On Friday night, the African American Cultural Center (AACC) and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) celebrated both the 50th anniversary of the AACC and Black History Month through a combined pageant and talent show featuring undergraduate students.
The nine contestants competed in casual wear, talent, formal wear and question and answer competitions for the title of Mr. and Miss AACC 2018.
Ultimately, Kerwens Saint-Anne, fourth-semester communications major, and Cydney-Alexis Delarosa, second-semester biomedical engineering pre-med major, were crowned this year. Second and third place were given to Tamir Hornesby, fourth-semester communications major and Christopher Bowes, second-semester exercise science major, and Twyla Green, second-semester political science major, and Chloe Murphy, second-semester Africana studies major, respectively.
The talent show contestants competed once in a singular showcase of their talent. First place was awarded to Sadejah Blake, a sixth-semester women’s, gender and sexuality studies and communications double major. Second place was awarded to Paula-Dee Cameron, a sixth-semester mathematics major. Third place was awarded to Chuck Tyson.
This year, the AACC and NAACP chose to combine these two similar events into one.
Rode Bataille, fourth-semester philosophy and individualized dual major appreciated the decision to merge the two events. “I thought it was cool,” Bataille said. “It adds a lot of content to the program so not only is it a pageant, but it’s also other supporters of the AAC also joining and kind of supporting.”
Bataille also said that combining the events added “depth to the program.” “So it made it more of a program and less of just like here are people who want to be a part of a pageant. It’s more of a community,” Bataille said.
This depth was clearly evident in the talent portions of the pageant and the talent show.
The most impressive performances were the spoken word poems read by first-place talent contestant Blake, Donice Brooks, second-semester nursing major, and Brendon Gamble, second-semester undeclared major.
Their hard-hitting poems explored blackness, inequality and systemic injustice. With the very first line of her poem, Brooks made this unflinchingly clear. “The last time I saw a man shot to death, it was televised. Seemingly playing on loop, I watched this man fall to the ground over and over,” Brooks said.
Blake, who in her introduction said that she “speaks for everyone who wants (her) to, but can’t find the courage,” also spoke from a place not many are willing to go to in a room full of people. “Men are my muse, but only because they have hurt me so much. I always remember the trauma. They say poets write in pain, their pens beating paper are just mimics of them being beaten,” said Blake. “How many hands of men will have to let up for this poem to stop being written?”
Both of these women and many of the other contestants in both the pageant and talent shows did what many will never do by sharing intimate and important parts of themselves to strangers.
Other contestants exhibited their vocal, musical and rhythmic talents inspired or created by black artists and cultural icons.
One of the MCs for the event, Alleyha Dannett, an eighth-semester women’s, gender and sexualities studies and human rights double major, expressed the audience’s gratitude perfectly. “Thank you for sharing,” Dannett said. “Thank you, thank you very much. That was impactful and beautiful and brave and we so value you for sharing your art. Everyone who has shared their beautiful work from their heart space, thank you and we see you.”
Decosse noted a connecting thread between the each talent, whether it was a spoken word poems, vocal performance or rap. “It was interesting because it’s Black History Month and it was sponsored by the NAACP so it was like people who are underrepresented here at the university pretty much stepping out and showing that we’re here,” Decosse said.
Ultimately, the show was not about the gross competitiveness that viewers too often see on screen, but rather it was rooted in appreciating, respecting and celebrating their community created by the AACC and beyond as well as their individual and collective identities.
Alex Taylor is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.