For nearly a century, The State Fair Classic, pitting rivals Prairie View A&M University and Grambling State University, has been a staple of the State Fair of Texas.

Thousands of students, alumni, and fans flock to the Cotton Bowl each year for what has become one of the nation’s premier HBCU events. It makes no difference which side of the stadium you sit in, the colors of your pom poms, or where you went to school; the spirit of connection permeates throughout the stands.

This year’s game turned into another thriller, with Grambling State coming out on top. As for the Battle of the Bands, it was a tossup with both units giving just as good as they got. All the on-field activities, the hard hits, scores, dancing, and incredible performances connect and empower the Black community in ways that go well beyond what the eyes can see but can be felt deep within each attending soul. In recent years, that spirit that is so much a part of the game has transcended the playing field, thanks to The Annual Classic Brunch.

This year’s event was sponsored by Jack Daniels and hosted by the trio of Tamika Blackburn, Bethany Wilkins, and Ulrick Bates. The gathering offers the perfect ending to the signature weekend for the HBCU fans, graduates, and the entire DFW Black community. The theme for the 2023 offering was The Power of Communications and featured an all-star panel of experts offering their views on the importance of
communicating. From personal to professional, the bedroom to the boardroom, this impassioned conversation provided something for everyone, regardless of their
relationship or professional status.

“There’s power in communicating and too many times this reality is missed by members of the Black community. We live on assumptions and in far too many instances, our assumptions are incorrect. The truth is found in communicating and that’s something we want to instill in everyone here today,” stressed Ulrick Bates.

Sambuca 360 hosted the event and offered the perfect backdrop with food, drinks, and ideas flowing steadily throughout the day. Aside from the energetic panelists, an assortment of vendors also dotted the landscape, including author Keeya Vawar. Her new book entitled, One Thousand Elsewhere: A True Survivor Story, caught the attention of patrons and made her station one of the stars of the day. Fans lined up to get a signed copy of her book that details her personal struggles and how against all odds, she survived.

Vawar is a warrior and true champion for justice, committed to fighting the evils of human trafficking, of which 40% of the cases in the United States involve Black women and children. The global figures far exceed that amount and her mission is to shine a light on this dark reality. “Blacks are the most disenfranchised segment of our population, which makes us a prime target for traffickers. The public ignores us in some regards, and traffickers know that if they are caught, the sentences will be lesser than if they were found to be committing this same crime against another race.”

In addition to her book, Vawar also debuted her product line from Kenya. A portion of the proceeds from selling her book and products goes directly to organizations in that nation fighting the hidden yet ongoing African diaspora. “My vision is for my efforts to be the bridge for trafficked women from Kenya to America and getting them the tools and resources, they need to actually change their lives.”

Allison Scheel, Key Account Activation Manager for The Hive, was also in attendance.
The Hive is an organization that creates memorable experiences that bond patrons and brands. Jack Daniels, the title sponsor for the day, is one of their premier accounts. “For
Jack Daniels, this isn’t about dollars and cents; it’s making a genuine human connection
and being personal, which, from our perspective, is far more valuable,” said Scheel.

The 2023 affair was the fifth installment of the Classic Brunch Panel, and the day was,
without question, a huge success for all parties. This kind of appeal begs the question of whether similar events will appear in other locations throughout the nation. To this
question, Bates offered a resounding response. “Yes, without question, we’d like to layer what we’re doing here in the Dallas-Fort Worth market into others. If you look around the country, you’ll see the impact of HBCUs is broad and far-reaching. As our model continues evolving, so will our reach. But one thing I can say for certain is that no matter how large we become, we’ll always remain true to our initial purpose of making meaningful connections in the Black community.”