Coalition and Union host Black History Month movie screening

Madison Li, Staff Writer

The Hilltop Diversity Coalition (HDC) and the Union will join forces to host a screening of the film Fresh Dressed and a panel discussion with prominent Black figures in the fashion industry today in honor of Black History Month.

The night will begin with the featured documentary, Fresh Dressed, which “chronicles the history of hip-hop’s urban fashion from its early beginnings to the catwalks of high fashion,” according to an announcement email sent out by the Union.

A talkback in the Recital Hall will follow the screening, led by speakers featured in the film including Dapper Dan, a Gucci collaborator, April Walker, the founder of Walker Wear, Chris Latimer, the creator of the African American College Alliance clothing brand, and Guy Wood, the founder of 5001 Flavors and owner of Harlem Haberdashery, a boutique clothing store, Union Board Member Taussia Boadi (11) said.

Dinner at the event will feature a wide representation of the African diaspora through African food, Afro-Caribbean food, and soul food, Boadi said.

This event is the HDC’s first celebration of Black History Month, which consists of students from Riverdale, Fieldston, and the school, HDC Founder and co-President Dakota Stennett-Neris (12) said.

The HDC proposed such an event after it noted that the school did not have a formal celebration last year. Kelly was extremely supportive of hosting an event for all three hill schools, Stennett-Neris said.

“We wanted to do something that would empower and uplift Black people. The movie we picked, Fresh Dressed, depicts the institutional inequity and injustices that black people face, but in addition to that it shows how black people combat these forces through various art forms including music and fashion,” she said.

“With all the recent heart breaking and demoralizing events taking place, we choose to celebrate by acknowledging all the fresh, fabulous and fantastic ways black culture has influenced the American landscape,” Union Advisor Dr. Rachel Mohammed said.

In addition, the event was a reaction to the curriculum at the school and how it rarely focuses on the culture of people of color, Stennett-Neris said.

“Many of the people that attend our schools don’t have exposure to those minorities outside of school, so their perception of black people will come from the exposure they gain from the curriculum and pop culture. Unfortunately, in many cases this leads to the normalization of black people as subordinate to their white peers,” Stennett-Neris said.

To both celebrate and provide exposure to Black culture, the film will spotlight local experiences of people of color, discuss racism inside of the Bronx and New York area, and show how Black clothing and music were “used as an expression of our opinions, power, and voice against police brutality,” Stennett-Neris said.

The film also discusses how many Black people were never able to obtain high-class designer brand clothing due to financial reasons and stigmas, Boadi said. As a result, the stars of Fresh Dressed decided to create their own brands or collaborate with other designers to make fashion accessible for people of color who felt excluded from the fashion industry at the time, she said.

“What people are going to take from this is that although Black people have suffered oppression for numerous years, they were able to create a fashion that still ‘sticks’ to this day,” Boadi said. “We don’t really hear much about the history of Black fashion in New York, and this event can educate people on the topic as well as foster a sense of community,” she said.

As diversity clubs generally don’t have as much participation compared to other clubs, events like the screening are a nice boost for the clubs, Faijul Rhyhan (12) said.

“I hope that attendees find a new understanding for African American culture beyond just rap and music,” Union member Eric Ohakam (12) said.

Lou Royer P’20 will attend the screening to learn more about the African American experience, he said.

“You can’t see everything in your own life, so it’s fun to see the world through the eyes of other people, and I think this event is a good opportunity for that.”