“Renaissance.” This is the theme of the 2023 Springfest celebration. It is not a nod to Beyoncé’s latest album, nor is it a reference to a period of European history, but according to the Undergraduate Student Assembly (UGSA), this year’s theme alludes to the cultural changes that Howard is going through post-pandemic.
Springfest is coordinated under the direction of senior Stephen Spence, the 49th Executive Coordinator of UGSA and junior Joseph Louisias III, the Springfest 2023 co-coordinator, who both serve on the event coordinator team this year.
“The theme ‘Renaissance’ was, for me, representative of what Howard is going through right now,” Louis said. “Since the pandemic, there has been a huge shift in culture between ‘old’ Howard and ‘new’ Howard. We are creating our own experiences, our own set of standards. That was the idea behind using the word ‘Renaissance’ – a cultural shift.”
When Howard’s classes went virtual, so did the Howard community, along with traditions that were usually in person.
“Coming to Howard as the class of ‘24, we were the pandemic class, we lost our freshman year,” Louis said. “We didn’t really have any guidance when it came to Howard culture, we didn’t have anyone to pass on knowledge. So a lot of Howard culture is the new traditions that the class of ‘23 and ‘24 is making.”
According to Spence, the fashion show usually has its own theme. While this year’s theme is “The Golden Age,” an ode to the Harlem Renaissance, and the theme of Bison Ball this year is “Harlem Night,” it wasn’t the inspiration for Springfest’s overall theme.
“This year, I want to bring a different standard when it comes to the production of Springfest,” Louis said. “With our team’s help, this year is going to be the biggest [Springfest] I think ever based on the events that we have, the production side of the events and the experience we are going to be able to give to students.”
The only events that will stay consistent to last year’s Springfest will be the Yard Talk, Talent Showcase, Truth and Service Basketball Game, Black Woman Empowerment Summit, concert and fashion show, according to Spence. The other events will be new events that are geared towards the more recent student body.
Due to confidentiality purposes, Spence was unable to provide the budget details. Moreover, a link to a fundraiser can be found, where about $900 out of a $300,000 goal has been raised so far for Springfest. The fundraiser ended on Mar. 29 with seven donors.
It is unclear whether or not other sources for funding were explored by UGSA.
Janiah Walker, a sophomore art major from Middletown, Delaware, serves as UGSA’s graphic designer. She made the graphics for Springfest and was given full creative freedom from the Springfest team.
“It was really difficult for me at first to kind of work through that because I didn’t really know what Howard’s ‘Renaissance’ looked like in my head,” Walker said. “I looked up a lot of ‘Renaissance’ themes and history and got an aesthetic from it. Then I made a rough draft of the main flier based on renaissance art.”
When thinking about Howard’s relationship to the term “Renaissance,” Walker thought about how to combine the artistic side of the school with something that represented Howard as a whole.
“I feel like Howard is such a creative school. There are a lot of artists,” she said. “Of course I had to put Founders in there because it’s Howard’s biggest landmark. I decided to keep it simple because I wanted to show the artistic part of it without showcasing too much detail.”
The team started planning in September of 2022, according to Louis and Spence. He said the hardest part was trying to manage their ambition.
“With us coming off the heels of what happened with Homecoming, we wanted to make sure we were truly giving the students what they wanted. But unfortunately, what students want doesn’t meet our budget,” he said. “We had to get creative when thinking of how we could book some of these artists using Howard’s name as leverage.”
On Oct. 5 of last year, UGSA issued a statement following the Yardfest concert during Homecoming. The statement was a response to students complaints that the lineup did not reflect their wishes as a student body and that there was a lack of student involvement present on the Homecoming coordination team.
Howard students have formulated their own opinions about this year’s Springfest theme, many of whom were expecting Beyoncé to perform due to the theme having the same name as her most recent album.
“When they announced the theme ‘Renaissance,’ I immediately thought of Beyoncé,” sophomore biology major Devon Mooring said. “For me, it has to be Beyoncé performing at Springfest.”
Shaleyah Carter, a junior political science major from Pensacola, Florida, said, “I mean, I think it’s cool, but I feel like it’s also really misleading. I know for Homecoming, like the way it was set up and the theme or whatever, I really thought that Megan thee Stallion was coming, so that was like, super broke my heart seeing the lineup.
She continued by saying, “So I feel like the whole thing with ‘Renaissance’ is like if Beyoncé is coming, it’s cool and appropriate, but I feel like if not then it’s misleading.”
Farrah Bey, a junior marketing major from the Bronx, New York, said, “I feel like seeing Beyoncé would be wishful thinking. I also feel like I’ve heard speculation about the City Girls coming, I don’t know how likely that is. If I could get anyone to come, it would be J. Cole.”
Spence indicated that he’s been hearing students question whether or not Beyoncé will be included in the lineup of performers, and to that he said, “Beyoncé is not performing, so you can clear the record on that.”
Spence added, “I know people have been saying that, but “Renaissance” can mean a lot of things. And for us, it means rebirth of Howard culture and redefining what it means.”
Springfest is an annual Howard tradition that marks the last week of classes in the spring semester and welcomes the change of the season. It is a week-long event from April 10 to April 15 that features high-profile performances, a fashion show, a basketball game and a talent showcase, according to the Howard UGSA fundraiser.
Copy edited by Jadyn Barnett