being celebrated.”

Trombone player Dhiraj Ramanathan, biology sophomore, and other members of the UT Dallas Jazz Ensemble entertained the audience at the Big Dinner.

Media Contact: The Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, [email protected].