BRYAN-COLLEGE STATION, Texas – Texas A&M Athletics and The B.L.U.E.print – Black Leaders who Undertake Excellence – a student-athlete led organization celebrated Black History Month through multiple events during the month of February.
“It is really special to see the Athletics department rally behind B.L.U.E.print’s initiative to take on Black History Month and make it their own,” Student-Athlete Engagement Coordinator Nishia McRay said. “This month showcased the impact our student-athletes have within the department. I am honored to be a part of an athletics department that trusts my oversight of this group and empowers me to be a part of something that brings passion to my day to day.”
The month-long celebration began with a book club kickoff that gave faculty, staff and student-athletes the opportunity to read the book “Between the World and Me” by Ta-Nehisi Coates. The book club joined together virtually via zoom at the end of the month to talk about each other’s experience from reading the book.
The Slocum Nutrition Center opened its doors on Feb. 24 to partner with The B.L.U.E.print in hosting the Grab N Go Dinner. All Texas A&M student-athletes and staff were invited to join in on tasting Black cuisine and Black traditional dishes, while celebrating Black chefs. The B.L.U.E.print also celebrated by giving away shirts that honored the first black athletes in their respective sports at Texas A&M.
“We partnered with the Slocum Nutrition Center and were able to celebrate Black cuisine and Black traditional dishes,” B.L.U.E.print Communications Officer and football student-athlete Keldrick Carper said. “We had our healthy foods and some very traditional soul foods. We also gave away shirts that celebrated the first Black athletes in their respective sports at Texas A&M. A lot of people came out and overall it was phenomenal event.”
Texas A&M and Mississippi State partnered to offer the My Crown My Hair workshop, an exclusive event, for Texas A&M and Mississippi State Black student-athletes. The workshop included an open discussion via Zoom that addressed some of the microaggressions that are typically associated with natural hair, facial hair, piercings and tattoos in the workplace as a Black professional.
“One of my favorite events was our ‘My Hair My Crown’ discussion where we opened up and shared experiences we’ve each had about our image and hair,” B.L.U.E.print Social Media & Operations manager and track & field student-athlete Jean Jenkins said. “It was encouraging to know that there were so many experiences that I could relate with, and how as women our hair is something that is so powerful to the essence of our confidence and self-love. I learned that color, whether my hair or my skin, is not up to the judgment or interpretation of others, it is what I love and believe about myself. It is how I express myself. It is how I love myself.”
Locally, the Brazos Valley African American Museum opened its doors to Texas A&M student-athletes and staff by offering free admission to its galleries. Located in Bryan, the museum allowed attendees to explore and dig deeper into the cultural history and heritage of African Americans.
“Celebrating Black History is something that is to be celebrated all year long and I believe we have moved pass the mindset of just being intentional to creating an impact we all can look back and be proud of,” McRay said. “Black History provides us all a chance to reflect on the richness of Black excellence past, present and what’s to come.”
“The events we put together this month were meant to educate and empower,” B.L.U.E.print Vice President and women’s basketball student-athlete Ciera Johnson said. “We were able to accomplish both of these with the events we planned and we had quite a bit of fun while doing it. This was a special month because we put in a ton of work to see our events flourish and thrive it definitely put a smile on our face.”
B.L.U.E.print Treasurer and football student-athlete Chase Lane: “I believe the Grab-N-Go Dinner was a phenomenal experience for everyone that attended. The whole experience allowed student-athletes to enjoy each other’s company while partaking in amazing cultural dishes and listening to legendary Black musicians. Although it was not a designated educational event, all races were able to take away vital knowledge from the event.”
B.L.U.E.print Co-Communications Officer and football student-athlete Brian Williams: “The Brazos Valley African American Museum was a beautiful collection of Black history and Black culture. Black history truly is world history as the museum touched on the impact and accomplishments through politics, sports, education, etc. It was great to see the various impacts of African Americans through every area of life.”
B.L.U.E.print President and soccer student-athlete Karlina Sample: “I thought this year’s Black History Month was very successful. It was important for the Blueprint to host multiple events throughout the month because we wanted to make sure we recognized the various aspects that make Black culture beautiful. We really appreciated the support and open-mindedness from the athletics department staff and student-athletes that showed support at the 5 events we hosted.”
B.L.U.E.print Communications Director and football student-athlete Keldrick Carper: “The book giveaway was an excellent turnout. We sold out of books and the book discussion, many people had read the book entirely! The book discussion was engaging, intentional, thoughtful and varied in views and perceptions of the overall outlook of the book. Coates provided masterful commentary and first-handed experiences of what it means to be a black man or woman in America. The author posed many questions that were tough to grappling with yet our discussion was respectful in attempting to understand and grasp the importance of the messaging of the book.”
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