UF is concluding another busy Black History Month (BHM) with a calendar full of events. Each February, the Black Student Union hosts festivities in collaboration with the National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC) and other organizations on campus. On February 21, students gathered at the Philips Center to experience one of BHM’s most popular events, the Florida Invitational Step Show (FISS). FISS is the largest student-run step show in the Southeastern region and features teams competing with the traditional art of stepping, associated with historically African-American fraternities and sororities. The show has occurred at UF for 31 years.
FISS provided a weekend of festivities united by the theme FISS Fury, based on classic Black boxing movies. FISS Fury events began Friday afternoon with Set Friday in Turlington Plaza, which featured traditional Greek strolling to hype students up for the main show that evening at the Phillips Center. Step teams from all over Florida as well as some schools in Virginia competed for a $3,000 first-place cash prize in the show hosted by Desi Banks. The celebration continued on Saturday with FISS Fest, a stroll-off between NPHC organizations at the Reitz Union North Lawn. UF’s Fashion Exclusive modeling troupe performed in a fashion show in the Plaza of the Americas on Saturday evening.
Jorneshia Gonzalez knows firsthand all the work that went into FISS Fury. As the FISS 2020 director, she led the FISS team (a separate leadership group within BSU) in working since summer 2019 to prep for the event. In the fall, they held micro-events to help students get excited for the spring show. Gonzalez’s passion for FISS began when she learned about FISS through BSU her freshman year. “Every year I always get goosebumps when the show is about to start. I get excited because I know I worked hard and it’s a show I genuinely enjoy,” Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez also spoke about her desire to grow the Black community at UF. “We’re essentially celebrating Black History Month so it’s deeper than just the show. Its learning the history of us being at UF and how to keep that Black culture here. It’s important that we be reaching out to the Black community and supporting each other,” said Gonzalez.
Students enjoy attending the lively events and shows surrounding FISS. Vanessa Toussaint, a second-year student, shared how she loves getting to dress up and see everyone put their own unique creativity into planning their outfits and preparing for FISS. She thinks it is cool that UF gets to host an event like FISS each year, which displays so much talent and allows students to make connections with each other and even meet famous people. “To see the Gainesville community and the Black Student Union all together in one place to support the black community… it was just a bunch of fun,” Toussaint said.