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Costume Contest Controversy

This year’s Bowl for Kids’ Sake theme is the 1970s. We were so excited thinking about disco, cinema, and the beginning of Soul Train for the costume contest


Then, we started having conversations at the office about how to react if well-meaning people arrive in potentially offensive costumes– whether it’s a white person wearing an afro wig, or anyone channeling the Village People and arriving in a Native American headdress. 

We knew if folks showed up to the event in offensive costumes that we couldn’t post photos to social media. If we don’t feel comfortable posting them on social media, why would it be welcome at the event? Would we be willing to ask folks to take off potentially offensive costumes? Further, what assumptions are we making about someone’s identities in doing so? 


As part of Big Brothers Big Sisters’ continuing diversity, equity, and inclusion work, we aim to build spaces where everyone feels welcomed, heard, respected, and valued. We want to ensure that some individuals’ costume choices don’t unintentionally make the event feel unwelcoming or disrespectful.  

Big Brothers Big Sisters’ community is generous and thoughtful. We are literally an organization of humans that help humans connect with other humans. To continue this work, and continue it well, we make a conscious effort to ensure everyone we interact with feels welcomed, heard, valued, and respected, especially, when it means reframing our own choices and actions. 


We know that what was considered “acceptable” by mainstream or dominant culture in the 1970s is not the same as it is today. From various music festivals banning Native American headdresses to white people losing jobs over wearing afro wigs, to sports teams rebranding their names and mascots, things are different now.  

If we see someone wearing an afro wig at BFKS, we’re going to recognize this as an opportunity for education, engage in a conversation about it, and likely ask them to take it off. Naturally textured Black hair is not a costume. Wearing an afro wig is akin to wearing blackface. 

As an organization, we strive to show people’s culture and traditions the respect they deserve. This isn’t to check a box denoting us as ‘diverse’, but rather doing important work so people (and children) from all backgrounds can see people like them represented with respect. We aim to make our events welcoming and respectful for all members of our community. 


We also recognize we don’t have all the answers. We have googled a lot in the last couple of weeks. If you agree or think we’ve missed the mark somehow, please don’t hesitate to share your feedback with our marketing lead, Kori Jock We’re grateful for our teachers, and to be able to share what we know, which isn’t everything. 


We are looking forward to having the grooviest event where everyone can feel welcomed, heard, valued, and respected, with just a little bit of thought on our community’s part as they choose their costumes. 

To learn more about Bowl for Kids’ Sake, or to sign up, please click here. To learn more about cultural appropriation, click here