Tre’Kwan Raynor

(Rock Hill, S.C.) — A Winthrop University student group is working to create an atmosphere similar to what might be found at a historically black college or university (HBCU) by giving the school the nickname “Rock Hill State” for the week of homecoming.

Winthrop’s Gentlemen’s League, an organization made up of African-American males, focuses on empowering young men making the transition from high school to college.

The group hosted a cookout, student panel discussion and pep rally with charisma girls, as part of the Rock Hill State events from Nov. 12-17.

Jamal Blake, one of the event’s organizers, said the Rock Hill State initiative is intended to give Winthrop students the feeling of what it might be like to attend an HBCU.

The Gentlemen’s League has hosted the Rock Hill State events in previous years, but this year the group collaborated with two other student groups on campus in order to attract more attention.

As a result, the panel discussion had to be moved from Dina’s Place in the DiGiorgio Campus Center, which seats more that 220 people, to the larger auditorium in Tillman Hall.

However, not all of the attention has been positive, as a number of social media users have criticized the Rock Hill State events on Twitter.

D.J. Mays, vice president of the Gentlemen’s League, said he received a number of negative responses from students at HBCUs while promoting Rock Hill State on Twitter.

Mays said a number of people appeared to misunderstand the intent of the events, because the Rock Hill State initiative wasn’t intended to mock HBCUs or their tradition.

“It’s not necessarily that we’re trying to call ourselves an HBCU. All we are doing is embracing the culture of it. It is not like we are trying to steal anything or take any of their events,” said Mays.

“I believe it has caused an uproar because of how much attention it has been getting this year. We’ve been told by some of the faculty at our school that this event has never seen this much publicity or attention.”

The Rock Hill State events date back to 2011, he said, as a way for African-American students to promote homecoming and feel supported at Winthrop.