African American Culture Committee

Radio-television-film sophomore Julian Hayes, civil engineering sophomore Paul Mannie and undeclared sophomore Clarke Cromartie are officers for the African American Culture Committee.

Photo Credit: Stephanie Tacy | Daily Texan Staff

The African American Culture Committee knows the importance of making a statement on campus. Members of the AACC hope to promote cultural diversity and bring African and African-American traditions to  campus, working as a sub-committee of Campus Events and Entertainment, known as E+E.     

Clarke Cromartie, undeclared sophomore and AACC officer, said the committee is a welcoming community that connects with individuals from
different backgrounds.     

“The goal is to make [AACC] known on campus,” Cromartie said. “We are just one part of Campus E+E. However, I think everyone wants to be connected to something. We could be that something.”    

AACC has meetings each Wednesday from 5-6 p.m. in the SAC, where members work with officers to determine which volunteer projects and events they want to create. 

“Whatever we showcase is what people are going to think about our culture,” Cromartie said. “We take precautions.”    

Paul Mannie, civil engineering sophomore and AACC officer, explained the significance of promoting cultural identity.    

“I think it’s important to let other people outside of your culture know why you do the things you do in your culture,” Mannie said. “People talk about culture appreciation versus appropriation. We have to not only appreciate other cultures but understand them, because you don’t want to lose yourself based on where you live.”    

Although AACC’s main goal is to promote diversity, Julian Hayes, radio-television-film sophomore and AACC officer, said the committee improves leadership and public speaking skills.    

“I joined AACC because I thought it would be a good leadership opportunity,” Hayes said. “You learn how to speak up, and have your opinion noticed.”

An example of one of AACC’s successful events is Culture Shock, a talent show representing African and African-American culture. This year’s Culture Shock was held in the SAC Auditorium, and YouTube personality Spoken Reasons was the host.     

“The goal of Culture Shock is to connect people — black or non-black — by showcasing black culture to the UT community,” Mannie said.    

Mannie said this year’s Culture Shock has been his favorite event so far because it ran smoothly and new acts were added to the show.

“We had different acts,” Mannie said. “We had dancing, singing, rapping and a fashion show.”        

AACC has also paired up with the Asian American Culture Committee and the Mexican American Culture Committee to create a “Cultural Mixer” that will highlight each culture’s food and activities.     

“The event was created last year by the freshmen group committee, but E+E wants to make it a staple event to get communities together and connect with each other and to showcase each culture,” Mannie said.    

Hayes said cultures are diverse, but it is imperative to include all traditions in events because AACC does not want to exclude anyone.     

“In AACC, we do want to showcase African culture, but it’s not to say our culture is the only thing to be showcased,” Mannie said. “But it’s important to have a spot on this campus.”

Photo Credit: Connor Murphy | Daily Texan Staff

In a window-lined room on the second floor of the Student Activities Center there are two circles of chairs, one within the other. Six members of the African American Culture committee, a subcommittee of Campus Events + Entertainment, are laughing and eyeing each other, as they run around the smaller circle of chairs to an upbeat song from the Creole genre, Zydeco. It is the beginning of the group’s last meeting before its Mardi Gras-themed event this Tuesday on the East Mall, Masquerade in the Park. 

As the meeting begins, there is a lot of talk about grades and the inconsistency of Texas weather before the discussion naturally transitions to upcoming events, specifically the cultural mixers that freshmen get to plan.

“Something we want to keep in your heads and consider for your cultural mixture would be what food we want to serve, advertising ideas like the handbill and what booths you’ll have,” said Matthew Ealy, applied learning and development junior and committee chair. 

Largely focused on giving UT students the opportunity to develop, plan and present African and African American culture programs to the University, the committee plans a variety of events, such as Masquerade in the Park.

“The greatest thing about Campus Events + Entertainment is probably the wide array of events that we sponsor,” Ealy said. “Because we consist of nine committees, each committee has a different interest. This allows for the most diverse programming of events by any organization on campus.”

The committee, which meets every Wednesday in the SAC, is open to all UT students. While the meetings are loosely structured, they rely heavily on an open forum discussion. The committee’s Black History Month events are the topic of much discussion this week. The first was a viewing of the movie “42” on Feb. 4. Following the screening, the committee hosted a night of entertainment, What Started Here Changed Our World, on Feb. 16. The event focused on bringing multiple African American culture groups together to educate students on black history at UT. The last event of the month was the career expo, Black to Business. While each of these events was advertised, Ealy said he wishes there could have been greater campus involvement.

“The one difficulty that we have had in gaining interest is the assumption that Black to Business is only for African American students,” Ealy said. “This assumption is not true. This event [was] a career expo premised on the fact that every company and organization in attendance will have a focus on the betterment of minority populations or significantly interested in diversifying their staff.” 

In an effort to increase participation, the committee will hold Masquerade in the Park on the East Mall because of its high foot traffic and space for tents. The festival is free to attend and will offer students an opportunity to taste Creole cuisine, listen to Creole and Zydeco music and participate in Mardi Gras activities. Public relations junior Jacy Jones is in charge of advertising the event on multiple social media platforms but mainly by word of mouth. Jones is especially excited to promote this event because of her ties to Creole culture.

“My favorite event we host is Masquerade in the Park, simply because I am Creole,” Jones said. “Growing up with Zydeco music is something that I’m used to. I’m always hearing it. The food, the culture — that’s my niche.” 

The committee, along with each event that it hosts, works to promote inclusivity within the African American community and the UT community.  

“I want students to see the difference that our organization and many other organizations are making on campus and how it directly affects all of them,” External Communications Chair Gennavonah Wade said. “We are a committee to put on events that cater to every aspect of a student. From political, to inspirational, to gaining leadership and communication skills, to entertaining and just adding to the holistic character of a student.” 

Actor Brian White talks about his experiences and the people that motivated him in the Student Actvity Center. The event was sponsored by African American Culture Committee.

Photo Credit: Marisa Vasquez | Daily Texan Staff

Brian White brought lessons from his successes, not only as an established actor, but also as a certified stock broker, youth activist, author and professional football player to the UT community Monday.

White came to speak about the principles behind building a successful career, regardless of the profession or field, at a talk sponsored by the African American Culture Committee.

“As we’ve grown up, the world has changed drastically,” White said. “The changes haven’t been necessarily for the best, and youth have been taught how to replicate success instead of creating their own.”

White defined success as having an identified ultimate goal and accomplishing it with continuous achievements.

“Life is a marathon, and achieving success takes multiple steps,” he said. “We cannot get to one point then stop. It has to be through constant effort.”

Through various undertakings during his life, White said he has learned where his passions lie and what does not work for him.

“While I was successful on Wall Street, I realized I had no passion for it,” White said. “Lessons like those are necessary in finding what works for us and where our destiny lies.”

Carissa Kelley, outgoing chair for African American Culture Committee and public relations junior, said having White on campus is interesting for students and he is someone they can identify with.

“Brian is an entrepreneur and has gone through various endeavors to get to the point in his life where he can reach out to a younger generation,” Kelley said. “Our students are eager to go after what they want, and Brian is someone that can serve as an inspiration for them.”

Biology freshman Kenera Colley said she was amazed to hear White’s advice and apply it to her personal goals.

“His humility and ability to relate to a younger generation is awesome,” Colley said. “He is not only an accomplished actor, but also has countless other successes that inspire us to go find our own passions.”

Because he arrived to the field of acting with other achievements in his past, White said he was able to take the lessons he had learned with him and create new success.

“Our community is a team, and we are only as strong as our weakest link,” White said. “I was fortunate to have inspirational people motivate me throughout my life, so I want to pass those tools on to the younger generation.”

Printed on Tuesday, April 24, 2012 as: Actor reached success by setting goals