On Friday, Feb. 18, Rowan After Hours (RAH) transported students to the height of the Jazz Age by converting the Student Center into an authentic speakeasy club, complete with a brass band and blackjack. The event was co-sponsored by the Black Cultural League (BCL) in honor of Black History Month, which lasts throughout all of February.
“[We wanted to] capture a jazz club…good food, good music, really just a chance to indulge in the ambiance of what would have been the Harlem Renaissance,” Aaliyah Wiggins, president of the Black Cultural League, said.
During the United States Prohibition period of 1920 to 1933, it became illegal to manufacture, purchase, own or consume alcohol. As a result, thousands of unlicensed bars opened up nationwide, known as “speakeasies,” a subtle warning to patrons not to raise their voices in fear of alerting cops passing by. As Prohibition wore on, speakeasies evolved beyond simple taverns and became full-fledged social clubs, complete with gambling and live entertainment.
Speakeasy Night was a welcome release from the tensions of the modern-day. Attendants could play casino games, enter raffles and enjoy a photo booth, all while dining on excellent bar-style food and surprisingly delicious mocktails as a big band blasted away on their horns in the pit.
The mass appeal of speakeasies and their availability to everyone made them the perfect cradle for the resurgence of African American art, music and culture occurring at that same time, which came to be known as the Harlem Renaissance. The rise in the acknowledgment and popularity of black culture gave way to the Jazz Age.
Established in 1969, the BCL is one of the oldest student-run organizations on campus, predating the Student Government Association. Since its conception, the BCL has aimed to promote and explore African American culture through events such as these.
The BCL has many more events planned for the future, such as a return of Speakeasy Night next year, and it hopes to make them bigger and better than ever. With open arms, the League welcomes anyone looking for a memorable experience with a unique, authentic and truly American feel.
“You’ll see all of us come together here … We’re not always together,” Wiggins said. “You won’t always see us together in classes, or in the gym or at lunch. But at places like this, you’ll see us.”
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