Spirit Week encourages student participation through highlighting culture
February 6, 2017
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While most spirit weeks often lead up to a big game or a school dance, next week’s Black History Month Spirit Week has a different objective.
“I think that spirit week gives students the chance to represent themselves as well as their cultures proudly and without negativity, as sometimes a pro-black message is perceived as threatening,” Alana Amaker, Black History Month sponsor, explains.
Each day during the week of Feb. 6 through Feb. 10 will have a different theme designed to encourage students to embrace black culture and heritage. Monday’s theme is All Black Everything, Tuesday’s is Rep Your Culture, Wednesday’s is College/HBCU Day, Thursday’s is BHM T-Shirt Day, and Friday’s is Blue and Orange Day.
Amaker says that while the counseling department has done work to increase students awareness of Historically Black Colleges and Universities, not enough is done to promote the outstanding institutions as she would like. Adding HBCU day as a theme looks to increase student recognition about these schools.
The following Tuesday is the annual Food for the Soul lunch, which provides a unique opportunity for students and staff to get a taste of traditional African-American and Caribbean foods. This celebratory event is the combined work of the NAACP Club and the culinary staff, and is recognized as one of the most popular events during Black History Month.
“Maybe sometimes [black students] don’t want to wear something that’s part of their culture because they’ll be the only ones or might feel left out,” junior Kofi Hopps says. “During the spirit week they’ll find other people wearing similar clothes as them so they’ll feel more comfortable to wear stuff that comes from their culture or background.”
Hopps adds that the week can help new students who come from outside the U.S.
feel more welcome and assimilate better with their peers.
While participation from all students is encouraged, often times white and other non-black students fail to see their relevance to the month and the history of black people in America. It is important for students of all races to appreciate the significance of the week’s events, as they are meant to unify, not separate the student body.
“I think that the best thing that we can do is listen and really internalize what is being said,” senior Grace Giangreco says. “What white students need to do is really look at their role in the oppressive systems that occur in Evanston and our country.”
With the recent events during and following the inauguration, student participation could be more prevalent than previous years.
“It might be taken a little more seriously with everything going on,” sophomore Julion Michelin says. “I definitely feel that with everything going on, [students] feel a little more motivated to participate.” Overall, Black History Month Spirit Week encourages students to participate, and to celebrate, rather than create a more somber tone. Students of any race can find their role in the week’s activities, and can discover meaningful experiences throughout the week and the rest of the month.
“I think that there’s such a negative stigma associated with black people or any celebration thereof and an overall dismissal of our history; the greatness of our history,” Amaker says. “It is my hope that the week, and the month’s activities will encourage more participation.”