A crowd of students walk up the Russell House steps with full intention of making a fashion statement. They don three-piece suits and evening gowns as they gracefully walk the red carpet, careful not to crease their Air Jordans.
This moment is a by-product of the Back II Black Gala, an annual community outreach event hosted by campus multicultural groups Brothers of Nubian Descent (BOND) and SAVVY. These organizations aim to facilitate community outreach events at USC that focus on creating community amongst Black students.
The annual Back II Black gala will take place on Feb. 25 and center around the celebration of community amongst African American students. The event began in 2014.
BOND and SAVVY said they hope to continue this tradition of outreach by welcoming new faces to the USC campus. The groups host and take part in several events put on by the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs (OMSA).
Joshua Robinson, president of BOND, highlighted the importance of events like the BOND and SAVVY pool party, Association of African American Students (AAAS) cookouts and the Back II Black gala and how they play into community building.
“It’s very empowering," Robinson said. "It’s a bunch of Black people getting together and having a good time.”
He said the event is free, open to everyone and that attendees are encouraged to bring friends, take pictures and, above all else, enjoy themselves.
Robinson also emphasized the importance of reaching out to new students on campus and said that hosting events like Back II Black helps people of color in a predominantly white university feel a sense of belonging.
Raven Walters, president of SAVVY, she hoped to reach out to and connect with new students through Back II Black.
The executive boards for BOND and SAVVY held talent auditions last semester and at the start of this semester for the talent portion of the gala. Walters, who performed during her freshman year, said the goal of this talent showcase is to help students feel free.
“People get to see you for who you really are, as a freshman that was really good for me,” Walters said.
Walters said that at first the sight of being on stage facing the large crowd left an “anxious spirit“ in the air. But after leaving the stage, performers feel seen and celebrated by their community, which is one of the main goals of the gala, Walters said.
This year, SAVVY has also allotted time for Black business owners to promote themselves during the event.
The gala is themed around "Stepping into Black Excellence." La’Jessica Price, the vice-president of SAVVY, described it as a modern spin on the formal high-class nature of galas.
Attendees are encouraged to show up in their dresses and suits like previous galas, but to don a pair of sneakers to emphasize this edition’s tagline.
“Back II Black is basically a showcase of Black excellence ... we have a lot of talented individuals," La’Jessica said. "Showcasing that the Black community is talented and that we're doing great things on campus.”
She declined to reveal too much about all the talent and businesses they intend on showcasing for the event, choosing to instead say that people would have to come to see for themselves what the community had to offer.
Price, Robinson and Walters all emphasized that the gala is not a place for judgment, but a place for celebration.
“This is a place of, like, literally celebration ... that’s what it’s always been, that’s what it’s going to always be,” Walters said.