Smoke rose from a grill at the pavilion behind the soccer complex. The smell of meat curled in the air as students gathered for the kick-off tailgate to Welcome Black Week.
Welcome Black Week, hosted by NKU’s African American Programs & Services, is designed to give students the chance to connect with other students and network. While the week is primarily geared toward African-American students, Tracy Stokes, the director of AAP&S stressed the events are open to all students.
“What we wanted to do was invite the campus community to come out,” Stokes said. “We can share culture; students can feel welcome.”
This year marks the second year of Welcome Black Week and this time it’s tied to Victorfest.
Anthony Mize, the coordinator for AAP&S, said the Victorfest committee was very open to adding Welcome Black Week to its schedule. The link-up helped promote Welcome Black Week as an event open to everyone in the campus community, Mize added.
“With any type of event it’s very important to build community, it’s very important to have those opportunities to meet new students and to be able to connect,” Mize said.
In addition to giving students a way to connect with one another, Stokes said Welcome Black Week is a teaching tool.
“It’s a celebration, and when we celebrate who people are individually we are so much better as a community, so that’s the underlying theme of all of the events that we do,” Stokes said.
Louis Gray, junior human resources management major and president of Omega Psi Phi who co-hosted the tailgate, said he approached AAP&S about collaborating on the cookout. Initially, both organizations had cookout type events scheduled on the same day so Gray proposed merging them into one.
“We were planning on having a back to school cookout, regardless of race, gender, or age. We were just trying to unify the school itself,” Gray said.
Gray also said the event is another step toward promoting unity and inclusiveness at NKU.
“People are becoming more cultured when it comes to everything. If we can change what goes on in America and learn how to love each other and how to have respect for one another, then I feel like this cookout could assist in that,” Gray said. “It’s free food, good music and good vibes.”
Stokes said building a stronger sense of community across the campus is the best way to promote inclusiveness.
“When you build community you are stronger in numbers,” Stokes said. “So we don’t necessarily have to talk about the negative because the negative will always be there.”
“But we’ll also have conversations so that the campus community knows that we’re aware and the programming that we have in place really educates about the culture, so that’s how we can combat it.”
Welcome Black Week continues Monday with a Diversity Awareness Fair and the W.E.B. Dubois Induction. There will also be an AAP&S open house Tuesday as well as a pool party in the Campus Rec Center that night. Welcome Black Week closes with a skate night at Reca Roller Rink on Wednesday.
“Hopefully every year it will get better and better and people will understand the story we’re trying to tell,” Stokes said.