University of Maryland students danced and belted out in song at the Samuel Riggs IV Alumni Center Saturday night for a celebration of Black culture at the university’s second annual Black Prom.

The prom, hosted by this university’s Multicultural Involvement and Community Advocacy office, was part of this university’s Black History Month festivities to highlight the richness and diversity of Black culture. This year’s Black History Month theme at this university is “Reconnecting AfroFutures,” according to MICA.

Attendees of the Multicultural Involvement and Community Advocacy offices Black Prom dance in the Samuel Riggs IV Alumni Center on Feb. 17, 2024. (Sam Cohen/The Diamondback)

“[Afrofuturism] is more than the aesthetic of the blend of futurism and technology,” Micaylah Jones, MICA’s graduate coordinator for Black student involvement and advocacy, said. “[It’s] a lens through which to view the Black community as a part of the future and as agents of creating a future.”

This year’s prom theme was “Alien Superstar.” The theme refers to a song by Beyoncé in her 2022 album, Renaissance, which is considered to be Afrofuturistic, Micaylah Jones said. Prom attendees were encouraged to dress in celestial outfits and display their hair in an Afrofuturist style, according to MICA.

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Micaylah Jones emphasized that Black History Month is not only about focusing on oppressive experiences that the Black community has faced throughout history, but also the celebration of Black culture.

“Black history is so much more than, of course, slavery and civil rights and armed resistance,” Micaylah Jones said. “Black history is also about joy and celebration and love and happiness. We really wanted to create a space that emphasizes that.”

Saturday’s prom also included a performance from the Prima Dolls, a predominantly Black hip-hop and jazz dance team at this university that performs at cultural events on campus.

Bruktawit Mekonnen, a member of Prima Dolls and a junior dance and information sciences major, said the month should not only be about uplifting Black people, but also recognizing and loving each other.

Andrikka Jones, a graduate journalism student, attended the prom with her mother as the pair wore glistening silver dresses handcrafted by Andrikka Jones’ mother. She added that her favorite parts of Black culture are the different forms of expression, such as music, fashion and hair.

She emphasized that it is important for the community to celebrate Black History Month and honor Black pioneers throughout history. Andrikka Jones said she appreciates how many Black students have successfully graduated from this university, including football players Stefon Diggs and Torrey Smith.

“It’s too short of a month but it’s just us bringing and shining light to our culture and the people who paved the way for us,” Andrikka Jones said. “It’s just a great time to celebrate and really hone in on what our people have brought to society today.”

Attendees of MICA’s Black Prom sit together at a table during the event on Feb. 17, 2024. (Sam Cohen/The Diamondback)

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Some prom attendees, such as sophomore sociology and human development major Trinity Abeng Allsop, went to last year’s inaugural Black prom and hoped to experience the celebration again.

For Abeng Allsop, Black History Month means expressing her background and culture, she said. She added that it feels “really good” to show her heritage and interact with those who share similar experiences to her.

“Especially for me as a Black woman, I feel robbed and underrepresented,” Abeng Allsop said. “So I will do whatever I can to put my best foot forward and showcase myself in every platform and place that I go to.”

This year, Abeng Allsop said that she has been exploring her fashion sense and experimenting with tribal patterns and 1990s outfits. Like other attendees, Abeng Allsop said fashion is one of her favorite parts of Black culture.

Rachel Odumade, a sophomore public health science major, wore a silver sequined dress to the dance. She also added a coat of silver makeup around her eyes to replicate a viral tape trend that she had seen on TikTok.

Odumade said she appreciates how Black culture often influences fashion and trends in mainstream media. Taking pride in Black culture is a crucial part of Black History Month, she added.

“Black History Month, to me, means to celebrate Black people and just acknowledge all the things in the past that brought us here today to even do simple things that I feel like many people take for granted,” Odumade said. “People should just celebrate themselves [and] just be unapologetically them in their Black skin.”

Attendees of MICA’s Black Prom enter the Samuel Riggs IV Alumni Center on Feb. 17, 2024. (Sam Cohen/The Diamondback)