Fall Fest unites and celebrates MU Black community

Annual event welcomes students back to campus with performances and information about MU, Columbia

Story by Shannon Worley
Photos by C.J. Harris

At the Gaines/Oldham Black Culture Center’s (GOBCC) annual Fall Fest on Sept. 9, basketball courts doubled as dance floors. Each year, the event introduces incoming students of color to campus organizations, university departments and Columbia businesses, whose representatives explain what their groups do. The event culminates with performances by the National Pan Hellenic Council (NPHC) Greek organizations.  

This year, senior Jas Simmons served as the host for the afternoon. Beginning in the summer months, Simmons worked alongside the GOBCC staff to plan the programming for the event.  

“It has been two years since we have had an official Fall Fest, so seeing it come to fruition has been amazing,” Simmons said. “There is such a great turnout, with people from our city coming in.”  

Amani Walker tabled with the Alpha chapter of Sigma Gamma Rho Inc. at Fall Fest. Though the sorority has other recruitment events, this event is one of the first opportunities for new students to get a taste of the organization.  

“I’m looking forward to seeing a lot of new faces,” Walker said before the event. “A lot of freshmen are going to be out here, and while we have had smaller meet and greets, this is a big chance for us to show off what we can do.”  

Junior Nia Lowry attended Fall Fest as a representative for Mizzou Black Women’s Initiative, Dream Outside the Box, and also as a performer for Freestyle Your Expression (FYE).  

“I’m super excited to perform and to inform all of the beautiful students here about what we have to offer,” Lowry said. “I think it’s really fun and exciting to see everybody perform and everybody’s cheering each other on.”  

Other university representatives included the Office of New Student Programs, the Women’s Center, the LGBTQ Resource Center and the Office of Institutional Equity. Investigator and Outreach Coordinator Kelsey Forqueran was at the event on behalf of the Office of Institutional Equity.  

“I’m here to share with our students,” Forqueran said. “Our office is a resource, and I am here to let them know what options are available and talk with them about how we can support them.”  

Ciarra Small tabled on behalf of the Department of Social Justice, as an employee at the Relationship and Sexual Violence Prevention Center. 

“Today is about meeting people, seeing students get really interested in what our department has to offer and also just seeing students in general,” Small said.  

 Representatives from Columbia businesses, included barbershops, hair salons and churches, as well as resources such as the fire department. Jerome Larkins attended with Veterans United Home Loans as a recruiter.  

“We have a special summer internship program that has been running for about five years now,” Larkins said. “We find students of color from all over the country, bring them to Columbia, Missouri, and introduce them to the mortgage industry, to the city of Columbia and to the special place that is VU.”  

About the Gaines/Oldham Black Culture Center   

The Gaines/Oldham Black Culture Center is one of four social justice centers within the MU Division of Inclusion, Diversity and Equity. The mission of the Gaines/Oldham Black Culture Center is to complement the academic programs of study and enrich the quality of campus life for Black students at the University of Missouri. The GOBCC provides opportunities for self-awareness and identity development through educational, cultural, and social programming that promotes student persistence and achievement. Additionally, the GOBCC works to make the University of Missouri and Columbia community a more inclusive and welcoming environment for diverse populations through education, outreach, and collaboration. Twitter: @GOBCC, Instagram: @Mizzou_GOBCC