Students gathered in front of the University of Michigan Museum of Art in their finest attire to attend the 23rd annual Black Homecoming Gala hosted by Sister 2 Sister and Here Earning a Destiny Through Honesty, Eagerness, and Determination of Self. Students snapped pictures and hyped their friends up as they arrived looking glamorous in sleek evening gowns and sharp suits. The light from “Behind The Walls,” the sculpture located in front of the UMMA, served as the perfect backdrop for photos before students enjoyed a night of joy, fun and celebration.
Known for its glamor, prestige and regal style, the Black Homecoming Gala has become a renowned yearly event where students show off their talent. One student danced Bachata, another group of students performed a choreographed dance and a fashion show was a nod to the exquisite fashion sense present at the gala. In an interview with The Michigan Daily, Antwane Maddox, H.E.A.D.S. executive board member emphasized that Black Homecoming helps Black students find community, share creativity and welcome one another back to the University for another academic year.
“Black UMich in comparison to the entire University is entirely two different things,” Maddox said. “We have to do a lot to provide a safe space for ourselves and it’s only around 4%of us on campus.”
Alexandria Smith, Sister 2 Sister executive board member and a senior in the School of Public Health, said the gala also welcomes new students to a new phase of adulthood. Smith discussed the greatness of Black prom send-offs and wants homecoming to serve as a reminder that the celebration of the transition to adulthood doesn’t have to end in high school. Smith also expressed the grandeur of homecoming at HBCUs and wanted to recreate that experience for Black students at the University.
“Bringing that (tradition) to college just seemed like a very natural thing to do,” Smith said in an interview with The Daily.
Smith then spoke about her experience as a Black woman at the University and why it’s important to cultivate a space for Black students to find community.
“I wish I saw more of us,” Smith said. “I wish I saw more people in my (STEM) classes because I’m pre-med. When I walk in the room and I’m the only Black woman, it messes with (my) head a little bit.”
According to U-M Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, 5% of the student population is Black. This is only a 1% increase since the last school year. However, the culture and influence of Black students can be felt across campus. For example, the Trotter Multicultural Center, founded as the Trotter House, was originally a space for Black students on campus to safely meet, study and find community. LSA senior Myori Reeves said she wants students to recognize the significance Black activism has had on the opportunities the University has to offer students of Color.
Reeves is correct. The Comprehensive Studies Program was formed when the Opportunity Program (created in 1964) and the Coalition for the Use of Learning Skills merged. CULS was established in 1970 in response to the requests of Black student demands in the first Black Action Movement Strike in 1968.
“I think people don’t recognize that a lot of those programs like the CSP wouldn’t be around without those Black students who are fighting for those things,” Reeves said in an interview with The Daily.
Engineering senior Devyn Griffin highlighted the hard work this generation of Black students put into setting themselves and those who come after up for success.
“We’ve got a great group here, (a) group of leaders,” Griffin said in an interview with The Daily. “Not just within H.E.A.D.S and Sister 2 Sister, but we have members of our e-board representing other (student) organizations too. We just have so many great people who really work hard.”
Students laughed as they exited the UMMA and gathered with their friends to coordinate ride homes, how to keep in contact with new friends or how they were getting to the afterparty.
“I just want the community to keep thriving,” Reeves said. “I feel like this is a beautiful event where all these beautiful Black people are coming together in this wonderful space. It’s a comfortable space. Just keep thriving and keep getting together.”
You can support Sister 2 Sister and H.E.A.D.S. by following them on Instagram @s2s_um and @heads_um. The Black Student Union’s More Than 4: The 4 Point Platform can be found here. The history of Black student activism at the University can be found here.
MiC Contributor Anchal Malh can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.