The Black Heritage Showcase, hosted by the Office of Multicultural Affairs, returned for its second iteration on Saturday night at the Levering Glass Pavilion. The showcase brought together a diverse group of dancers, musicians and orators not just from Hopkins, but also from Towson University, Morgan State University and the surrounding Baltimore community.
Last year, the inaugural Black Heritage Showcase brought students and community members together in Shriver Hall.
Hopkins senior Chamia Dorsey, who was a junior at the time she started the event, was inspired by a similar showcase in Towson.
In an interview with The News-Letter, she expressed that she originally wanted to organize the Black Heritage Showcase with the hopes of providing black students and community members with a creative platform in celebration of Black History Month at Hopkins.
“We have a culture show, but there’s no super big event during Black History Month. Hopkins also isn’t really well-known for its black community. So I wanted to invite people here to show that we do have a black community and we want to create a connection with other schools and the Baltimore community,” she said.
To start off the night’s performances, senior Chelsea Egbuna, the master of ceremonies, gave the audience a warm welcome and encouraged those in attendance to be engaged.
“The goal of the showcase is to expose students to new and different ways to celebrate their heritage, no matter what kind of black they are. So we’re in for a good night tonight. I’m just gonna need help with your energy!” she said.
The audience certainly delivered on the energy front, but that’s not to say that the performers themselves were lacking in energy. The performances were captivating, and the diversity of the program held my attention. Among the performers were poets, dance groups, singers, jazz performers and even a stand-up comedian.
Freshman Abena Otu-Adum was impressed by the diversity of the program.
“I just love the variety of different things we’ve seen — we’ve had stand-up comedy, we’ve had dance routines, we’ve had free-verse. It’s so diverse, and it’s been very meaningful,” she said.
The program began and ended with dance.
The dance groups included Caribbean Dream from Towson, Tropical Xpressionz from Morgan State and Temps D’Afrique from Hopkins, who ended the showcase.
The Alpha Kappa Psi fraternity and Sigma Gamma Rho sorority also contributed dance routines. All dance acts delivered incredibly impressive, high-energy performances and presented dance routines matched with music from Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean and the United States.
One particularly notable performance came from AMPlified, a group of middle school and high school girls who make uplifting songs, dances and music videos about various topics ranging from bullying to mental health.
There were also performances from two poets and a stand-up comedian.
Sophomore Aaron Harris gave humorous accounts of the time he asked his dad how he met his mother and the time he got his heart broken after asking a girl out on Valentine’s Day in high school. Freshman Ameerah Bello and senior Tejiri Smith, on the other hand, delivered moving poems on the challenges of dealing with contemporary racial prejudices and microaggressions.
“Do I need to be EMT-certified to protect myself from microaggressions? What the fuck is micro about a third-degree burn that can melt your skull all day, violence so deep-seated that it brands itself into your DNA?” Smith asked.
The showcase also featured ample musical talent from both a cappella groups and individual musicians. The
JHU Gospel Choir at Johns Hopkins and Melanotes, a newly-founded co-ed a cappella group dedicated to the music of the African diaspora and African tradition, gave strong gospel and R&B performances.
Sophomore Abena Ababio performed a rendition of “Take a Bow” by Rihanna, sophomore Noah Wright sang Frank Ocean’s “Thinking About You” and sophomore Mya Thomas performed an original song about the exhaustion of pre-med life at Hopkins. Kenyatta, a jazz group from Peabody played an original composition called, “Song of the Warrior” featuring trumpet and percussion.
The musical performances drew some of the most audience participation and and engagement, with many people cheering and clapping along, and at one point, waving their phone flashlights in the air along to the music.
Junior Anda Nyati, who performed with Temps d’Afrique, was happy that the audience was supportive and engaged throughout the showcase.
“I just wanted the audience to be involved and engaged. That was the biggest thing. Because they can show up, and then just sit there like crickets. For them to feel comfortable enough and motivated enough to support us in the way that they did was the best thing that I would have wanted them to get out of it,” she said.
What I felt was most impressive about the Black Heritage Showcase was that the performances were imbued with a sincerity that I don’t always see in a lot of performances; in the same way that performers poured their hearts into intense dance routines and energetic music, they also weren’t afraid of opening their hearts to the audience by being open, honest and vulnerable when communicating their challenges and struggles. The second Black Heritage Showcase wasn’t just a set of impressive performances; it was a poignant celebration of life and identity that demonstrated that one’s lived experiences are just as much about enduring adversity as they are about celebrating one’s triumphs. The fact that many of my fellow students and Baltimore community members were part of this artistic project made the showcase all the more moving.
Egbuna, who actually graduated last year, was thrilled to come back to see that many of her friends, who were part of the night’s showcase, were still involved with their artistic passions.
“My favorite part was coming back and seeing some of my friends after graduation and just seeing that their fire for their passion was still burning and that they’re still pursuing their dreams and their endeavors, especially because Hopkins is such an academic, rigorous institution,” she said. “My fear for my friends was them losing the stuff that makes them happy and keeps them grounded.”
Dorsey echoed this comment and was satisfied with how the showcase turned out.
“I love the end product because it’s just so amazing to see what the people around us can really do when we’re not doing academics,” she said.