UIW Closes Black History Month Celebrations with Two Events

March 1, 2024

Throughout February, the University hosted a number of events and activities, and welcomed special guests to recognize the history, cultures, legacies and continuous impact of Black individuals across the nation. As the month came to a close, the UIW community came together for two final Black History Month events.

On Tuesday, Feb. 27, the African and Afro-Caribbean Fashion Show welcomed attendees to appreciate fashion, art and gifts from the African continent and African Caribbean cultures. Black-owned businesses provided unique cultural and homemade items at a market prior to the fashion show. UIW students and attendees then sat for the main event as models walked the runway, showcasing beautiful garments with cultural significance and intricate details.

“Fashion, whether practical or otherwise, has the power to symbolize people as a collective and individuals,” shared Safie Dorsey, a vendor at the event and UIW alumna. “People often forget that Africa is not a monolith, as well as people of African descent around the world, and fashion gives us an opportunity to share who we are.”

Sr. Martha Ann Kirk, CCVI, also helped coordinate the event. As someone who has traveled and done work in Africa, she was delighted at the idea of bringing this fashion show to campus.  

“The whole evening was a celebration. In the fashion show, in the designs of clothing and fabric, African aesthetics came through. In the movement of the models, African dance came through.”

The next day, speaker, actress and poet Jess Mahogany presented a Spoken Word Workshop where she performed several of her powerful pieces that explore intersectionality among history, politics, spirituality, gender, class and race. In addition to sharing her own voice, she hoped to inspire attendees to share their own stories and experience through spoken word.

Dr. Arturo Chavez, associate vice president of Mission and Ministry, and Amber Cunningham, assistant women’s basketball coach, were responsible for organizing the event.

“The City of San Antonio and UIW campus are diverse communities, and people are doing their best to bring their full authentic selves to spaces,” noted Cunningham. “People are trying to find a sense of belonging while grappling with the vastness of their own identities and tangle of intersections. Jess's poetry is expansive. She can seamlessly weave her own experiences, intersectionality, and identities with poignant personal and historical stories in such a way that she has something to offer each person in attendance.”

Cunningham herself performed a piece titled “Matter,” which she wrote for a UIW Juneteenth celebration. Alongside Mahogany, she was able to share her own experiences and open discussion with those in the audience.

Toward the end of the event, Mahogany and Cunningham led students in writing their own poems and welcomed them to share their pieces through an open mic conclusion.

“Jess Mahogany and Coach Amber Cunningham expertly led us through an experience of their powerful poetry focused on intersectionality, Black history and culture and the untold stories of women and others who are often overlooked in history and spirituality,” said Chavez.

Each of this month’s events was a demonstration of how influential and impactful Black stories are, both within and beyond campus. Although the month has come to an end, the celebration of Black History will continue throughout the year.