On Mar.10, 2022, the Black Students Board hosted a Spades’ Workshop. 

Spades is a card game that holds cultural significance in the African-American culture. It originated in Cincinnati, Ohio in the 1930s. The game was popularized by Black troops during World War II as they would play the game with each other. Upon their return, the game spread from the Midwest to other parts of the country. There are many different ways to play spades depending on the region a person is in. 

Upon entering the suite, there were multiple tables set up with seats for four players and a deck of cards in the center. Members of the Black Student Board worked to ensure that as people filed in, there were enough people for each game. After the tables were filled, Mya McDowell led a presentation on how to play spades. 

She started with spades etiquette such as not talking to your partner across the table and passing out the cards to the left of the dealer.  She then went into spades jargon with words such as cut which is when a spades card is played over other suits, and other words like renege and boston. The next part of the presentation was on how to keep score of the game. During the presentation, McDowell referenced that the version BSB was teaching was not the only way to play. Finally, there was a pop quiz at the end of the presentation to ensure that players thoroughly understood the rules of the game. 

After the presentation, students began playing spades amongst themselves. They were also able to request songs to be added to the playlist that was providing background music. When students had questions about the game, they were prompted to ask a more experienced player. During the games, BSB Chair Madison Darley passed out refreshments for the players. After an hour, or about one full game of spades, the event came to an end. 

Nubian Message interviewed BSB Vice-Chair Mya McDowell, a third-year majoring in Microbiology, about her thoughts on the importance of the event and spades. 

Nubian Message: What was the hardest part of gathering information for the presentation?

Mya McDowell: The hardest thing was just picking one singular way and then also trying to eliminate my bias and not thinking like ‘okay that’s the way that I learned let’s go ahead and do it this way’ and [instead] actually trying to think ‘okay, which is the way that’s most universal to my knowledge?’

NM: What was your goal in hosting this workshop?

MM: I think I just wanted an event through BSB where people could come in and still learn something… I wanted to give students a very fresh environment [and] a very welcome environment that way they can learn without any hesitations.

NM: Do you think knowing how to play spades has cultural significance or do you see the cultural significance in learning how to play games like this?

MM: I think that spades definitely has cultural significance… because card games are a very big part of like Black American culture.  I feel like it is cultural [because] that’s a game that a lot of Black people have interacted with… It’s a staple game and every single family reunion it’s something that we really love to play and a game that we as Black people get very excited about …I really really think that it’s cultural in that sense.

When talking to an inexperienced player about the effectiveness of the workshop,  Nyawira Nyota, a senior double majoring in Foreign Language & Literature and Biological Engineering said “I learned a lot and actually playing the game was helpful [for] learning and Mya’s presentation was extremely helpful.”

The spades workshop hosted by BSB created a safe environment where students could learn and practice playing spades.