Survival Guide: Founder's Day Ball 2018

BY ALEXIS ARNOLD

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This year’s Founder’s Day Ball will be held Mar. 3 at the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC). The entire American University community looks forward to this annual event, but this year it will be even more special. The venue commemorates and celebrates the story of Black people in America, and its founding director is AU alum Lonnie Bunch III.

Founder’s Day is great big party for many students, but the NMAAHC has many powerful and emotional historical exhibits that deserve the same respect and reverence that they would receive during regular visiting hours. AU has a history of  race-related incidents, which I hope will not reappear at the event.  The ball is usually an enjoyable night for all students, and here’s are some tips on how to help keep it that way.

No, you still do not get to say the N word.

“But they said it in the song.” No.

“But I didn’t use the hard ‘R’,” or “I don’t mean it like that.” Still no.

“But my friend, [insert name of the only Black person you know], gave me their n-card.” The “n-card” is not a thing and we’re not one of your little friends.

“But we’re in a museum about Black people.” Extra nope!
 

Selfie-appropriate areas

There are going to be plenty of story-worthy opportunities for a selfie at the ball, but please be conscious which exhibits may be in the background or which statues you are posing with.  Serena Williams statue selfie? Awesome. History of the U.S. slave trade selfie? Maybe not.

Don’t appropriate black hairstyles

Founder’s Day at the NMAAHC is not the time to try a traditionally African American hair style. If you weren’t going to wear cornrows to class, don’t start now. Other non-recommended hairstyles include:

  • Box braids

  • Bantu knots

  • Dreadlocks

  • Afros/Afro wigs

Be adventurous, not offensive with your style.

Don’t touch any Black person’s hair without asking

Black hairstyles can be amazing, intricate and even gravity-defying - do not just stick your hands in them. First and foremost, invading someone’s personal space is very rude. Second, it is often uncomfortable or degrading to be petted and prodded by strangers. Third, styling kinky and curly hair can be expensive and/or time consuming, so please do not ruin someone's hard work by getting your hands all up in their ‘do. If you are really curious about a Black person’s hairstyle, ask first and respect the their right to say “no.”

(Bonus: if you want to understand how tiring it is to keep people away from your hair, play this super cool game called Hair Nah! Created by Momo Pixel.)

Don’t try to prove how “woke” you are

I am sure you want to use all the knowledge you learned in the African American literature class you took to fill your FA2 requirement because you’re just so woke, but Founder’s Day is probably not the right time. Learning about the struggles of the Black community or trying to be an effective ally are both super important and appreciated, but we live these realities every day. Most people go to the ball to relax and have fun, so save the heavy conversation about the state of race relations for another time, like your cross-cultural communications class.

The Founder’s Day Ball at the NMAAHC is going to be an amazing experience. Take some time to explore the exhibits and learn something new if you have not been to the museum before. A good rule of thumb to follow: If it seems offensive, it probably is and you can definitely find a better alternative.  Most importantly, remember to have fun and to get down.

(Try Black dance moves at your own discretion)