UCAN Celebrates Black History Month With HBCU-Themed Programming

The Tony Rogers Band performs a medley of songs to kick off “The HBCU Experience” program on Thursday, February 22, 2024 at the Homan Square Community Center in North Lawndale.

The celebration of Black History Month was in full swing as UCAN helped host “The HBCU Experience,” a program in partnership with Family Focus and the Chicago Park District. The event took place on Thursday, February 22, 2024 at the Homan Square Community Center in North Lawndale as part of Light in the Night (LIN), a Communities Partnering 4 Peace (CP4P) program aimed at reclaiming public spaces.

Several local schools and its students took on the theme of historically Black colleges and universities by representing institutions that included Howard University (Leslie Lewis School of Excellence), Alabama State University (Oscar DePriest Elementary School), Grambling State University (Dvorak School of Excellence), Florida A&M University (William Elementary School), and Spelman College (Marshall High School). They brought the experience to life by donning their respective schools’ apparel, discussing the importance of HBCUs, and enjoying routines from step, color guard, dance and cheerleading teams.

UCAN LIN organizer Dewayne Morehead helped oversee the event, managing food for more than 150 attendees. Beyond feeding the crowd, Morehead said he was happy to bring people together to celebrate Black history and culture in a safe environment.

“[We’re] creating safe spaces where the kids can go somewhere and know they can have a bite to eat, have fun, and be safe. It’s so much shooting around in the parks … the parents are afraid to send their children out,” Morehead said. “When they hear about us out here, they come because they know it’s a safe space. Most of us are from the neighborhood from different areas, so they respect what we’re doing.”

The event also included a Black Wall Street where local business owners sold a variety of items. Alicia Thorns, a jewelry and accessories vendor, said she appreciated the opportunity to sell within her community.

“It’s important being able to network with other people and to just get yourself out there,” Thorns said.

Jewelry and accessories vendor Alicia Thorns opens up shop at the event’s Black Wall Street.

UCAN also recently hosted another LIN event in partnership with Open Books, a nonprofit organization and bookstore that sells donated books to fund literacy programs for kids. The free event was open to the public, with food and activities for people of all ages.

UCAN is one of 13 Chicago organizations representing CP4P, a coalition of nonprofit organizations focused on gun violence prevention across 28 neighborhoods.

To learn more about upcoming Light in the Night events, check the calendar here.