Black Elegance, excellence and joy filled the dance floor Sunday night when the University of Maryland’s Multicultural Involvement Community Advocacy office hosted this university’s first ever Black Prom in celebration of Black History Month.
Everyone looked regal to celebrate the Black community in an empowering way on the campus. When it comes to events like this, rarely do they ever center on marginalized communities.
This year’s theme for Black History Month is “Existence Is Resistance.” Alanna McDowall, the co-coordinator of Black Prom, wanted to highlight that throughout history, Black people have continued to resist, persevere and flourish in the face of adversity.
“This event is really just a culmination of our success, our freedom, our excellence and just having a space where Black people can feel beautiful,” she said.
The senior architecture major said this was the first event of its kind within her four years being at the university, and hopes for it to become an annual event where Black people can come celebrate, dress up and feel beautiful.
Events such as Black Prom have a way of creating community on a campus that can feel isolating for so many students of color.
“We want to focus on some of the less recognized aspects of resistance like just being happy and accepting joy, loving each other and celebrating each other,” said Michaela Johnson, a library and information science graduate student and another coordinator of Black Prom.
Johnson also said at predominantly white institutions, Black students feel a lot of pressure on themselves to perform much better than their white counterparts.
“For this event specifically we wanted to celebrate just being alive and being a community,” she said.
There was also a performance by Riddim Ryderz, a sister organization to the Caribbean Students Association at this university. They gave an entertaining performance that highlighted the beauty of the African diaspora with beautiful, bright-colored outfits and vibrant dance numbers. There was also a 360 photo booth to capture the moments that were being created that night.
“I feel like an event like this on campus allows us to celebrate amid Black History Month as opposed to just focusing so much on the history aspect of things and trying to bring to life new traditions within the UMD Black community,” Niya Ahmed, a senior management and marketing major, said.
Having a space to celebrate culture and community is important when it comes to finding people who share the same lived experience.
“The ways in which Black people gather on campus, especially under the administration, aren’t always ways that uplift the Black community and don’t give us the opportunity to celebrate … this is a great way for everyone to get together, have fun and just be in the same space together,” Ahmed added.