Black History Month, Unity Luncheon and more!

Jan 28, 2023 at 09:28 am by WGNS

(MURFREESBORO) February will be filled with opportunities to celebrate and learn when Middle Tennessee State University marks Black History Month 2023 with films, awards, fashion, music, panel discussions and talks with famed philosopher Cornel West and author, activist and educator Ilyasah Shabazz. 

African-American Life

Ninety-seven years after the Association for the Study of African American Life and History first sponsored a weeklong national event to recognize the contributions and excellence of Black Americans, MTSU will kick off its own monthlong campuswide observance on Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2023. 


That free public event, which include refreshments, is set for 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Feb. 1 in MTSU’s Intercultural and Diversity Affairs Center in Room 320 of the Student Union, 1768 MTSU Blvd.  

An MTSU parking map is available at Off-campus guests can get a one-day permit at or park free in the university’s Rutherford Boulevard Lot and ride the Raider Xpress shuttle to the Student Union. 

Shabazz, an award-winning author, educator, producer, and daughter of the late Malcolm X and Dr. Betty Shabazz, will provide the Black History Month keynote address on Monday, Feb. 27, 2023 at 7 p.m. in the Student Union’s second-floor ballroom.  

Her speech is open to the public. 

West, a philosopher, activist and author and a professor emeritus at Princeton University, will visit MTSU Friday, Feb. 24, at 7 p.m. for his “State of the African American Union” address. He and the audience will discuss one of our nation’s most important questions: “Does race still matter?” 

The professor’s talk, which is also free to the public, will be held in the Tennessee Room of MTSU’s James Union Building, located at 516 Alma Mater Drive just off Middle Tennessee Boulevard. 


The month also will include one of MTSU’s most beloved traditions, the 27th annual Unity Luncheon, on Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2023 to once again celebrate the "unsung heroes" of the Midstate who have given remarkable service to their fellow citizens.  

Candidates for the awards must be at least 50 years old, have resided in Middle Tennessee for at least 20 years and made outstanding contributions to the community. This year’s honorees and their categories of recognition are: 

  • Retired MTSU professor Marva Lucas, Education.
  • Joe and Sybil Rich, Community Service.
  • Michael McDonald, Advocate of Civility.
  • Stacy Windrow, Excellence in Sports.
  • Vanessa Alderson, Contribution to Black Arts.

The luncheon, which begins at 11 a.m. Feb. 8, 2023 will feature an address from Memphis attorney and councilman JB Smiley Jr., founding member of Smiley and Associates PLLC.  

Tickets, which are available online only at until Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2023 are $20 each for students and $35 for nonstudents. Tickets can’t be purchased at the door this year. 

South To America

The month’s high points also include a free lecture, “South to America,” from the Hughes-Rogers Professor of African American Studies at Princeton University, Imani Perry.  

Perry, an interdisciplinary scholar of race, law, literature and African American culture at Rutgers, is set to speak Thursday, Feb. 9, 2023 at 11:20 a.m. in the Student Union’s ballroom. 

A discussion featuring members of the MTSU campus community is planned Monday, Feb. 13, when the Black MT Panel analyzes where Black students, faculty, staff and alumni have been as a community, the current status and how to organize to create a better sense of community and space at the university. 

The public event is set for 6 p.m. Feb. 13, 2023 in the State Farm Lecture Hall, Room BAS S-102, in MTSU's Business and Aerospace Building, 1642 MTSU Blvd. 

AfricaNashville will bring the renowned Yeli Ensemble to MTSU Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2023 at noon for a performance and discussion of music, dance, history and culture with world-class West African musicians and dancers.  

These acclaimed artists’ free public event will be held in Cantrell Hall in the Tom Jackson Building, 628 Alma Mater Drive. 

Chandra Russell Story

On Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2023 at 4:30 p.m., MTSU will celebrate another Black History Month tradition when Chandra Russell Story, an associate professor in MTSU's Department of Health and Human Performance and graduate director of the department's interdisciplinary PhD program, will receive the 2023 John Pleas Faculty Recognition Award. 

The public ceremony is set for 4:30 p.m. Feb. 21, 2023 in the MT Center inside MTSU’s Ingram Building at 2269 Middle Tennessee Blvd. 

MTSU presents the honor each year to a Black faculty member who has demonstrated excellence in teaching, research and service, following in the footsteps of acclaimed psychology Professor Emeritus John Pleas. 

Black History Calendar

A complete calendar of 2023 Black History Month events at MTSU is available at More information on the programs is available at

For more information and for updates on 2023 Black History Month events at MTSU, contact Danielle Rochelle, director of MTSU’s Office of Intercultural and Diversity Affairs, at 615-898-5812 or