Chico State throws 10th annual party for Black History Month


Jazz music filled the air while people donning costumes of dapper gentlemen and fringed flappers entered the Performing Arts Center.

The set designs elevated the room’s golden age feel, students, faculty, staff and people of all ages took a trip back in time to celebrate the Harlem Renaissance on Thursday night.

In honor of Black History Month, the Chico State’s Black Faculty and Staff Association, the Cross-Cultural Leadership Center, the Office of Diversity and Inclusion and the School of the Arts presented the tenth Harlem Renaissance Rent Party.

Beginning in the 1910s, Rent Parties were thrown in efforts to counteract the continuing rise of rent. Hosts would charge entry fees and attendees could dance to hired musicians and eat Southern-style food all night long. These parties became so popular that they played a large role in the African American cultural movement between the 20s and 30s.

The movement also produced many mainstream African American musicians and writers. It also had a significant influence on the development of theater, art and politics.

“The party lends itself as a way of sort of celebrating as well as educating about the Harlem Renaissance time period,” said Tracy Butts, English professor and the event’s coordinator. “It also lends itself to having people come dressed in costume which people love. We also get to do a fundraiser for it. So it allows you to actually meet a couple objectives all in one party.”

While the party is always free to attend, donations are happily accepted and typically people are more than inclined to support the charitable cause each Rent Party is designated for.

“This year we’re raising money for Chapman Elementary School and for their library,” Butts said.

This was the second year in a row that the Rent Party was thrown to benefit the elementary school. Last year, the event raised about $500.

“We found out that their library budget had been slashed significantly so the $500 helped them to purchase books,” Butts said.

A raffle for a music-inspired painting by student, Mazi Noble, was also part of the effort to raise funds and proved to be fruitful for lots of raffle tickets were sold at the door. Noble was also selling custom prints inside the party for the cause.

In addition to the art raffle and jazz music, the entertainment included some students reciting poetry and a costume contest—won by Natalie Windt. People also enjoyed hot food, cold drinks and mingling with one another throughout the night.

Amanda Rhine can be reached at [email protected] or @am_rhine on Twitter.