On Friday, February 18, at 9 p.m., members of the Black Student Union (BSU) hosted a powerful and dynamic showcase titled “Light Up the World: A Celebration of Black Joy.” Students of all shades, hues and backgrounds attended the showcase held in the Villanova room to embrace the impact of the arts and how they uplift the black community in Villanova and beyond. Seniors Qadir Ismail and Atira Meade led the celebration smoothly introducing each incredible performer, artist, speaker or poet.
To kick off the evening, the VU Superlatives (a multicultural, all-style dance group on campus) performed a jaw-dropping routine comprised of various elements of traditional hip-hop and jazz funk. The crowd went wild as the dancers performed their every move with precision, confidence and style. After the performance, LASO (Latin American Student Organization) Co-Chair Kristian Olvera, Jr., brought his poems to life by talking about the inequalities within society and what black joy means in his life. Inequalities established within society ultimately inspire black joy to flourish in the face of hardship and times of defeat. It allows the darkest times to turn into glorious opportunities for greatness. Next, Villanova alumnus and former sociology professor Cynthia Glover spoke about her experience as an undergrad and how black joy at Villanova has progressed over time. Glover had many comedic but poignant comments about her Villanova experience that people enjoyed recounting as she discussed the differentiating cultural dynamics of her college years.
After Glover’s remarks, Ablaze, a multicultural hip-hop dance crew from Villanova, performed an energetic hip-hop routine with many contemporary dance elements from around the world, mostly from African descent. Ablaze brought the heat by lighting up the floor with his cool moves and fantastic facial expressions. The energy was infectious as many students continued to cheer and cheer on them as they performed. Leaving the room, Kai Davis, a queer black woman from Philadelphia, presented some excerpts of her poetry to highlight the exploration of blackness and black joy.
“I love how black joy makes me move, scream, dance or just be,” she said.
Her quick and clever wordplay captivated audiences as she began reciting her own poems. One of her most resonant poems highlighted all the hopes and dreams she has for her “little girl,” who depicted an abstract version of a young black child growing up and having to work twice as hard to win the same things as white people. The poems encompass the story of the barriers society has erected to prevent people of color from being joyful, yet celebrating the joy in their lives without feeling harassed or scrutinized. She also shared how being black and being part of the LGBTQ+ community inspires her to proudly spread joy and love through teaching workshops and slam poetry. As she finished her final poem, the hosts allowed everyone in attendance to help themselves to cocktail hour food and refreshments at local black-owned restaurants.
After the break, the music started rocking the Villanova room with a special performance from the band, Amari Rebel and The Movement. The band was born as a musical tool for black liberation. The genre he performed consisted of Soular Rock, which is a mixture of rock, soul, hip-hop and reggae. The crowd chanted ‘Rebel Love’ as everyone found a fun way to sing along and enjoy the strong messages of black love and joy portrayed in the music. Next, Villanova graduate student and self-taught artist Ajibola Bondunrim discussed how he creates art to express the feelings of black individuals and how media and documentaries contribute to blackness through global storytelling. Last Letter Films is a social documentary filmmaking group in the university’s communication department that shares the stories of different people around the world and films their stories in these places. He played the teaser for the movie he is producing this year called “Rooted”. It’s a unique story based on a local musician in a black community in Puerto Rico with collaborators Jonathan Abrante and Maricruz Rivera Clemente. Finally, BSU released a promotional song video to show a musical artist attending UPenn who goes through Malpractive and promoted his new song.
While the evening served as a toast to black excellence, try to keep in mind that Black Student Union events aren’t just for blacks. The BSU showcase was organized to cultivate the culture of black arts, love and above all joy, with all people regardless of gender, socio-economic status, ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation . Therefore, efforts like these are essential elements in creating a more diverse and educated environment on campus.