Every so often, the Greene Street section in front of Russell House has something going on. Tents are set up campaigning for signatures, off-campus apartment complexes come to convince freshmen they aren’t bad and students running for class government will inevitably try to throw thousands of koozies at potential voters. But around once every month, that space is transformed. Tables of community organizations line the perimeter of the road as the speakers of the DJ booth are plugged in, and a large crowd gathers to celebrate representation, culture and really good hip-hop music. This, as many know, is Hip-Hop Wednesday.
For students of color in the South Carolina community, the day holds a large significance. “I block the time out of my schedule every semester to make sure I can be there,” sophomore Alpha Phi Alpha member, Kaleb Phelps said. “There’s a pride and priority for Hip-Hop Wednesday. If you don’t wear a fit around classes, you at least wear one to Hip-Hop Wednesday. Whether you’re on or off campus, people make time to come and convene.”
When asked why Hip-Hop Wednesday held such an important role on campus, Phelps brought up the fact that 23% of students at the University of South Carolina identify as multicultural. “Sometimes when you get to that first class, you see you’re the only person of color there. It’s alienating. Hip-Hop Wednesday is a reminder that black and multicultural students are here at this school, that we are a vocal group. It serves as a breath of relief to me. I get to say 'I’m here, I’m represented, I’m seen,'” Phelps said.
The event is for everyone, not just students of color. It’s a time to gather, to take a deep breath and relax with some music. Every event always has dancing, food trucks parked for a meal and student small businesses selling homemade merchandise. The energy around the event is dynamic and a student would be hard-pressed not to find any laughter mixed in among music. As an example, one of the main draws is also the medley of black and multicultural student organizations running fundraisers for cancer, mental health, feminine hygiene products and many other important issues. The day is filled with light-hearted fun, like paying to dump a bucket of ice water on someone or tossing a pie tin full of whipped cream into someone's face. “That strong organizational presence is made up of clubs like the NAACP, the Black Honors Caucus, the Black Capstone Caucus, the Association of African American Students, the National Association of Black Journalists, Alpha Phi Alpha and those are just off the top of my head,” Phelps said. “If you want to get involved as a multicultural student on campus, your first step is attending Hip-Hop Wednesday.”
But just as many events before it, COVID-19, unfortunately, took a large impact on the densely populated student gathering. Having had to stop for a year put a damper on the celebration, and the event still hasn't fully recovered. Phelps reminisces about stories he’s heard from before the pandemic on how amazing each Wednesday really was and hopes it’ll return to the event it used to be. “It’s a big deal. I mean, even back in high school, my college counselors would tell us about Hip-Hop Wednesday during the application process. As freshmen, people know going into it that it’s really central to a lot here," Phelps said. When asked what the event would need to regain its footing again though, Phelps cited the need for more publicity. "Not all black students know about it. I hope that, eventually, we get more recognition for people to show up and show out,” Phelps said.
For those wanting to attend, Hip-Hop Wednesday happens on the first Wednesday of each month from 11-2 p.m. on Greene Street and specific dates can be found on the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs website. Phelps encourages people to bring a friend, say hi to a student organization, meet someone new and enjoy themselves.