Traditional African music mixed with hip-hop music filled room 512 in the Arkansas Union on Feb. 11, as leaders and members of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Registered Student Organization danced as part of their week-long celebration of Black History Month.
The meeting consisted of RSO members learning a dance that combined traditional African dancing with hip-hop and making vision boards about what Black History Month means to them.
The RSO’s celebration of Black History Month encourages students to define what the month means to them, said Alexandria Patton, a junior and president of the NAACP RSO. Patton also said the event will give attendees the opportunity to learn more about black history.
Taylor Boles, a senior and vice president of the NAACP RSO, said she thinks that hosting lectures teaches more students about historical black figures that are not as well known and dispel misconceptions about black American history.
Boles said that a lot of the black American history she was taught in high school was not entirely true.
“I wasn’t taught what slavery actually was,” Boles said. “I was taught that we wanted to come (to America) and we were paid to come.”
Patton said she thinks the event brought people close together by starting the meeting off with a dance.
Jayla Lee, sophomore and NAACP RSO member, was trained in traditional African dancing and decided to teach members of the RSO a dance that mixed both traditional African dance styles with hip-hop, she said. Lee used to dance with a group based in Little Rock, but has found it difficult to do group dancing at the UofA, she said.
“(Group dancing) is something I really love to do, but I haven’t been able to do it much since I moved to college,” Lee said.
Patton wanted to have Lee teach the group the dance because it allowed new members to interact and build relationships with older members through learning the dance, she said.
“Another form of communication is dancing,” Patton said. “It’s a way to bring people together.”
Patton he re-chartered the RSO in 2018 in response to a freshman posting a photo of himself in blackface with the caption, “I hope this offends someone,” during Black History Month. Patton said she thinks there was not enough was done by the university in response to the post.
“We, as a student body, needed to have an organization we could lean on to protect us against things of that nature,” Patton said.
The RSO focuses on national issues that minorities face and how they affect the students at the UofA, Patton said. However, the RSO also teaches members life skills, such as economic advice, studying tips and healthy living, she said.
Patton said she thinks that the RSO is essential to the university, because it is one of the few organizations on campus for minorities that does not require payment or is not associated with Greek Life.
Boles is also a member of the Delta Sigma Theta sorority, one of the sororities on campus that is part of the National Pan-Hellenic Council. The majority of the money raised by the sororities through fundraising events goes to sororities that have majority white members, Boles said.
“We have to go to the meetings, we have to practice with them and sell tickets, but (NPHC sororities) get no monetary benefit from it,” Boles said.
Patton said she thinks that her role with the RSO allows for her to act as a middle man for minority students and university officials. Patton used to meet with Vice Chancellor Charles Robinson every month to discuss some of the concerns from minority students, she said.
“In the past weeks (the university) has been bringing in schools that have predominantly minority students to the campus and giving them tours,” Patton said.