Cultural Celebrations Mark Stetson’s Black History Month 

With its rich history in promoting diversity and equity, Stetson will honor the culture and contributions of the African American community through numerous Black History Month activities.

“African Americans and the Arts” is the 2024 national theme for Black History Month, held each February. The monthlong celebration coincides with the birthdays of 19th-century abolitionist Frederic Douglass and President Abraham Lincoln, both of whom played key roles in Black history.

Although Black History Month has roots dating to 1915, it received an official congressional designation in 1986. The proclamation declared the month would “celebrate the many achievements of African Americans in every field from science and the arts to politics and religion.”

Patrick Coggins, PhD, JD, professor of Education: “Stetson has been recognized as the leader in multicultural education in the state and nation with its diverse international and American students … .”

Stetson has played a chief role in promoting Black education and advancement, according to Patrick Coggins, PhD, JD, professor of Education. Coggins pointing to the university, in 1962, becoming one of Florida’s first private, non-historically Black colleges to integrate.

A Black from Guyana, Coggins has experienced Stetson’s support as he has worked to enhance cultural diversity since arriving on the DeLand campus 1991. And, among many other endeavors, he has served as a vice chair of the Florida Commissioner of Education African American Studies Task Force.

Also, Coggins’ daughter, Andrea Coggins, “an African American Guyanese-Caribbean student,” became “the first-ever Stetson Homecoming Queen who was not [of] European descent,” he shared.

“Stetson has been recognized as the leader in multicultural education in the state and nation with its diverse international and American students, who found a way to thrive and interact in a multicultural and inclusive Stetson community,” Coggins said.

Throughout February, the university’s celebration of Black History Month will emphasize the arts. Of course, blacks worldwide, including Africa and the Caribbean, have greatly enriched those works across a broad spectrum of formats — from visual and performing arts, literature, fashion, folklore, language, music and film. In adidtion, Black artists have used their creative outlets to preserve and share their history while also instilling  empowerment in their communities.

Opera singer Donovan Singletary personifies success in the arts by Black Stetson alumni.

Much of the same goes for Black Stetson alumni, most recently including opera singer Donovan Singletary, who is in the midst of a Grammy Award-winning 2023-2024 season.

Among the others is DeLand native and jazz legend Dr. Noble “Thin Man” Watts, whom the university awarded an honorary doctorate in 2000. An amphitheater owned by the African American Museum of the Arts is named in his honor, as is the Noble “Thin Man” Watts Jazz Festival, one of DeLand’s signature cultural events each year. In 2022, Stetson’s Creative Arts Department Anti-Racism Committee for Equity provided funding and artists to help design and paint a mural at the amphitheater, leading to “a vibrant expression of Black joy at the heart of our community” cited Kevin Winchell, Stetson’s Director of Community Engagement. 

Stetson’s Black History Month activities include:

Black Friday Celebration

Feb. 16

Libby Lawn outside the Carlton Union Building, 4-6 p.m.

Note: This event is hosted by Black Student Union. For more information, email [email protected].


Feb. 16

Carlton Union Building

Note: Tabling is by Stetson’s Wellness and Recreation program. For information, contact Lauren Hancock, [email protected].

Play: “Keepers of the Dream”

Feb. 16-18

Carlton Union Building Stetson Room

Note: The play, by the Daytona Writers Guild, is hosted by the Stetson Center for Community Engagement. The event is free to Stetson students, faculty and staff. For more information, contact Ann-Marie Willacker, [email protected], or Rajni Shankar-Brown, PhD, [email protected].

Thin Mann Watts Jazz Festival 

Feb. 17

Note: Students in Stetson’s School of Music band will perform and open the event. In addition, Rajni Shankar-Brown, PhD, Stetson’s Professor and Jessie Ball duPont Chair of Social justice Education, is a featured spoken word artist and will share original poetry.

Black Student Union Ball

Feb. 23

Carlton Union Building Stetson Room

In celebration of Black History Month, the Black Student Union will be hosting a series of events throughout the month of February under the theme “Heritage Through Art: Celebrating Black Artistry.” Among the highlights is the Black Student Union Ball, 8-11 p.m.

DeLand Black Heritage Trail Guided Tour

Feb. 24 

Meeting at corner of South Clara and West Voorhis avenues, 11 a.m.-noon

Note: This event is offered through the St. Johns River-to-Sea Loop Alliance and the Stetson Center for Community Engagement. The event is free and open to the public.

Film: “Black Voices, Black Spaces”

Feb. 24

Lynn Business Center Rinker Auditorium, 2-3:30 p.m.

Note: This event is sponsored by the Homer and Dolly Hand Art Center, DeLand Pride and Stetson’s Center for Community Engagement. The movie received an Emmy Award in the 2023 Diversity/Equity/Inclusion Long-Form Content category and is a Silver Winner for Social Justice Film from the 2023 Telly Awards. For more information, contact Ann-Marie Willacker, [email protected].

Honoring DeLand’s Civil Rights Activists from the 1960 Woolworth’s Sit-Ins

Feb. 29 (time and location to be determined)

Note: This event, hosted by the Greater Union Life Center, includes a plaque unveiling in Downtown DeLand. The plaque bears a historic opinion piece by Joyce Cusack, Volusia County’s first female Black member of the Florida House of Representatives, written for the Daytona Beach Evening News in 1960. The event is free and open to the public.

Black History Month Banquet: Honoring DeLand’s 16 Black Churches

Feb. 29 

Sanborn Activities & Events Center, 815 S. Alabama Ave. in DeLand (time to be determined)

Note: This event, sponsored by the Greater Union Life Center in partnership with the City of DeLand, will feature the hanging of banners through Downtown DeLand to honor each of the city’s 16 Black churches. Tickets and additional details will be available through the Greater Union Life Center, 386-873-4672 or [email protected].

-Cheri Henderson