Talent show closed out Black History Month with singing, poetry and painting
Friday night saw the Black Student Leaders Association (BSLA) host their annual Soulful Expressions talent showcase, concluding an eventful Black History Month.
The show was kicked off by performers Ede, Jeremiah, and Anais with a warm medley of “Brown Skin Girl” by Beyonce, Saint Jhn, and Wizkid; “Golden” by Jill Scott; and “End of the Road” by Boyz II Men.
Emceed by BSLA executives Dilaye Desta, director of community engagement, and Marina Toure, director of bilingualism, the atmosphere in the University Centre’s Alumni Auditorium was as vibrant as the show itself, which consisted of musical and dance performances, spoken word poetry, and live painting.
The theme for the evening was “Blackprint.”
“The ‘Blackprint’ aims to highlight pioneers and notable movements that were created, established and authenticated by Black individuals and groups,” the BSLA explained on their Facebook page. “Black popular culture is a powerhouse in entertainment culture worldwide. As innovators of rich expression, we have set the mark for influential status.”
“Blackprint is me, is you, is all of us — Black people, melanin people, African diaspora people. And also, all the people of other races that want to participate in our advancements as black people, or just elevate us as black people,” Gatineau-based performer Rèn Darah said of her definition of the Blackprint. “Blackprint is the art that we’re making, the evolution of our way of thinking. Just us existing or just us being the best version of Blackness.”
Co-president Rochelle Smith explained what motivated the BSLA team to host this showcase and what it means to her.
“We want it to be bigger and better than we were last year and we also felt like we had an obligation to the Black community in Ottawa, to provide them with things that they don’t normally have throughout the rest of the year,” Smith said. “But it’s not just during Black History Month; it’s throughout all of the year that we should have events for them.”
Third-year international development student Angela commented on what she called a lack of university administration involvement in Black History Month.
“I feel like if we’re just looking at Black History Month, it just seems like the school isn’t really doing much, it’s just the student associations organizing it,” said attendee Angela. “But I haven’t seen the school itself partake or make any effort and making activities, learning, workshops, whatever it is like for people to like learn and educate themselves.”
Smith, the co-president of the BSLA, also criticized the university’s lack of initiative.
“They shouldn’t just rely on the students because it makes students feel like they’re not as valued, so I think it’s important that they get involved, and show face to some of these events,” said Smith.
Support for local Black artists and creatives isn’t exclusive to Black History Month. Live painter Inèz suggested broadcasting these kinds of cultural spaces to the greater student body to spread awareness and encourage community.
“It’s really amazing for Black people to have a safe space and to express themselves but I think it’s also good to have liaison and to kind of invite people into this space as well when the time is right,” she explained.
Darah also suggested courses specializing in Black art.
“Black art has so much history. And as Black people, we express ourselves in art because, for us, art is not just a show. Art is us; art is spiritual,” she said.
The Soulful Expressions showcase was an amazing display of Black talent and artistry. Importantly, the evening did not end shyly and concluded how all events should: with a giant dance party onstage.