Students at a Baltimore high school ditched their uniforms this week in favor of traditional African garments.
Titled “Formation Week” after Beyonce’s hit single, the protest at Baltimore City College – a public college-preparatory high school that requires students to wear uniforms – promotes conversations for people of color and challenges rules that do not embrace cultural traditions.
According to The Baltimore Sun, attire for the week must have cultural and political significance. The students who organized the movement are members of City Bloc, a foundation that has organized various protests in the past. Previous events included tweeting photos of Baltimore students wearing winter garments inside their freezing classrooms, according to Think Progress.
For this week’s protest at the school, students are mostly demonstrating by wearing different types of dress throughout the week.
“MindWrap Monday” had students wearing headwraps and scarves, throwing a wrench in the school’s rule to have them banned except for practicing Muslims. “Traditional Tuesday” switched the focus to students wearing Dashikis, Muumuus, Polleras, Saris and Kimonos.
On “Work Wednesday,” students discussed women who have influenced their lives and the historical figures before them. “Thoughtful Thursday” will focus on having Black people lead the discussion of oppression and asking allies to listen. The week ends with “Formation Friday,” where students are encouraged to be unapologetically themselves.
Kicking off the week, City Bloc sent Baltimore City College a letter reading:
Thus, we must form ourselves to confront the implications of excluding conversations of protesting and civil disobedience against rape culture, immigration raids, and police brutality from a community that faces intersectional oppression on every level. These microaggressive acts of relegating political discourse to the back burner of our curriculum implicitly teaches students that their cultures, identities, and struggles are irrelevant and ‘unprofessional.’”
There have not been any issues with the students wearing traditional clothes instead of uniforms. According to The Baltimore Sun, Principal Cindy Harcum told students there would be “no issue” with Formation Week dress code, though she later tweeted that the school could not “guarantee there will be no consequences” for students not in uniform. Later they tweeted and emailed the following:
Students must wear regular uniform attire today. Appropriate, traditional cultural head wrap has also been approved.
— City College News (@Citycollegian) March 21, 2016
That doesn’t mean traditional wear will be allowed long term. In response to City Bloc’s letter, the administration said, “Despite recent print and social media sensationalism about dress code, City College will remain a uniform school. Although there is no change in the dress code, we do support yesterday and today’s cultural attire in the spirit of university and shared interests.”