Where old friends and good food meet

Published: Thursday, September 1, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, August 31, 2005 at 6:44 p.m.
Greeting old friends, eating good food, taking care of a bit of business, watching a Gators football game, dancing and worshipping are in store for those attending the University of Florida Black Alumni Weekend, which starts Friday and runs through Sunday.
It's the third year the event has been planned, but the weekend was canceled last year when Hurricane Frances slammed into the state. With the exception of seasonal thunderstorms, the weather should make for a successful weekend this year.
Clarence Brown, president of UF's Association of Black Alumni, said the weekend is a time for alumni to reconnect with the university and make contact with current students and faculty in an effort to continue to serve UF and be a resource to students.
"It helps increase our visibility with the university. President (Bernie) Machen made diversity a priority at the university, and we want to be at the table to make that happen," Brown said.
The weekend is also a time of fun, to rekindle old friendships. In 2003, the black alumni weekend centered around the UF vs. Florida A&M game, which Brown said attracted a lot of Gator faithful and Rattler fans.
"We used to try to include events for the black alumni during homecoming weekend, but there are always so many activities going on. So, we plan it for the first or second game of the season," he said.
The full weekend of activities typically attracts about 150 black alumni. Stephanie Pollard, who organized the event, said alumni are able to extend invitations to their friends and families. There are several events open to the public, and tickets can be purchased individually for the dance, brunch, tailgate party and barbecue lunch.
"I opened it up to my church to come as my guests, and others will do the same; there will be people there from all over," Pollard said.
Her church, Passage Family Church, where 1983 UF graduate George Dix Jr. is a pastor, will host the black alumni on Sunday for worship service and a barbecue luncheon.
Pollard, who obtained her master's degree from UF in 2004, said posters about the weekend are also up around town and in several key spots on the UF campus.
She offers a word of advice to those planning to attend black alumni activities: Secure alternate parking since space will be limited at the alumni hall.
"Most alumni know this, but others coming may not be aware; but there should be someone to help find parking," she said.
Activities like the tailgate party, set for 3 p.m. Saturday at the Institute of Black Culture, are designed to be a casual affair, a time for alumni to mingle before the game.
Brown, a 1987 UF graduate, said he's looking forward to rekindling old friendships, especially at the card table.
"Spade tournaments while in college caused me to miss a lot of sleep," he said.
On a more serious note, Brown said the weekend also serves to strengthen the alumni association, fostering the leadership base for the future.
"So many (black) alumni may leave the university and not want to come back, and we want to encourage them to develop a stronger relationship with the university," he said. "And we try to get (black) alumni to accept speaking engagements with student organizations to help make their experience at UF more meaningful."
Harriet Daniels is a staff writer for the Star-Banner/New York Times Media Group in Ocala. She covers demographics, diversity and non-profits.

University of Florida Black Alumni Weekend 2005

Friday, Sept. 2 - Sunday, Sept. 4 Schedule of Events:
  • Friday 12 - 4:30 p.m. - Open House/Registration, Emerson Alumni Hall, 1938 W. University Ave.
    5:30 - 7 p.m. - UF President's Reception, President's Home, 2151 W. University Ave. (ticket included with registration) 7:30 - 10:30 p.m. - Dance at Emerson Hall, 1938 W. University Ave. (ticket included with registration)
  • Saturday 9 - 11 a.m. - Champagne brunch, J. Wayne Reitz Union, Museum Road off Southwest 13th Street ($15) 3 p.m. - Association of Black Alumni Tailgate Party at the Institute of Black Culture, 1510 W. University Ave. ($5) 6 p.m. - UF vs. Wyoming (ticket included with registration) 10 p.m. - Post-game social at Comfort Inn West, 3440 SW 40th Blvd.
  • Sunday 11 a.m.- 1 p.m. - Worship at Passage Family Church, 2020 NE 15th St., Pastor George Dix Jr., (Class of 1983). Barbecue lunch follows in fellowship hall ($10).
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