Thursday, February 21, 2013

Black History: Then & Now. Student Presentations

Several of our MENtal Freedom students, along with Multicultural Ambassadors, presented at the Black History: Then and Now panel yesterday. The event had students speaking on topics of interest to them and exploring how those topics related to our study of Black History both in the past and today. Presenters included: Lewis Straughter, McCoy Renfro, Lorenzo Puente, Andre McQuitty, Spencer McDuffy, Sean Guinyard, Terra Tramble, Xandrea Rhodes, and MENtal Freedom Faculty Coordinator, Reggie Hall. Dr. Helvie-Mason introduced the group and facilitated the question/answer session.

Spencer is sharing his presentation via video -- check it out! He also shared a few comments below.

The influence that African-Americans have had on American music has generally been greatly under-appreciated throughout history. Although sometimes it can be difficult to realize the origins of art and music, we must not forget that African-Americans played an integral part in setting the foundation of American music. It is apparent in today’s society that African-Americans are not heavily associated with many American music genres other than rap. Because of this disassociation many are quick to forget that African-Americans were the innovators of many types of music, and influential in even more. I decided to present the “Evolution of Black Music” to inform and remind that the influence of African-Americans spans across history and is not limited to the modern genres of rap and R&B they are so heavily associated with.  
~ Spencer, MENtal Freedom

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Texas culture excursion: Stock Show and Rodeo

On Saturday, January 26, I got the opportunity to attend the Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo (FWSSR) for the first time. All of the Multicultural Ambassadors (and others) were invited by the Office of Diversity and Inclusion (ODI) to attend FWSSR as part of a cultural excursion.

I was so excited to go! I finally had an excuse to wear my almost-new boots that my parents bought me as a back-to-school gift. I must be clear – my excitement was not, of course, borne out of wearing these boots. Instead, I was excited because I've never seen a rodeo other than on a square of glass in my living room.

Anyway, Saturday came along and (surprise!) I woke up late (no, really…that was definitely a surprise). Luckily, my “late” is everyone else’s “early” so I was still on time to get to the bus. I forgot how much paperwork we’re supposed to do to go on a trip. It was boring. All I wanted to do was get to Fort Worth and see all the animals and competitors. When we finally got there – and really, it wasn't long at all – we took some pictures and headed to the International Suite where they were welcoming our international students.

Once we hung around in the International Suite for a while, we dispersed. My group didn't really have a destination; we decided to just walk around until we found something we liked. Two minutes later, we found the vendors. I couldn't say how many vendors there were, but they were selling everything from saddles and stirrups to fudge and rock candy. It was crazy (and I’m not much of a shopper), so I was glad when we finally left.

We decided to continue walking around. We almost walked into an area where all of the animals were being readied for the day’s events. Luckily, the doors had windows so we were able to turn around and walk the other way. Fast-forward a few minutes of fighting the crowd, and we ended up by a vendor selling food. It was now lunchtime and we were all hungry.  Unfortunately, the vendor only accepted cash so we had to find an ATM. Fast-forward a few more minutes of fighting the crowd, and we ended up in another building full of vendors. This place was even crazier. They had tractors. Inside. They also had purses and hats and…other stuff.

The first ATM that we noticed was on the opposite side of the building, so it took a while to get out of there. Once we got cash, we went back to the vendor and got some turkey legs. I felt like Bam-Bam and spent more time thinking about how wonderful the Flintstones were instead of devouring the meat. I ended up getting bored so I gave it away. We walked around some more, but it was much of the same.
Just before two, we headed to the Will Rogers building to see the rodeo. Our seats were in section A, row 10. The climb to get there terrified me since there weren't any railings along the stairs. I was happy to sit down.

A short while later, the rodeo started. It was insane. The entire arena floor filled with horses—10 or 14 of them stood at attention while 50 or 100 more zigzagged through. They had riders dressed as old Texas soldiers, carrying every flag of Texas. Many important people rode through there. Most of the horses left the way they came, but the 10 or 14 remained still even as fireworks exploded around them. I can’t imagine how much training and coordination went into the opening ceremony, not to mention the rest of the events.

I can’t remember the exact order of events after the opening ceremony, but I do remember that they had bucking broncos, a calf scramble, chuck wagon races, barrel racing, steer wrestling, bull riding  and Whiplash the Cowboy Monkey. Most of the events I've seen before, but seeing them in person made it much more exciting to me.

 It was definitely helpful to know what to expect so that instead of thinking about what exactly the purpose of each event was I could think about how they interact with the Texas sub-culture. I use the word “interact” because I think it more accurately describes not only how culture shapes people but how people shape culture.

So far, I have concluded that these events originated as points of pride – how much control one has over their animals, how skillful the animals and their trainers are, and how daring men (and women) can be. What better way to show off your teams’ skills than to invite the whole town to see you in action?

I am still processing all of the day’s events, but I think that in the future I will be better prepared to analyze and review my own culture and subcultures and see the relationships between them.

~ T.B., Multicultural Ambassador

We hope that you will stop by the office (TSC # 21). Also, look for us on social media. Facebook : and read along with our journeys here on the blog: You can also see our images on Flickr: Or follow us on Twitter: @DiversityTSU or email us directly at  

We hope that you will stop by the office (TSC # 21). Also, look for us on social media. Facebook : and read along with our journeys here on the blog: You can also see our images on Flickr: Or follow us on Twitter: @DiversityTSU or email us directly at