Texas Tech enrollment numbers have surpassed record levels, according to their website, and with such a large student body, there have been numerous moves in Tech’s culture and diversity.
But with a steadfast flow of Black students, they have utilized their opportunities to make themselves heard not only on campus, but in surrounding areas as well. Tech recognizes over 10 organizations and nine historically African American fraternities and sororities on its campus.
Despite the newfound growth of these groups, it has not always been the case. Tech did not include its first historically African American sorority on campus until 47 years after Tech’s founding, and nine years after the acceptance of Tech’s first Black student, Lucille Sugar Graves, according to Tech’s website.
Tech professor Bill Dean is one of the longstanding members of the Tech community and recalls his experiences with Black students despite the events being over 60 years ago.
“When I was a student here, I don’t think we had any Black students. We had Hispanic students. That was the 1950s and early ‘60s,” Dean said.
In a time of segregation and division within America, changes were made, and Dean was able to witness the transformation happen right in the heart of his own alma mater.
“I can tell you the faculty in the college of Media and Communication that I knew were very welcoming and very supportive of desegregation,” he said. “I think whether they are Hispanic, Black or Asian, within our college, it has been very welcoming.”
While more Black students were being admitted to Tech, organizations led by African American students were forming at the core.
One of the most recognizable was charted by the first scholarship athlete at Tech, Danny Hardaway, who arrived six years after Tech’s first Black student, Graves.
“There was a young lady who was the first black student here. But the most recognizable student was a guy named Danny Hardaway. He was a football player so obviously he would be recognizable, and I think he was the only black player on the team at that time,” Dean said.
Hardaway’s contributions both on and off the field magnified him as a hallmark member of both Tech Athletics and the Black community on campus, as he led the Red Raiders in rushing and playing as a wide receiver.
Hardaway paved the way for many Black athletes on Tech’s campus, and they have not taken the opportunity to use their platform for granted.
But it was a steady process, as no results are granted quickly. In the late 80s and early 90s, Tech basketball welcomed student-athlete Will Flemons to the program.
“I had a white girlfriend at the time, who is now my wife, and some people would give us looks and be like, ‘How dare you,’” Flemons said. “But on campus, when people knew I was an athlete, I never had any problems.”
Flemons received praise from those who knew he was an athlete, but was treated differently as a standard individual.
“If I wasn’t in the athletic department, I very seldom saw any black students on Tech’s campus,” he said.
Very seldom was Tech outspoken about current events as it pertained to race during the time, Flemons said, but what he sees now is much different.
Now an integral and moving part in many of Tech’s Black student-athletes and Black organizations, the University has aimed to make its point clear, and 2020 was hallmark for Tech in the same realm.
2020 served as a steppingstone for many students and student-athletes to let their voices be heard as a part of Tech’s Black community, and it was put on notice when hundreds of members of the Tech community gathered on Aug. 2, 2020 for the Red Raiders United Walk.
The Tech sponsored event was developed by members of Tech’s football team but included an abundance of participants from major Tech Athletics programs such as men’s basketball, women’s basketball, soccer, track and field and more.
The march was headed by sophomore Tony Bradford Jr., who led the march around campus.
“I’m just tired of seeing the violence,” Bradford Jr. said. “It’s just time for a change and it’s time for my generation to step up. I refuse to be the next victim.”
Bradford Jr. led the march, but the power was in the numbers.
“I’m just surprised at how many people are supporting it. How many coaches and people from the presidential office and the police department,” Bradford Jr. said.
Less than two months following the Red Raiders United Walk, Tech’s newest alliance blossomed – the Black Student-Athlete Alliance (BSAA).
After their petition to officially be an on-campus organization through Texas Tech Office of Campus Life, their mission was simply stated:
“To educate, empower and unify the voices of all student-athletes that attend its monthly meetings,” according to a release from Tech.
The organization is led by senior President of the Black Student-Athlete Alliance, D’Jenne Egharevba, who prides her organization on being outspoken.
“Student-athletes need a voice, so we decided that it was important to create an organization for our Black student athletes to use their voices to talk about these issues that are going around the world,” she said.
Egharevba has an impressive resume, consisting of numerous gold medals across a flurry of events, but she wants to be recognized as more than just an athlete, she said, something the BSAA prides itself on.
“I love what they’re doing,” Flemons said about the group. “Nobody should just be labeled as just an athlete; even though athletics has helped me in just life, I was, and am more than an athlete, I am a person first … I’m glad these young people are taking the topic into their own hands and pushing it forward.”
The organization launched an event surrounded by the topic of “Shut up and Dribble”, a documentary from NBA legend Lebron James that encompasses athletes having more to give than just their on-court, on-field abilities.
On such a hot topic of late, Dean sides with both athletes and the Constitution.
“I certainly don’t object to particularly black athletes expressing their concerns outside the area of athletics. That’s the part of free speech, we have the right to peacefully assemble,” he said.
Tech’s Black involvement on campus is a direct reflection of their numbers, growing by year.
In fact, Tech had 2,491 Black or African American students enrolled in Fall 2020, according to their website.
Tech continues to make strides despite being relatively isolated from big Texas metropolitan areas, especially in the Black community.
“I think we have made great strides since then. I think the enrollment statistics suggest that we have made great strides both with Afro Americans and with 25 percent of our enrollment being Hispanic. I think we have made tremendous strides in those areas,” Dean said.
Despite the monumental transformation at Tech, there is still a long way to go for the Black community. But with Tech, students and student-athletes alike working together, change is surely in store.