JSU hosted its annual Holidays Under the Stars on Thursday on the Gibbs-Green Memorial Plaza, where a huge crowd gathered to hear performances and witness the joy on the faces of Blackburn Middle School students who received amazing gifts as part of JSU’s Angel Tree.
The crowd was entertained by the JSU Dance Ensemble, JSU Mass Choir, MADDRAMA Performance Troupe and the Sonic Boom. The event was emceed by Dwain Doty, news director of WJSU-FM; and Dr. Rosella Houston, assistant director of Institutional Research, Planning and Assessment and president of the Staff Senate.
The Angel Tree Project was started several years ago by Tiffany Dockins in the Division of General Counsel and eventually became part of Holidays Under the Stars. Today, dozens of campus units participate by adopting a child.
The Center for University-Based Development (CUBD) orchestrated the Angel Tree Project. Heather Wilcox, assistant director of CUBD, said, “The Angel Tree is an opportunity for Jackson State to partner with Blackburn Middle School, and it helps children in the community during the holiday season. It gives youth an opportunity to engage with JSU and provides gifts that they may not have received had it not been for the Angel Tree Project.”
Of course, the biggest highlights of Holidays Under the Stars were Christmas storytelling and photos with Mr. and Mrs. Claus portrayed by JSU President William B. Bynum Jr. and first lady Deborah Bynum.
Mrs. Claus described the annual event as “spectacular” and a great opportunity for JSU to engage with the public.
“Jackson State University is a pillar of the community,” Deborah Bynum said. “We’re concerned for not only our students but the community as a whole. This year we’re praying that folks will not only think of themselves but think of their neighbors and those who are less fortunate.”
Deborah Bynum is wishing everyone a peaceful holiday of unity.
“If there’s a family member or a loved one you haven’t spoken to in a while, pick up the phone and give them a call.”
Leading up to the holiday, she plans to prepare for her family’s annual brunch with the Bynums. “This is a time when I do all the cooking and relatives come over. Believe it or not, I have skills in the kitchen. After, Dec. 25, I plan to take a much-needed rest and enjoy the grandbabies.”
Deborah Bynum’s message to everyone is that “we’re in need of love in this world. We can’t do it by ourselves, so we need to come together as a community. We must not just wait until Christmastime, but we should be in the giving sprit all year long.”
Some people attended Holidays Under the Stars for the first time while others were excited the time had finally come again:
- The event was a first experience for Adonis Jordan, 14. Although born in Hawaii, he now lives in Jackson, where he attends Lanier High School. He is the son of JSU Public Safety officer Salisha Jordan. Adonis was so captivated by the entertainment that he said, “This is an event I would recommend to everyone I meet.” His Christmas wish is to spend time with the entire family for holiday dinner, and he’s preparing to travel to North Carolina, where he’ll spend the yuletide season with family until New Year’s Day. “I want everyone to have a good holiday and stay safe, and I hope everyone gets what they desire.”
Salisha Jordan, the mother of Adonis, called Holidays Under the Stars “a very special occasion. I’m enjoying myself. It’s a nice and sweet occasion for the students at JSU and the community.” Jordan said she’s looking forward to traveling to Atlanta and to the mountains of North Carolina to spend time with family. She’s urging everyone to “be safe and practice good judgment.” Although she describes herself as a great cook who can “throw down in the kitchen pretty good,” she said she’ll take a break from that role this year.
- Arion Parks is from Grand Rapids, Michigan. She’s a sophomore elementary education major. She said, “This event was really nice. I loved the talent that performed. I enjoyed how people got to show off their gifts to the young people they adopted.” Her holiday wish is for her entire family to come together to celebrate. She’ll be headed home to Michigan at the end of this semester. Her message to everyone: “Make sure you avoid depression during this time of the year. Try to stay in the holiday spirit by appreciating the things you do have.”
Anthony Brown of Flora is a junior business entrepreneurship major. He said, “This is my first Holidays Under the Stars. This has a very good atmosphere with a lot of great music. My desire is for my family and all others to remain safe and have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.”
- Miss JSU Gabrielle Baker said her desire is “for the overall Jackson State community to be safe during this holiday season and have peace and joy.” During the winter break, she plans to work during this holiday season to have extra money to buy gifts for her family.
- Mister JSU Darrian Jackson said, “My wish is for Jackson State University to expand more into the community because it will help us grow as an institution.” He said he plans to spend holiday time with his family and take plenty of photos.
- Larry Goodwin of Madison is a JSU alum and huge supporter of the HBCU. He’s been to every Holidays Under the Stars. “This event is great for the holiday season. The crowd is getting larger each year,” he said. His holiday wish is for “peace on earth.” Goodwin’s plan for the holiday is to attend church and serve dinner to the less fortunate. “My message is for everyone to love one another,” he said.