Black History Month: Celebrating Those Who Paved the Way

By Ryan Girves

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Feb. 1, 2022) — The University of Kentucky is home to decades of rich Black history. To celebrate that history and to reflect on all the contributions Black Americans have made since this country’s conception, the Martin Luther King Center, along with units across campus, will celebrate Black History Month with a series of virtual and in-person events and programs throughout February. 

“This month is an opportunity to commemorate the lives, struggles and achievements of Black Americans,” said UK President Eli Capilouto. “We are today’s University of Kentucky because of the remarkable Black alumni who pushed open our doors and paved a path for those who would follow. I am excited to see our community carry on this legacy and come together to celebrate Black History Month.”

With a desire to educate, inspire and foster a sense of belonging for all people regardless of race, gender, background or ethnicity, for years, the university’s campus has united during the month of February. In celebrating Black History Month, UK hopes to honor those who laid a foundation for a better tomorrow and continue moving forward in a way that honors their legacy.

“Black Americans were, and continue to be, instrumental in shaping our country. During Black History Month, we honor their legacy by highlighting and celebrating the stories that were too-often neglected or silenced,” said UK Vice President for Institutional Diversity Katrice Albert. “As we commemorate the contributions of Black Americans in science, politics, industry, culture and much more, we must also seek to learn how we can uplift and support underserved communities this month and beyond.”

The university has created a rich calendar of events for the entire campus community to take part in. Through the MLK Center’s Black History Month committee, consisting of UK employees and students, the programming inspires campus to celebrate the past, analyze the present and dream for the future. 

“It’s an accomplishment to be a Black woman, especially one that helps facilitate events that highlight the unique qualities of the Black community throughout Black History Month,” said UK senior and Black History Month chair member Tomari Epps. “I can’t wait to see these events come to life.” 

MLK Center events include:

  • My Brother’s Keeper Meeting, Feb. 2 at 4:30 p.m. in the MLK Center. 
  • The Loyola Project Documentary Screening, Feb. 9 at 1 p.m. in the MLK Center
    • Watch the trailer here
    • The Loyola Project focuses on the 1963 National Championship Loyola Ramblers who changed the game of college basketball during the height of the civil rights movement and overcame numerous racial issues on the road to becoming champions on the court and in the community.           
  • An Evening of Networking, Feb. 9 at 6 p.m. in the Gallery at the Cornerstone.
    • This event, designed for undergraduate and graduate women of color, is hosted as a part of the monthly Sister Circle Experience. Join us as we connect with each other and hear from current graduate student leaders and community members about the work that they do on campus and in the community.  
    • Cosponsors: Collegiate Curls, Hues in Medicine and Black is Gold.
  • Men of Color Symposium, (virtual), Feb. 10 from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
    • The forum is a full-day conference experience designed to create a space of belonging, growth and community for students, faculty, staff and community members who identify as men of color through insightfully themed workshops, networking and keynote address, conference. This year's theme is “There’s Levels to This: Holistically Understanding Self.” The theme is rooted in a commitment to embrace, acknowledge and support the holistic needs of men of color throughout the K-12 and college experience. 
  • BHM Cultural Showcase Fashion Show, Feb. 17 at 7 p.m. in the Gatton Student Center Grand Ballroom.
    • The showcase is designed to highlight the global intersections of fashion and culture through various art forms-including fashion, dance and music. 
    • Cosponsors: NAACP and National Association of Black Journalists. 
  • The Masked Singer: Karaoke, Feb. 22 at 6:30 p.m. in Gatton Student Center Cats Den.
    • The Masked Singer returns. Join us for a night that is sure to be filled with fun at every turn. Grab the mic and serenade the crowd with your favorite song or simply come to relax and enjoy some good karaoke music.
    • Cosponsors: Underground Perspective
    Step Aerobics, Feb. 23, Time TBD, Holmes Hall. 
    • Mental and physical health are vital to our daily success. This event features a local fitness instructor who will lead us in a step aerobics class that is sure to make you sweat. We’ll also have a collective conversation on the importance of maintaining your physical and preserving your mental health. 
    • Cosponsors: The Mu Epsilon Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Incorporated, Hues in Medicine and Collegiate Curls.
  • Sister Circle Forum (virtual), Feb. 24 and 25, starting at 8:30 a.m.
    • The Sister Circle Forum is a two-day forum with a networking event on the evening of Feb. 24 for young and experienced professional Women of Color. Through interactive workshops, presentations, activities and dynamic keynote addresses, conference attendees will engage in critical conversations surrounding professional development, education and career planning, examine the legacy and present state of support between different groups of women in communities of color. 
  • Showing of "Black Lives Matter: 1619 to Now," Feb. 24 through Feb. 27 at 7:30 p.m. in the Singletary Center and Guignol Theatre.
    • A documentary drama curated by UK faculty artists and scholars. 
  • Plated Discussion, Feb. 28 from 6 p.m.-7:30 p.m. in the White Hall Classroom Building Room 212.
    •  The monthly dialogue series returns for its first installment of the spring semester. Plated Discussions serve as an opportunity to engage in critical dialogue around current and diverse issues. The event will focus on unsung heroes that made a very big impact on the community they were a part of, all while coming together for a nice meal.
    • Cosponsors: NABJ, Collegiate Curls and BSU

Commonwealth Institute of Black Studies:

  • The State of Black History at UK: Race and Sports (virtual), Feb. 22 at 5:30 p.m.
    • A conversation with Anastasia Curwood and Derrick White.

UK Libraries events and programming include: 

Celebrating our alumni

To further commemorate Black History Month, UK Public Relations and Strategic Communications will feature alumni from the UK Alumni Association’s Pioneer Project throughout February. UKNow will highlight a different alum from the project each "Wildcat Wednesday" in February, and even more alumni will be featured on UK's social media channels throughout the month.

“The UK Alumni Association completed the project as part of UK’s sesquicentennial celebration during the 2015-16 academic year,” said Jill H. Smith, associate vice president for Alumni Engagement and executive director of the UK Alumni Association. “Through the help of the Lyman T. Johnson African American Alumni Constituent Group and the research of staff, we were able to compile a thorough collection of stories highlighting pioneers and trailblazers at UK through various decades. Since its completion, the project has served as a great avenue to celebrate alumni who paved the way.”

You can learn more about these alumni and the Pioneer Project here

To learn more about how the university honors Black History Month throughout the year, visit the Office for Institutional Diversity website

The University of Kentucky is increasingly the first choice for students, faculty and staff to pursue their passions and their professional goals. In the last two years, Forbes has named UK among the best employers for diversity, and INSIGHT into Diversity recognized us as a Diversity Champion four years running. UK is ranked among the top 30 campuses in the nation for LGBTQ* inclusion and safety. UK has been judged a “Great College to Work for" three years in a row, and UK is among only 22 universities in the country on Forbes' list of "America's Best Employers."  We are ranked among the top 10 percent of public institutions for research expenditures — a tangible symbol of our breadth and depth as a university focused on discovery that changes lives and communities. And our patients know and appreciate the fact that UK HealthCare has been named the state’s top hospital for five straight years. Accolades and honors are great. But they are more important for what they represent: the idea that creating a community of belonging and commitment to excellence is how we honor our mission to be not simply the University of Kentucky, but the University for Kentucky.