Members of the UTHSC Black Student Association had the opportunity to participate in a local tradition recently, as a way of showing their commitment to the city.
The students took part in the 30th anniversary of the Southern Heritage Classic Parade in Orange Mound on September 14. It was the first time the organization participated in the event.
BSA President and Physical Therapy student Elizabeth Sueing said the BSA participated in the parade to increase the visibility of UTHSC and the African-American professional health care students in Memphis.
“As future health professionals, I think it is very important for members of the Black Student Association to build relationships with communities throughout Memphis,” said Dustin Fulton, MS, adviser to the student organization. “The Southern Heritage Classic Parade provided an opportunity for our students to not only engage, but also celebrate a community with a rich history as the first African-American community built by and for African Americans in Memphis. Orange Mound is also touted as the first African-American mecca in the country.”
Alvin Crawford, MD, one of the most notable alumni from the UTHSC College of Medicine, was from the Orange Mound community. Dr. Crawford became the first African American to graduate from the UTHSC College of Medicine in 1964. Since then, more than 400 African-American students have earned medical degrees from the college.
Organized by the Orange Mound Community Parade Committee with a route that went along Park Avenue from Haynes to Airways, the parade featured high school and college marching bands, school and civic organizations, business, churches, and more.
BSA students marched in the parade and passed out printed health care tips and candy. They showed their UTHSC pride by wearing matching T-shirts and crossbody bags.
“It was important to participate because as current Memphis residents, we are a part of the community and want to continually cultivate community relationships that have a lasting impact in the Greater Memphis area,” Sueing said. “By simply being present, we reminded members of the community that UTHSC is present, available, and ready to serve the community in any way we can.”
After the parade, several members of the BSA participated in the Southern Heritage Classic tailgate and attended the football game to cheer on their favorite team and join other fans for one of the country’s most popular rivalry football games between Jackson State and Tennessee State, two (HBCUs) Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
“As an academic health institution, it is important that we find ways to expose students to areas where significant disparities exist with regard to health care for some of the most vulnerable populations – racial and ethnic minorities and the economically disadvantaged,” said Fulton, UTHSC associate director of Student Affairs. “I know for fact that students walked away with a greater appreciation of the historic Orange Mound community and an even greater passion to serve the underserved and show that we care as an institution.”