Admissions Blog: Celebrating Black History Month and acts of service

Bijou Barry ’23 make hygiene packs for the homeless
A Celebration, A Challenge and a Touch of Camaraderie
By Ailish Rhoades ’19

We have heard it time and time again — these are unprecedented, tumultuous times. There are always people in need of help in some facet, but this year it seems that we are all struggling. I could dive down a rabbit hole regarding that particular topic, but I’ll save you all the headache. Within the past year, I have realized what my life rafts are — the things I cling to desperately to get me through tough times. I’ve found just how sacred both education and service are to me, and I believe a lot of you can relate to that. With all of this newly allocated time on my hands, I found myself falling deeper in love with literature, the history of our country, political systems and activism. That being said, I have set just one New Year’s Resolution for 2021: to question everything. The goal of this blog is to keep you informed about the admissions process and the many happenings on campus, but this year I would really like to multitask.

In the spirit of my potentially irritating resolution, when tasked with writing a piece reflecting on how Sweet Briar participated in the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service, I found it was the perfect opportunity to educate myself not only on Dr. King but also on the history of the day. I quickly discovered just how uneducated I have been and felt it was high time I commit to asking more questions about Black history. With that being said, I want this piece to start a dialogue. Prior to writing this, I committed to a 28-Day Black History Month challenge, which I have linked below in case any of you feel inclined to participate with me. If so, I would love to connect with you so we can reflect together and share our thoughts during and after. May 2021 be a year filled with knowledge, growth and love.

Students clean up the Community Garden

Tara Parker, author of The Science of Helping Out, states that “During a crisis, the people who cope best are those who help others.” That statement has always rung true on campus, and this past year seemed to truly bring to light the power that giving back has on us all. I believe that one thing that makes Sweet Briar a remarkably special place is its community. Never have I been surrounded by so many people who are dedicated to using their gifts to implement and spread positivity as I am here. One tradition that makes so many of our hearts sing is the celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Students have the day off from classes and are encouraged to participate in various activities, not only to celebrate the importance of the day but to spend their time giving back to organizations that hold a special place in their hearts. This year student life, the dean’s office and multiple clubs across campus partnered to create a day centered around spreading love and kindness. This year’s events consisted of:

  1. Cleaning up the Community Garden
  2. Making care package and hygiene kits 
  3. Tidying up the Plantation Burial Grounds
  4. Improving trails leading to the burial grounds
  5. Writing cards for Cardz 4 Kidz
  6. Making blankets for Miriam’s House 

Students also organized a month-long coat and book drive. The day was capped off by a special event hosted by Sweet Briar’s Black Student Alliance called Weaving Together where students gathered virtually to create vision boards for themselves as they discussed the power of manifestation and the vision Dr. King had for a Beloved Community. Students discussed the formation of meaningful relationships and how to create communities that are grounded in kindness, respect and human dignity. 

Each year my appreciation of this holiday deepens tenfold. Prior to this year I was completely unaware of what it took to actually bring this day to fruition. The King Holiday Bill was not signed into law until Nov. 2, 1983, fifteen years after Dr. King’s death. Even after the passing of that bill, the holiday has only recently been recognized by all. To put this into perspective: It wasn’t until 2000 that South Carolina signed a bill to officially recognize Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a paid national holiday. That is seventeen years after President Reagan signed The King Holiday Bill into law. It feels cathartic in a way to see the evolution of this celebration, and to see the way this new generation of women is choosing to honor this day. To see so many come together to give back and be surrounded by such genuine kindness, respect and meaningful conversations felt so joyous. I hope that you will be able to be here on campus with us soon and join this truly beautiful community we have built here.

As always please take care of each other, and stay well.

Warmly,

Ailish

P.S. Check out the Black History Month 28 Day Challenge that I’m doing and join in!