Frederick Douglas Unity House hosts Alumni history dinner

by Jonathan Moniz, Staff Writer

This past Thursday, September 29, the Frederick Douglass Unity House held an alumni dinner welcoming back previous faculty, administrators, and students who had been a part of or contributed to the Unity House.

Pictures of notable figures such as Barack Obama, Malcolm X, and several other important African-American historical figures were showcased there.

The room was filled with tables dressed in red cloth, and a band played in the back on traditional African instruments. At the front of the room, a podium was placed for the two key note speakers of the night.

In doing so, they recounted the history of the Unity House and how it had come to be the way it was today.

The Frederick Douglass Unity House was founded in 1995 by a group of African-American professors, staff, students, and members of the community.

The purpose of the building is to provide a community and central meeting place for all students, but also particularly for students of color. Before becoming the Unity House, the meeting place was a pizza parlor.

“Prior to 1995, there was no place for students of color to gather as a community on campus,” said LaSella Hall, the Associate Director of the Unity House. He explained how it had originally been an office building as well, with walls between cubicles enclosing the place, and how they made renovations that knocked out the walls and made the space more opening and welcome.

This made the on campus space what it was today, as well as with the various contributions of the students, faculty, and community who worked there.

One of the purposes of the Unity House is to provide resources, for all students with additional computers for services. Crucial to the spirit of the Unity House for “students of color [who] come to this place and connect with role models of color who can share in their success as well as provide guidance as needed,” said Peggy Dias, a committee member of the Unity House and a member of the IT department.

Events like the alumni dinners allow for an inter-exchange of stories and community from the older generation to the new.

Continuing on, LaSella Hall said, “The message of this Unity House is to promote open dialogue amongst all students for important issues with regards to race, gender, and equality….”

The sole purpose of gathering for the Unity Dinner was to host alumni and welcome back returning students, staff, and other members to rejoin and re-unite at the Unity House. It was also to invite two alumni, Maritsa Barros a previous student at UMass Dartmouth, and Dr. Susan Costa, a faculty member at UMass Dartmouth, to speak about their experiences there.

Maritsa Barros addressed the audience first, talking about her experiences at Dartmouth with a predominantly white institute and how the Unity House came to help her understand and experience community during her college years.

Then came Dr. Susan Costa, who spoke about her years at UMass Dartmouth, how she left in 2007, and what the Unity House meant to her as well and how she saw it grow over the years.

As part of the new Black Four Seasons project, the time this dinner would be held normally would be in February as part of Black History month, but now they expanded it as a new initiative.

With this and other projects, like the Social Justice trip to Washington D.C. Columbus Day weekend, the Unity House also provides many more opportunities to get involved in the community.

For further information on the Unity House’s events or to get in touch with the Unity House, contact Peggy Dias at or extension 8791.

Photo Courtesy: Jonathan Moniz

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