Feb. 2, 2023
Black History Month iconographic logo

The beginning of February marks the start of Black History Month, and we are kicking off this monumental month with some exciting events in and around the W.A. Franke Honors College including highlighting Black innovation, cinema, culture, movement, and more!  

But first, a little history.  

In 1926, American historian and scholar Carter G. Woodson founded Negro History Week—a week in February that encompassed both the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass and was intended to highlight the achievements and contributions of Black people in America. Half a century later, in 1976, President Gerald Ford officially recognized the entire month of February as Black History Month. 

The theme for Black History Month 2023 is Black Resistance. Dr. Cheree Meeks, Assistant Dean of Programs, Diversity & Inclusion, spoke on the theme of Black Resistance at the Pima County Board of Supervisors meeting this last month. You can read her remarks here. 

Black Excellence, Innovation, & Events 

The first in a new series of monthly events, Bear Down for Honors: February - The Ice Cream Scoop, will showcase how Black innovators have contributed to the way that we enjoy ice cream today. This community focused event will include opportunities to learn about the pioneering behind the delicious frozen treat, as well as connecting with fellow Franke Honors students—and of course, enjoying that treat together. Bear Down for Honors: February - The Ice Cream Scoop, will take place on February 9 from 5:00 to 6:30 PM on the Honors Second Floor Mezzanine.  

In addition to the kickoff of this new event series, the W.A. Franke Honors Black Excellence Scholars will be hosting a Black student/staff/faculty mixer mid-February. The Black Excellence Scholars program aims to center the Black and African American student experience and offer community building and culturally conscious pedagogy. The mixer will provide the chance for our Black students to mingle and network with staff and faculty from Honors, as well as across the University of Arizona. 

The Black Excellence Mixer will occur on February 16 in Honors Village Rm 1067/68 and include comfort food from a local Black owned restaurant. The Black Excellence Scholars will begin recruiting for next year's cohort starting on February 1, and the Mixer will provide ways for current members to meet new students and share about the ways in which the program uplifts and connects the Black community within Honors. 

That same week, on February 19, the Franke Honors College will be hosting a Black Cinema movie night streaming the film The Pursuit of Happyness at 1:00 PM in Honors Village Rm 1067. The Pursuit of Happyness tells a powerful story of Black Resilience & Resistance, which will inspire discussion to follow. 

Closing out the month, in collaboration with the College of Fine Arts, the W.A. Franke Honors College will be celebrating Black Culture & Movement with performances, art, interactive activities, and food. Join us on the Honors Village Great Lawn on February 28 from 4:30 - 6:00 PM. 

Lifting, Climbing, & Designing  

Joel Harris and Aaliyah Thompson-Mazzeo

Joel Harris and Franke Honors student Aaliyah Thompson-Mazzeo are showing off this year’s Black History Month merchandise.

Drew Bourland

Joel Harris, Franke Honors Assistant Director of Digital and Creative Services, is the artist behind the logo that is featured on this year’s UAZ Black History Month merchandise. Harris has a diverse background in Art & Graphic Design, dabbling in many mediums over the years but, most recently, during his time at the W.A. Franke Honors College, honing his skills in digital design. Harris is also the owner of his own business, Joel Harris Design Co. and just this last fall, graduated with his Masters in Entrepreneurship from Eller College of Management.  

On February 1, Harris shared a bit about the process behind his designs during a fireside chat with Thomas Harris, Associate Athletic Directory for Diversity, Inclusion, and Employee Engagement.  

“We are presently creating Black History,” said Joel Harris, “The things that we create, innovate, establish and build today will be the things that future generations will look back on as their guidepost.” 

Joel Harris, Graffiti background, black shirt with yellow green red design "Lifting as we climb"

Drew Bourland

Harris’s designs were inspired heavily by his love of the 90s: the designs, colors, the music, the culture, and entertainment being created by the Black community. Drawing from these inspirations, Harris spent months researching, sketching, collaborating and editing, sketching again, creating digital vectors, and, listening to A Tribe Called Quest on repeat. Music plays a very important role in Harris’s life and design work, as both a personal hobby and source of inspiration. 

The phrases “Lifting as We Climb” and “Strength in our Roots” are the two mantras displayed within Harris’s colorful and nostalgic graphics. Both phrases represent the resilience and perseverance of the Black community through adversity, as well as the continued support amongst generations. 

“Wherever you are today, you wouldn’t be where you are at without somebody reaching back and pulling you up and helping you to get where you are at,” remarked Harris, a sentiment in which he hopes will inspire our students to recognize and uplift those around them as they navigate through college and beyond. 

“Wherever you are today, you wouldn’t be where you are at without somebody reaching back and pulling you up and helping you to get where you are at,”

Harris’s designs will be a guidepost indeed. Proceeds from the merchandise sales showcasing the logo will go to support the University of Arizona’s African American Student Affairs. The merchandise with Harris’s Black History Month designs will be available until they sell out—so get them while you can! 

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