The UI Afro House hosts in-person Black Excellence Week

The UI Afro House welcomes students with a week-long event celebrating Black excellence for the first time in person, after organizing remotely during the height of the pandemic.


Gabby Drees

The Afro-American Cultural Center is seen at the University of Iowa Thursday, Sept. 9, 2021.

Arabia Parkey, News Reporter

After being remote for the last 18 months because of the pandemic, the University of Iowa Afro House reopened its doors to welcome the Black student body in a week of celebration and space to be unapologetically Black.

The Afro House’s inaugural Black Excellence Week, which began Sept. 7, allowed participants to get a first look at what the Afro House has in store for the rest of the year, as well as disconnect from the traumas that Black students often face.

“I think the importance is just getting Black people involved on campus,” Lily Hester, Multicultural and International Student Support Center programming assistant, said. “Either first-years or people who have been here… and just not having to talk about Black trauma and just a week where we can celebrate ourselves.”

This year’s Black Excellence Week schedule consisted of a variety of hands-on activities:

  • Tuesday: the “Grow With Me” event that allowed participants to custom paint their own pot and take home a free plant.
  • Wednesday: “Slide Through” consisted of pizza and playing Mario Kart on the Afro House’s Nintendo Switch.
  • Thursday: a “Love & Basketball” movie screening at the Chauncey Swan parking ramp.
  • Friday: the laid-back “Welcome Black” event with yard and video games, music, and food.

According to student organizers at the Afro House, each event was intended to foster a light-hearted environment and rebuild a community, which Hester said has felt less connected since being apart during this past year of the pandemic.

“This is like, things that kind of bring us together, like plants or playing games with each other,” Hester said.

Attending in-person Afro House events is new for many this year, including UI students and staff at the Afro House. Because of the pandemic requiring the house to organize remotely this past year, a large majority of the student staff had not worked within the physical Afro House until fall 2021.

Afro House Student Lead Samer Suleman said the week’s goals were “to foster community, to bring more people to the Afro House as it’s freshly reopened. And a lot of us are experiencing it for the first time, including myself.”

The UI reported that 22 percent of the freshmen class identify as a minority, as previously reported by The Daily Iowan. With Black students making up around 3 percent of the student population at the university, creating a community and holding space for Black students at a predominantly white institution can be impactful.