In 1990, tension ran high following racist offenses by two fraternities during Roundup — an event intended to be a Universitywide spring celebration.
The following year, the brothers of the Epsilon Iota chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Incorporated inaugurated the first annual Hope Week to push the University toward unity in the midst of the animosity, said UT alumnus and Hope Week co-founder Kip Dixon.
For the past 20 years, the fraternity has hosted Universitywide events such as cross-cultural step shows, service projects and parties. Wednesday, the fraternity hosted “A Taste of Diversity,” during which student organizations donated food from different cultures for students to try.
Dixon said he drew on his experiences from the community where he grew up for Hope Week when his fraternity brothers asked him and others to plan something focused on unity.
“I’m from a small town where everyone got along and we all did stuff together,” Dixon said. “Everyone had an interest in the success of the community.”
Dixon said the “United Colors” party they threw to close the event was the highlight of the week.
“To this day I see people and they remember that party because it united people who were friends in high school or came from the same town but never talked because they came to UT and sort of self-segregated,” he said. “The party was like a big reunion, and all races celebrated and had fun, and there was just a wonderful spirit in that.”
He said members of the FIJI, one of the fraternities that was suspended after the 1990 incident, wanted to come out to the week to get service hours but he said he invited them to come “fellowship” with everyone instead.
“After that, Mike Odom, who was a FIJI member, invited me out to speak to his fraternity and he and I ended up being the best of friends,” he said. “We were at each other’s weddings and have had a lifelong friendship as a
result of it.”
The fraternal organization Tejas Club is co-sponsoring this year’s United Colors party with Alpha Phi Alpha, said Tejas spokesman Chris Fuller-Wigg.
“Tejas is built around diversity, and Hope Week is a cause that we wanted to share and support,” Fuller-Wigg said. “The more diversity people open themselves up to the more comfortable they’ll be getting involved with people of different races and cultures. I think having a week like this that promotes diversity and brings that to the surface again can make everyone see each other as people, as opposed to colors.”
Current Alpha Phi Alpha member David Snell said he holds Hope Week to a very high standard because he wants to make sure that it still fulfills the goal of making everyone feel at home regardless of their ethnic community.
He said after racial allegations during Roundup this year, it was the “perfect time” to teach people the reason that Hope Week was founded.
“It wasn’t just about giving out free T-shirts and hosting free events,” he said. “It was for everyone to come together and see that acts of racism shouldn’t determine the whole aspect of our University; The idea is to be one university not separated by race.”