Take a fantastic voyage across the African diaspora

Pamela Edward, 02-16-2022

On Feb. 18-19, the University of Miami Black Alumni Society will gather virtually for its annual reunion, with explorations of Black art, fashion, cuisine, and wellness traditions, plus thought-provoking panel discussions and networking opportunities.
Black Alumni Weekend


A performance by Frost School of Music student Jameson Falconer of “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing”—widely acknowledged as the Black national anthem—will herald in the 2022 edition of the University of Miami Black Alumni Society (UMBAS) reunion, to be held virtually on Feb. 18-19. 

The theme for this year’s reunion is “Fantastic Voyage: Across the Diaspora.” Attendees will make informative and enlightening virtual stops at diasporic ports of call, taking a closer look at Barbados, Haiti, Jamaica, the Bahamas, and Ghana, to appreciate the beauty and strength that lie beyond their shores. The reunion will also look back at the trail blazed by the University’s first Black students, faculty, and administrators.

The opening keynote session, “Remember the Time,” will be moderated by distinguished Miami educator and double alumnus George Koonce, and it will shed light on the experiences of key University administrators engaging with students at the U during the 1960s and 1970s. Panelists include alumna Dorothy Fields, founder of Miami’s Black Archives, History, and Research Foundation; Whittington B. Johnson, professor emeritus of history and the University’s first Black professor; double alumna Nancy Wilson Young; and alumnus Ted Nichols. 

As a prelude to the keynote discussion, UMBAS President Patricia Dunac-Morgan will speak, and the gathering will pause to recognize the Taylor Family/UTrailblazers Experience, located in the Johnny C. Taylor, Jr. Breezeway on the Coral Gables Campus. Made possible by a gift from alumnus and University trustee Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., this interactive kiosk, which will be officially unveiled in August, highlights the significant contributions of Black students and faculty and staff members at the University. Donald Spivey, special advisor to President Julio Frenk, will also update the attendees about the progress being made with the University’s pursuit of racial justice. 

The reunion’s first day will also feature a session on art and fashion in the diaspora, presented by alumna Alana Smith and featuring Evelyn Onyejuruwa, owner of Ankara Miami and Ankara Delights Boutique. Norman Scales, fashion designer, will discuss how they and other Black designers incorporate the styles and materials of the motherland into their work. 

Alumni Gary Pinnock, Noelle Baldwin, and David Solis will explore a powerful new travel movement that has emerged among people of color and will provide Black travelers with advice, inspiration, and the sense of community to explore the world.

Closer to home, and especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, Black communities are embracing the rituals, traditions, and healing modalities of their ancestors that, along with modern medicine, can create a healthy balance of mind, body, and spirit. Miami-based pediatrician and alumna Dr. Kimberly Hunter-Reynolds will lead a discussion on how to integrate holistic well-being into everyday life. 

The first day will conclude with a virtual cooking and mixology session led by alumna Cassandré Davilmar, owner of Brooklyn’s Lakou Café, and UMBAS President-Elect Astin Hayes of Rémy Cointreau USA.

The reunion’s “fantastic voyage” takes center stage the second day, with a discussion moderated by Donette Francis, associate professor of English and director of the University’s American studies program. Panelists include Bahamas-born alumna Tanisha Tynes-Cambridge; Neval Greenidge, consul general of Barbados; Edmund Abaka, associate professor of history and international studies, who grew up and studied as an undergraduate in Ghana; Laurent Lamothe, former prime minister of Haiti; and businessman and double alumnus David Mullings, whose family hails from Jamaica. 

The second day will also feature a glimpse at the University’s Caribbean connections and a preview of the Center for Global Black Studies, one of multiple initiatives underway across all areas of the University to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion. Then, after a performance by OLEKU, the University’s African dance team, the reunion will conclude with student-led breakout sessions with the African Student Union, United Black Students, and Brothers Overcoming Negativity and Destruction. 

Register now for the UMBAS 2022 reunion, Fantastic Voyage: Across the Diaspora.