By Meredith Camel
CORAL GABLES, Fla. (February 26, 2017)—When alumni Denise Mincey-Mills, Antonio Junior, and Phyllis Tyler—co-chairs of the Black Alumni Society’s First Black Graduates Project Committee—described the four years they devoted to sifting through Ibis yearbooks and University Libraries’ archives to learn more about the struggles and successes of UM’s black graduates of the 1960s and 1970s, they called it “uncaging history.”
That history sprang to life this weekend during UTrailblazers, a celebration that brought hundreds of people to campus to honor those who blazed a trail of diversity and inclusion during the first two decades of racial integration at UM. Friday events included a campus bus tour, presentation by Professor of History Donald Spivey to introduce the Richter Library’s We Were Pioneers exhibit, an opening ceremony reception with President Julio Frenk, an alumni-student forum, and a keynote address by alumnus Harold Long, who founded United Black Students at the University of Miami in 1967.
On Saturday, more than 400 people attended the UTrailblazers Gala at the Shalala Student Center, including some trailblazing alumni who had not been back to campus in decades but are now eager to reconnect with their alma mater. Patricia Roberts, a double alumna of the School of Education and Human Development, lives in Miami but had not been back to campus since she graduated with her master’s degree in 1973. “Oh, I’ll be back,” she said at the event while marveling at the beauty of the campus that has changed so much.
Roberts’ reflections about the experiences she had as a student and as the University’s first black cheerleader are living, along with the oral histories of nearly 60 other UTrailblazers, in video testimonies captured by the UM Alumni Association on Friday and Saturday. The videos are part of the University’s continued effort to not only “uncage” but also to cultivate additional insight on its past. (Read more about UM’s first black graduates.)
In an effort to continue blazing trails of opportunity and inclusion at the University, donors to the First Black Graduates Projects Endowed Scholarship are building a fund that will, in perpetuity, award $2,500 to two black students per year. Alumnus Johnny C. Taylor Jr. announced at the gala that the fund has reached more than $91,000, plus his own $25,000 pledge.