Government junior Christopher “Slim” Plummer didn’t experience racism until coming to UT. However, he uses his negative experience to make a positive impact by unifying African-American students through planning community events, such as the “Black Panther” premiere watch party last month.
After some time at UT, many African Americans, including Plummer, had negative encounters with non-minority students.
“During the spring semester of my freshman year I was in West Campus and a group of white students were throwing bottles at me (and my friends) … saying the ‘n’ word,” Plummer said. “It’s not discussed much, but there’s a lot of racist graffiti in West Campus. I was shocked. That was my first eye opener to racial issues.”
Going to a university with a black population of less than five percent, Plummer said it is common for black students to go throughout their day seeing thousands of people, but rarely see someone who looks like them.
These experiences inspired Plummer to organize events to bring the black community together to celebrate, share and support the culture of African Americans. Plummer said he wants others to know that black students can thrive at a university where a majority of the students look different from them, and is starting his own organization called Impetus, which focuses on helping students plan similar campus events of their own.
Plummer hopes through these events, students can gain experience marketing themselves and their talents. Impetus also plans to integrate student talents through dance, photography, videography and other creative outlets to help students build their own brand. Plummer said the organization is planned to launch this coming fall and is open to everyone.
“Although students typically come to the University to pursue academic goals, many of them also have passions outside of their major they do not know how to go about working towards,” Plummer said. “I want to give people a chance to build what they love to do while they’re here and while they’re getting their education. I have high hopes for it.”
A recent event Plummer organized was the “Black Panther” premiere watch party, where he rented out a movie theater and invited black UT students to dress up and watch the premiere.
Plummer said he likes to put together unique movements and approach each event idea with a business mindset by focusing on what would attract people to participate.
“A social, a barbecue, people do those types of things all the time,” Plummer said. “I didn’t want to be the same. I wanted to be different.”
Social media allowed people to easily connect to plan these events, Plummer said. Organizers shared information about the events on Twitter, and the information spread like wildfire throughout the black UT community, reaching a large audience.
Plummer’s biggest event, UT Durag Day, was a day last semester when the black community came to school wearing durags. A durag is a silk or satin cloth used predominantly by African Americans to protect the moisture and texture of their hair. In more recent years, durags have become more mainstream as a way to represent blackness, Plummer said.
“For UT Durag Day, we wore durags to show our appreciation of our blackness and just enjoy time together as black people,” Plummer said.
Major network media organizations such as BET and the The Dallas Morning News covered UT Durag Day, showcasing dozens of black UT students wearing durags and gathering at the Martin Luther King Jr. statue on campus to pose for photos.
“The purpose of Durag Day was to show black solidarity and black unity on campus, as well as to support others who feel (predominantly white institutes) do not speak to their blackness,” Plummer said. “We are here. We are here for them.”
Plummer is also the current vice president of Hip Hop Couture, a fashion-based organization that helps students involved express themselves through fashion by modeling clothing for other student organizations and small businesses in
Plummer said he will continue to plan events to help bring the black community at UT closer together. One of the events he is currently working on is a roller skating party that many students requested through social media. He said casual events like these allow people from the black community to get to know one another in a fun environment.
Despite having hopes of attending Stanford University, Plummer said his mom wanted him to stay in state, so he came to UT. Although the black community on campus is very small, Plummer said UT is where he is meant to be.
“The University has a great reputation when it comes to academia and research,” Plummer said. “Leonard Moore (came) and talked at my high school … (and) he gave me the power to believe in myself.”
Moore, the senior associate vice president for diversity and community engagement, makes it a priority to recruit minority and low-income students to attend UT. Moore is also well-known on campus for his Black Power Movement course and
Plummer said he does not think he would be as involved in the community at another school as he is at UT.
“The type of growth I’ve seen in myself, I don’t think I would see on other campuses,” Plummer said. “From seeing the division between race, as well as seeing the division between men and women, I don’t think I would have experienced this type of education at another campus.”
Plummer said he still recognizes that more can be done to promote more inclusion and diversity on campus.
“I feel as though people look at me and think I’m only here because of the athletic program, which is not true,” Plummer said. “I actually don’t play any sports.”
Regardless of what organization he is involved in, Plummer said he hopes his presence will bridge the gap between the black community and UT as a whole.
“If we don’t look out for one another,” Plummer said. “Who will?”