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'Black Has Meaning': UK honors Black History Month

By Ryan Girves 

2023 Men of Color SymposiumLEXINGTON, Ky. (Feb. 1, 2024) — February marks the start of Black History Month — a time dedicated to recognizing the achievements, contributions and rich heritage of Black Americans throughout history. 

Black Americans were, and continue to be, instrumental in shaping our country. During February, we honor their legacy by highlighting and celebrating the stories that were often neglected or silenced. 

“This month is a significant celebration that recognizes the leadership and legacy forged by Black Americans,” said University of Kentucky Vice President for Institutional Diversity Katrice A. Albert. “It is our annual moment to commemorate the remarkable cultural heritage that just might spark our everyday action and engagement toward a more just campus, Lexington and society. I look forward to celebrating that which makes us stronger as we continue to uphold our promise as the University of Kentucky.” 

The UK Martin Luther King Center Black History Month Committee, in collaboration with units across campus, has created a rich calendar of events that will inspire the campus to commemorate the past, analyze the present and dream for the future. 

“Leading this year’s committee is my way of helping to cultivate a campus celebration that the Black community at UK can be proud of and excited to participate in,” said Jasmine Prince, associate director of the MLK Center. “Because the MLK Center is often seen as a cultural hub, it’s always our hope that we can help to mobilize our campus partners and bring them to the table to think collaboratively about cultural and heritage month celebrations.”

For this year’s celebration, the committee chose the theme “Black Has Meaning,” which is a play on the Black History Month abbreviation, BHM, and a reminder that Black people have had significant contributions, influence and impact in every facet of society-from arts to business to sports to music. 

“Because Black history is a shared history, I hope that Black and non-black students, faculty and staff choose to be open to engaging with each other at our events to celebrate Black culture and history,” said Najiya Clayborn, MLK Center student intern and Black History Month planning committee member. 

MLK Center events include: 

  • BHM Kick-Off & Art Showcase
    • 11 a.m., Thursday, Feb. 1 | Gatton Student Center Social Staircase 
    • Celebrate Black History Month in the Gatton Student Center where the vibrant spirit comes to life as featured student artists passionately share their inspiring artwork with the community.
  • Men of Color Symposium
    • 9 a.m.-4 p.m., Friday, Feb. 2 | Gatton Student Center 
    • A transformative one-day conference dedicated to fostering brotherhood, academic excellence, wellness and illuminating professional pathways for men of color. This year's theme, "Building the Bond: Strengthening the Brotherhood Beyond Borders," underscores our commitment to cultivating meaningful relationships, overcoming barriers and uniting diverse individuals into one community. 
  • The Cultured Kitchen: Soul Food Dinner
    • 4-6 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 3 | Food Connection at The 90
    • Embark on a culinary journey with Chef JRob as he imparts the art of crafting a soul-soothing dinner that not only satisfies your stomach but also nourishes your soul.
  • The Cultured Kitchen: Signature Brunch
    • 4-6 p.m., Sunday, Feb. 4 | Food Connection at The 90
    • Indulge in the ultimate Sunday brunch experience as Chef JRob unveils the secrets behind his signature stuffed French toast, a delectably elevated twist on the classic morning delight.
  • Hip-Hop/Trap Yoga Class
    • 5-6 p.m., Wednesday, Feb. 7 | Johnson Center Fitness Center White room  
    • Fun, destressing activity to share and blend the arts of hip-hop and yoga together. Participants will practice mindfulness, breathing techniques and test their balance in a fun, loving activity.
  • Trailblazer Movie Night:
    • 5-6 p.m., Wednesday, Feb. 7 | Johnson Center Fitness Center White room  
    • Celebrate Black History Month with us at our special Movie Night, featuring a screening of a critically acclaimed film that explores and celebrates African American history and culture.
  • Future Health Professionals Conference: 
    • 9 a.m.-3 p.m., Monday, Feb. 12 | Gatton Student Center 
    • Hear from a range of health care providers and students, attend multiple professional development workshops and connect with healthcare programs and resources from the university and beyond.
  • Family Feud: Black Love Edition: 
    • 6-7:30 p.m., Tuesday, Feb. 13 | Cat’s Den at Gatton Student Center
    • Take on a game of Family Feud! There will be teams going head to head, answering questions that pertain to couples and relationships.
  • Pioneers of Progress:
    • 6:30 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 15 | Location TBD 
    • Celebrating Black Engineers and Innovators: An inspiring exhibit showcasing the remarkable contributions of African American engineers and innovators who have significantly shaped the world of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
  • NAACP Movie Night
    • 5 p.m., Friday, Feb. 16 | Worsham Cinema at Gatton Student Center
    • Showcasing "Just Mercy,"  film that highlights the racial encounters of a young man and the legal justice system, as he fights for his life.  
  • Sister Circle Forum
    • 9 a.m.-4 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 22 | Gatton Student Center
    • A transformative one-day conference dedicated to fostering sisterhood, amplifying our stories, and illuminating professional pathways for women of color. This year's theme, "Embrace, Embody, Evolve," underscores our commitment to cultivating space for all women to show up authentically and empathetically in their pursuit of excellence, change and success.  
  • Black History Jeopardy:
    • 6:30-7:30 p.m., Thursday, Feb 22 | Pigman Hall 
    • Designed to celebrate Black History Month and to honor the rich heritage and numerous contributions of Black Americans throughout history. 
  • Black History Family Feud
    • 3:30-6 p.m., Friday, Feb. 23 | Law Bldg. Grand Courtroom 
    • Test your knowledge, share some laughs and enjoy a fantastic evening of entertainment. The Family Feud game will be infused with questions that highlight the richness of Black culture and history, a perfect blend of education and fun! Food will be provided. 
  • Young, Gifted, and Black Arts & Business Showcase
    • 6 p.m., Friday, Feb. 28 | Lyric Theatre, 300 E. Third St.
    • Experience the dynamic intersection of arts, business, and community as this event brilliantly showcases Black businesses in Lexington while spotlighting the exceptional talent of UKY students and the local community in the performing arts.

Additional campus events are as follows.

Martin-Gatton College of Agriculture, Food and Environment

Gatton College of Business and Economics

  • Lighting the Path: Celebrating Black Excellence in Hockey
    • 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 22
    • Atrium, Gatton College of Business and Economics
    • Join LeadHer, Gatton Student Club and the UK Hockey team to test your hockey knowledge and skills. Win exciting prizes, engage in educational trivia games and learn fun facts that challenge your understanding of the sport. Don't miss out on this fantastic opportunity to showcase your passion for hockey and connect with fellow enthusiasts!
  • Pioneering the Path: Celebrating Black Excellence in Hockey
    • Friday, Feb. 23
    • Documentary Screening  (10 a.m.-noon, B&E 311) and Keynote Luncheon, Award Presentation  (noon-2 p.m., Woodward Hall, B&E 307)
    • The Gatton College of Business and Economics, in collaboration with LeadHer, proudly commemorates Black History Month with "Pioneering the Path: Celebrating Black Excellence in Hockey." Explore the remarkable contributions of Black individuals to hockey and embark on a journey through history that shapes our future. 

College of Communications and Information 

  • Finding Your Place and Purpose in Career or Academia
    • 5:30-7 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 1
    • Young Library Auditorium
    • Join the College of Communication and Information DEI Committee for "Finding Your Place and Purpose in Career or Academia," a lecture with award-winning educator Jeanetta Sims. 

College of Education 

  • Nic Stone, New York Times Bestselling Author of Dear Martin, Talk
    • 11 a.m., Saturday, Feb. 3
    • Worsham Theater, Gatton Student Center
    • Stone’s talk is free and open to the public, but registration is required. The event is presented by Kentucky Humanities, UK College of Education Center for Professional Development, the National Endowment for the Humanities and the United We Stand Initiative.

College of Fine Arts

UK HealthCare

UK Libraries

  • Traveling Exhibit "The Heart of the Turf: Racing's Black Pioneers"
    • Through Feb. 29
    • William T. Young Library
    • The exhibit highlights the lives and careers of 80 Black horsemen and -women from the mid-1800s to the present through one-of-a-kind photographs from Keeneland Library collections and biographical vignettes that tell their stories and honor their legacies.

Commonwealth Institute for Black Studies

  • 2024 Black Women’s Summit (sold out)
    • 9:30 a.m.-3 p.m., Friday, Feb. 9
    • Spindletop Hall
    • The 2024 Black Women's Summit is a celebration of academics and research about Black women at the University of Kentucky. The event features UK scholars works-in-progress, short presentations and an exciting keynote by Sabrina Strings, Ph.D. from the University of California, Santa Barbara. Strings is the author of “Fearing the Black Body” (2024) and “The End of Love,” (2024).


As we honor Black history during the month of February, we are also commemorating the pivotal anniversary of the integration of our institution throughout 2024. In 1949 — 75 years ago — Lyman T. Johnson broke the color barrier at UK becoming the first Black American to attend classes at the university. 

Read more about Johnson's legacy in this message President Eli Capilouto shared with the campus community this week. More programming and events will take place throughout the year to mark this important anniversary. 

Throughout February, UK will also feature Black alumni who are trailblazers in their fields and whose passion and perseverance are advancing the Commonwealth of Kentucky. We will showcase their remarkable achievements, honor their lasting legacy and continue to champion their incredible contributions to the advancement of the state.

You can follow along on UKNow, FacebookTwitter (X), Instagram and on digital signage across campus.

As the state’s flagship, land-grant institution, the University of Kentucky exists to advance the Commonwealth. We do that by preparing the next generation of leaders — placing students at the heart of everything we do — and transforming the lives of Kentuckians through education, research and creative work, service and health care. We pride ourselves on being a catalyst for breakthroughs and a force for healing, a place where ingenuity unfolds. It's all made possible by our people — visionaries, disruptors and pioneers — who make up 200 academic programs, a $476.5 million research and development enterprise and a world-class medical center, all on one campus.   

In 2022, UK was ranked by Forbes as one of the “Best Employers for New Grads” and named a “Diversity Champion” by INSIGHT into Diversity, a testament to our commitment to advance Kentucky and create a community of belonging for everyone. While our mission looks different in many ways than it did in 1865, the vision of service to our Commonwealth and the world remains the same. We are the University for Kentucky.