The dust has barely settled on the UC Davis Quad after Whole Earth Festival, as attention turns to the celebration of another facet of the Davis community. On May 18, the Cross Cultural Center (CCC) will host the 43rd annual Black Family Day (BFD) an event which commemorates the “historical, social, artistic and educational achievements of the African diaspora,” according to the CCC’s website.
“Black Family Day is a day to celebrate the presence of the African diaspora on the UC Davis campus,” said Sinclair Wilson, a second-year chemical engineering major and co-coordinator of the event. “We invite everyone to come out and celebrate. We make it a very inclusive event; we don’t want anyone to feel like they don’t belong.”
Black Family Day will take place between noon and 6 p.m. on the Quad, and will feature a variety of activities, student performances, a children’s fair and food representative of the black community, all provided for by a range of student organizations. The African and African American Alumni Association (5As) will also host a Jazz and Wine Social between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. at the Student Community Center for attendees over the age of 21.
“BFD is a community event. We have student and campus organizations hosting food booths [and] information booths, and this year we have a lot of activities to make the event more interactive,” Wilson said. “There’s really no other event like it.”
As well as student performances celebrating African culture, this year’s event will feature a headline performance by UC Davis alumni Blackalicious.
“We’re very excited to welcome Blackalicious, a globally renowned hip-hop duo, to headline the event,” said CCC program coordinator Fong Tran, who is responsible for overseeing BFD.
While by no means the defining feature of black culture, hip-hop has emerged as a collective expression of the African diaspora, according to Halifu Osumare, associate professor and director of African and American studies.
“Hip-hop is very much a part of the African diaspora. Blackalicious are living proof that hip-hop is everywhere, in every enclave and even at UC Davis. As alumni, they really bring hip-hop home to this institution,” Osumare said.
It is hoped that the allure of Blackalicious will pull a substantial crowd, as the turnout at BFD in recent years has dwindled. While the event once attracted in excess of one of thousand people, organizers now see between 200 and 300 attendees as a more realistic target.
“We would like to see BFD get back up to that level of capacity, but it takes time to build up that type of legacy,” Tran said.
The wane in numbers is attributed to a number of factors, most prominent among which are increasing food regulations that restrict the number of participating vendors. Sinclair said that because they can’t get as many food vendors, it limits the number of people that come to the event.
Joe Taylor, president of the 5As, further attributed the fall in turnout due to incidences of violence during the 1990s when attendance was at its peak.
“During the early 90s, there was an incident involving a firearm which considerably downsized the event. Although it’s starting to get back to those numbers, the level of advertising is not as extensive as it used to be in those days,” Taylor said.
BFD is funded through grants from ASUCD and a number of its affiliated organizations, yet organizers do not wield the same level of fiscal resources they once had at their disposal. It is felt that increased university investment would enhance numbers, especially when compared with the significantly higher financial support events such as Picnic Day receive.
“Our budget is much less than it has been in the past, and as a result, BFD definitely doesn’t get the same level of attention as Picnic Day,” Tran said. “We don’t have the level of capacity or funding to even come close to that level of organization.”
Eric Evans, controller of the ASUCD budget, responded that the disparity in budgetary allocation is justified due to the amount recuperated in terms of income.
“Picnic Day receives a subsidy from ASUCD each year to cover student payroll and operating expenses. While its allocation reflects the income brought in, it also reflects ASUCD’s commitment to that program. We make considerable annual grant allocations to various cultural programs, and ASUCD is proud of our efforts pursuant to that support,” Evans said via email.
Despite working with a limited budget, Tran feels that innovative student participation will make the event successful.
“It’s amazing to see students contributing what they have in times where funding is short. People have been really creative in how they contribute,” Tran said.
This was a view shared by Sinclair.
“We definitely make do with what we have. We’ve been doing well in terms of publicity, word’s getting out and people are hearing about it. It’s going to be a really successful event,” Sinclair said.
Historically, BFD originated as an alternative to Picnic Day, which the black student community didn’t feel they could identify with. While the Black Student Union had organized similar events on the Quad during the late 1960s, the event first appeared in the form as it is recognized today in the spring of 1972. Taylor was the chair of the liaison committee of the Ujima group credited with organizing the first BFD.
“Our task was to bring the black community together, and we came up with the idea of inviting parents to come on campus,” Taylor said.
Taylor said he is thrilled that the embodiment of the original conception still thrives today.
“It was always our ideal for it to be a community-based activity, so having the students and different organizations participate and having folks coming from the community to enjoy the day is a really great feeling,” Taylor said.
Robert Woods, another UC Davis alumnus and active member of the 5As, felt that BFD continues to serve as an invaluable institution in raising awareness of an underrepresented portion of the student populace.
“There’s a lot of stuff about the African diaspora that can broaden your intellectual horizons. People who don’t understand BFD have never been exposed to it, and they should come out. It’ll really benefit them,” Woods said.
The longevity of the event reflects the important role it plays in acknowledging minority groups on campus, a sentiment espoused by today’s generation of organizers.
“As a campus, we need to understand we’re not even close to a post-racial society. Events like BFD help us to acknowledge the incredible diversity in America and the world at large,” Tran said. “When we cross paths into each other’s space, that’s when we learn the most.”
JOE STEPTOE can be reached at email@example.com.