Mélodie Higgs paints her vision of Afro-Futurism at this year’s Soulful Expressions. Photo: Parker Townes.
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Annual talent show set eyes on future with Afro-Futurism theme

The show opened with a song by Nina Simone.

Why you wanna fly Blackbird/ You ain’t ever gonna fly,” starts the sonorous ‘Blackbird’, sung that night by organizer Dilaye Desta. Before the performance, the fourth-year criminology student explained why she thought it was the right way to start.

“She originally wrote it during the civil rights movement and it was about how Black women in society at the time were kind of trapped like a blackbird in a cage,” she said.

“I thought it’d be fitting to start off our act with a lot of history behind it and a lot of trauma and was very real to a Black woman at some point in history, to show how we plan to move forward to change that narrative.”

Friday’s Soul Expressions, an annual talent night organized by the Black Student Leaders Association (BSLA), was not only about showcasing talent from the black community but also about looking to the future. Built around the theme of Afro-Futurism, students and alumni packed the stands of the Alumni Auditorium in the University Centre to see a show in three acts — Black to our Roots, The New Protagonists: Black Women, and Black to the Future.

Once a Black History Month feature, Desta said the BSLA held the event in March instead this year because they had already planned a full slate of events for February and because they wanted to move beyond sequestering the celebration of black culture to a single month each year.

The long list of performers included alumnus Regy de la Cruz-Abraham, a singer-songwriter who has performed at the show since 2012 when he was a human kinetics student.

“Ever since it has been like shaping me because that helped me … develop myself as an artist,” he explained. “And as of 2015, I became a recording artist.”

De la Cruz-Abraham even met his musical partner through the event.

“It’s a platform for artists and people to express themselves,” he said. “It’s also an opportunity for people to come together to build ourselves as a community on campus because I believe that we do have a voice.”

“It’s also very inspiring as well, seeing all those young artists performing or slamming or doing poetry it’s beautiful.”

Young artists like Mélodie Higgs, a first-year theatre student; As performances played on the main stage, she and two others painted individual pieces expressing the night’s theme on the edge of the auditorium.

“It’s a way for everybody to come together just get to know the culture, get to know what everybody’s into and just have a good time,” she said.

That good time has come when many students need it most.

“It’s a good way to relax, especially during exams and … everything like that,” explained Higgs.

“It’s necessary.”The BSLA meets regularly to discuss issues that face the black community. For March, they’re planning to run a week-long basketball tournament with a cash prize. More information can be found on their Facebook page.

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