by Kynala Phillips
Homecoming is usually regarded as a time where students, faculty and alumni can all come together and fellowship over the pride and love they all share for their school. Every year UW-Madison’s homecoming weekend attracts a sea of bubbly badgers who all want to celebrate Wisconsin’s flagship institution. Homecoming weekend bombards us with a plethora of events that are dedicated to welcoming home alumni and building community between past and present badgers. This year’s events will include a 5k run/walk, the classic homecoming parade and will conclude with a football game against the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, just to list a few. Here in Madison, homecoming has continued to be something that is primarily praised by white students and alumni. It can often feel as if the festivities are reserved for the majority population. Each year the Multicultural Student Center has a host of activities as well to help fill the gap between students of color and the annual celebration. Unfortunately, to many students homecoming is just a spectacle to be watched from the outside looking in. With this year’s homecoming slowly approaching I interviewed a few students and alumni who are/were thoroughly involved in the Black community.
The first of the interviewees is Janae Winston, who is a junior double majoring in Individual Health Care Inequalities and Gender Women Studies. Winston is a CeO student who is the volunteer coordinator of the Wisconsin Black Student Union and is involved with the LGBT Campus Center. She also works with UW Hospital and Clinics in their Neurology Clinic.
Next is Ashley Thomas, who is a UW-Madison alum currently living in Harlem, New York. Thomas continues to focus on her work as an artist, while working as an Educational Apprentice at Roundabout Theatre Company, which is a non-profit Broadway and Off-Broadway organization. In Thomas’ undergraduate career she was involved in WBSU, previously serving as the President and Vice President. She also served as the Vice President and Programing and Planning Co-Chair of the Zeta Xi Core Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.
Lastly, there is Cassandra (Casey) Coulson, who is also an alum of UW-Madison. Coulson majored in History and was a well known face on campus. Her involvements included serving on the Black History Month Planning Committee and working with the Multicultural Learning Community as a mentor to freshman.
What is “Homecoming” to you?
JW: “Thinking back on my high school days, homecoming was always about school spirit and everyone coming together to celebrate each other and the community. It was always filled with activities throughout the week that everyone participated in. The anticipation you felt waiting to get to school so you could show off your outfit and to also see what everyone else was wearing.”
AT: “It wasn’t until about junior year that I really appreciated being a Badger so Homecoming for me means to reconnect with many of my friends but also mentors on campus who have equipped me with the skills I have today.”
CC: “Drinking, large crowds, and a football game. Alumni return and see friends that have moved across the country.”
How do you celebrate Homecoming?
JW: “Since I’ve been in college I have not celebrated Homecoming and I am currently a Junior.”
AT: “It’s an opportunity to celebrate our accomplishments and many of my peers’ success and my mentors’ hard work on campus and beyond. This is my first homecoming coming up and I do wish there were larger celebrations for alum of color to have a designated space/network during homecoming weekend.”
CC: “I never celebrated it as an undergrad. I don’t like football games or crowds, but this year I’m excited to see my friends, especially ones I haven’t seen since graduation.”
Do you feel like UW’s Homecoming is planned with you in mind?
JW: “Being a person of color here at UW, I can honestly say no. If homecoming is about connecting alumni, students, and the community together I’m not exactly sure if homecoming has succeeded in doing that. I have my communities here on campus, but if you were to ask me if I felt a part of the UW-Madison community as a whole, I would say no, because it’s the truth. It’s no secret that the UW campus struggles with diversity inclusiveness, even though they like to throw that word around. How are we diverse when all students of color make up less than 15% of our student population? It’s kind of hard to attend homecoming activities throughout the week and truly feel welcomed and a part of the community.”
AT: “I don’t feel like Homecoming is planned with me in mind because many of the events that are organized don’t reflect what I was involved in undergrad at a larger institutional level. I rely heavily on my sorority to plan events for homecoming.”
CC: “Nah, not really. The football game is a big deal and so is showing university pride. I never felt like a badger when I was here, so I don’t think that will change now.”
What are ways that UW can improve it’s homecoming and make it more inclusive to its students?
AT: “I would love to have the WBSU and even First Wave plan an alum mixer or dinner so we can reconnect with all my communities. UW-Madison can make Homecoming more inclusive by funding spaces/events with student orgs that house most of the student of color population in order to highlight different groups that usually don’t feel cultivated during their undergraduate experience.”
CC: “How can Homecoming be more inclusive to other communities, specifically Black people? I honestly don’t know.”
Any other thoughts about Homecoming Weekend? :
JW: “To me, homecoming is just like any other week.”
AT: “UW-Madison has shaped so much of how I am so I look forward to any opportunity to reconnect with all the amazing people/things I’ve met there.”
CC: “I’m cautiously optimistic. I don’t expect to start loving the school, but I know how much I appreciate the friends that helped me get through, so seeing them and kicking it is exciting. I hope I can get a spades game popping and remind everybody who I am.”