The Student News Site of University of North Alabama

The Flor-Ala

The Student News Site of University of North Alabama

The Flor-Ala

The Student News Site of University of North Alabama

The Flor-Ala

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DEI kicks off Black History Month

Whitney Veazey
(From left to right) First Lady Dena Kitts, Homecoming Queen Olivia Oliphant, President Kenneth Kitts, Associate Vice President & Dean of Students Minnette Ellis, and Wesley Thompson pose together.

Wesley Thompson, a distinguished member of Alpha Phi Alpha, a pastor, and a proud graduate of the University of North Alabama (UNA), took center stage as he addressed a captivated audience of students and faculty. The occasion, marked by a celebration of Black History, became a poignant journey through time as Thompson shared his personal story and reflections on growing up in Florence.

The room hushed in anticipation as Thompson painted a vivid picture of his graduation day in 2010. The echoes of that moment still resonated in his heart. He recounted a visit to his great-grandmother, a woman who had witnessed the pages of history turning for a century. Emphasizing her age by drawing a parallel with the legendary Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., he conveyed a profound truth – the past is not a distant realm, but a living, breathing presence.

“She was older than Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., living to be 100 years old,” Thompson remarked. “I was able to speak with history. Talk to history. Walk with history.” His words lingered in the room, prompting reflection on the invaluable connection between generations and the living legacy they carry.

As the story unfolded, Thompson’s message transcended time and space. He urged the audience to remember that the battles fought and won in the past must not be consigned to history books alone. “We have to do all that we can to carry on the legacy,” he emphasized, a call to action echoing through the halls of UNA.

Love, a universal theme, took center stage as Thompson delved into the essence of Black history. His words carried a profound message, challenging preconceived notions of selective love.

“As I think about Black history… It’s all about loving your neighbor,” he said.  “Not loving the neighbor of your choosing, not loving the neighbor you’re most comfortable with, not loving the neighbor that looks like you, dresses like you, talks like you.” 

It was a call for inclusive, unconditional love that transcends boundaries, echoing the principles that shape meaningful communities.

University homecoming queen Olivia Oliphant, a beacon of leadership, grace, and accomplishment, added her voice to the narrative. As the president of the Zeta Phi Beta sorority and a LaGrange Society Ambassador, Oliphant embodied the spirit of unity and resilience. Her presence underscored the importance of empowering future leaders who, like her, would continue the legacy of love and community.

Recalling her freshman year, Olivia navigated the challenges of being in a predominantly white institution, feeling the weight of the experience. However, the presence of the black homecoming queen during that period became a powerful source of inspiration. It fueled Olivia’s belief in the potential not only to belong but to excel and leave a lasting impact on her journey.

Ms. Minnette Ellis, the chief diversity officer, guided the event seamlessly. From opening remarks to introducing the speakers and closing the ceremony, she orchestrated an evening that was not just a celebration of Black history, but a testament to the ongoing journey towards a future built on understanding, compassion, and shared humanity.

President of the University, Ken Kitts, and his wife, Dena Kitts, graced the event with their presence, adding an extra layer of significance. Their attendance emphasized the university’s commitment to fostering an inclusive community where the leadership actively participates in acknowledging and honoring the richness of diverse histories.

In those moments, as the stories unfolded and resonated within the walls of UNA, it became clear that the celebration of Black history was not confined to a month or a specific event. It was a continuous dialogue, a living narrative that thrived through personal stories, collective memories, and the commitment to love and carry forward the legacy that binds us all.

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About the Contributors
Trenedy Parks, News Editor
Trenedy Parks is a sophomore from Fayetteville, Tenne. She is working towards a bachelor’s degree in journalism and digital media. She has worked as a staff writer for The Flor-Ala since Aug. 2022, and as News Editor since Aug. 2023. Her goals as a writer are to learn more about Florence and its community and to become more involved with the people of UNA.
Whitney Veazey, Chief Photographer
Whitney is a sophomore from Greenville, Ala. She is working towards a BFA with a concentration in photography. Whitney started at The Flor-Ala in Fall 2022 as a staff writer/photographer and is currently serving as chief photographer.

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