UC Davis’ members of the African diaspora gathered to celebrate their achievements, black excellence
Last Saturday, UC Davis’ community of black students, faculty and staff gathered in the ARC Ballroom for the 10th Annual Black Convocation Brunch. This year’s theme was “Black Excellence,” with the convocation serving as an opportunity for black members of UC Davis to gather and recognize their achievements within the community.
The Convocation’s itinerary included an extensive brunch spread as well as speeches from alumni and from the University’s first African American Chancellor, Chancellor Gary May.
Lori Fuller, who organized the event along with Raynell Hamilton, said black students’ desire for more support from the community inspired the first convocation 10 years ago.
“The event was started 10 years ago in response to students wanting more support services to support the retention of African Diaspora students,” Fuller said. “The main goal of the event is to support the retention of students of African descent, expose students to community resources and provide an opportunity for students to build a network with UCD staff, faculty and alumni that will support their pursuit of academic excellence.”
Fuller said that, as a UC Davis alum and current staff member, she wanted to get involved so she could give back to the same community that supported her when she was a student.
At a university like UC Davis, where only 4% of undergraduate students identify as Black/African American according to the 2019 UC Davis Profile, attendees of the Black Convocation agreed that the ceremony was necessary to invite a sense of community and support among members of the African Diaspora.
“It is an uplifting and positive reminder of how amazing the African Diaspora community at UC Davis is,” Fuller said. “We epitomize what community means and are here to help each other succeed.”
Colby Maiden, a second-year managerial economics major, said he also appreciates the community that he hardly sees anywhere else on campus.
“Attending the convocation for the past two years, I have been amazed by the welcoming black community we have at UC Davis,” Maiden said. “It was nice being made aware that, as a student, there are truly black faculty that have my best interest at heart.”
Maiden added that, as a student, being surrounded by black peers while attending Black Student Union meetings and Black Campus ministries carry him through his academic journey.
“These spaces are where I get to interact with the black community and feel a sense of relief knowing that I am not alone in this struggle to complete college,” Maiden said. “I often leave those meetings with a sense of joy.”
Every year, the Black Convocation includes a UC Davis alum as their keynote speaker. This year’s keynote speaker was spoken-word poet, musician, actor, playwright and writer Dahlak Brathwaite. Brathwaite was at the forefront of establishing “hip-hop theater.” He has written and performed in several productions that showcase his talents as a poet and an artist. Brathwaite has also traveled across the US and throughout Europe to perform at over 200 colleges and universities. In his presentation on Saturday, Brathwaite performed spoken word poetry about “the paradox of black excellence” and his “story of blackness.”
At the Black Convocation, faculty, staff and students from the African Diaspora are recognized and honored for their contributions to the community. The Walter Robinson Award, named after beloved leader of Undergraduate Admissions and the office of Enrollment Management, was awarded to Associate Executive Vice Chancellor, Dr. Rahim Reed.
In honor of his distinguished teaching as a professor at UC Davis and his service to students, especially black engineers, Dr. Ralph Aldredge received an award named in his honor.
The Michele Dyke Humanitarian Award was named after an active member of the Davis community and UC Davis alum. As a member of the Davis community for over 30 years, Dyke devoted much of her time to strengthening students’ success as well as celebrating African American culture. The recipients of this award included student Davares Robinson and Senior Associate Director of UC Davis Financial Aid Trina Wilson.
As the brunch came to a close, attendees participated in the affirmation walk. Messages of positivity, acceptance and love are whispered into each others’ ears as they walk between a line of their African American peers.
This, Maiden says, was his favorite — “You are told you are black royalty and are appreciated.”
The Black Convocation is a way for African American students to recognize and appreciate what it means to be a black Aggie.
“Being a black Aggie means a deep sense of pride for our campus traditions and experiences, and support from the community,” Fuller said. “For each student, being a black Aggie may mean something different, but it will always include academic excellence, strong community support and honoring the history and legacy of people who have paved the way for us to have a positive and fulfilling UC Davis experience.”
Written by: Alana Wikkeling — firstname.lastname@example.org