By JENNIFER HILL
ONEONTA – When senior Rousseau Beauvais and four fraternities decided to create a Women’s Appreciation Day at SUNY Oneonta, they didn’t have Valentine’s Day in mind.
“We came up with the idea in January, but it was too soon after Christmas and New Year’s to put it on,” Rousseau said. “Valentine’s Day was the next main holiday, so we decided to have it on Feb. 13.”
Like last year, the fraternities, Phi Beta Sigma, Lambda Alpha Upsilon, and the Brothers for Empowerment are planning the second Women’s Appreciation Day on Valentine’s Day Eve, Wednesday, Feb. 13, in the Center for Multicultural Experiences in Lee Hall.
And like last year, the event will be a fusion of traditional, romantic Valentine’s activities and of a more modern celebration of women’s empowerment.
“We’re going to serve women food, give them some spa treatment, and do some dances for them.”
Last year, the men served their guests slices of pizza, which Domino’s donated to the event. SUNY’s Office of Equity and Inclusion (OEI) gave the fraternities funds and will again this year.
This year, chicken, rice and beans are on the menu, with cookies and chocolate-covered strawberries for dessert. Beauvais plans to decorate the tables, which have room for six to seven guests, more this year, with Valentine-themed table coverings and vases of flowers on each one.
Like last year, the men will also paint nails and give hand massages with lotion for those who want them. And they will bring back what Beauvais said was the event’s highlight and what women appreciated the most last year: dance performances or “strolling” by each fraternity.
“Strolling,” he explained, “is a way for the fraternities to express themselves through moves, dance, rhythm – it’s brotherhood, expression, protest, and celebration all at once.” Strolling, also called stepping, is a tradition of black fraternities and sororities going back almost 100 years.
“People love it when we stroll anywhere, but they especially loved it at Appreciation Day,” Beauvais said. “The crowd last year was very involved. They like it when men express themselves in a positive manner.”
The modern part of Women’s Appreciation Day – both last year and this year – is that women are not passive recipients of the men’s attention. They are invited to express and celebrate their empowerment on stage as well, including their thoughts on sexism.
Nazhaya Barcelona, a junior at SUNY who attended the inaugural Women’s Appreciation Day along with about 40 women, said the men “wanted anyone who wanted to, to get up on the stage and speak poetry, do spoken word. Women there last year spoke about loving yourself, not letting men take advantage of you.”
“The fact that they threw an event like that was nice,” she said. She will go to Women’s Appreciation Day this year as well and take more friends with her.
Beauvais will graduate in the spring, but he hopes the Women’s Appreciation Day will keep happening at SUNY Oneonta every year.
“I found out you can kind of create history and events for the school,” he said. “Maybe Women’s Appreciation day can become a tradition here.”