Standout performances make for a powerful MLK memorial

January 19, 2018

Brandeis’ 13th annual Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, titled “The Love That h8 Can’t Stop,” opened its doors in the Shapiro Campus Center Theater Monday night to an enthusiastic audience. Hosted by Dean of Students Jamele Adams, the memorial featured a variety of music, poetry and dance acts. Together with the audience, the performers exemplified the Brandeis community’s appreciation of Reverend King’s work.

Early on, Nichol’s scholar and soloist, Justin Cox, owned the stage as he let out a sweet, but strong serenade. After Cox finished showing off his powerful vocals, Brandeis’ very own Platinum Step Team took control and fired up the crowd. Platinum introduced themselves, starting with impassioned shouts of “Do you know who we are?” and following up with intense sequences of rhythmic stepping and clapping.

Popular dance groups, Rebelle and Toxic, also drew cheers from the audience during their own sets as they showed off their moves to the crowd. Members of Toxic, Brandeis’ own majorette force, put on a a high-energy performance with impressive stunts and amazing costumes.

Meanwhile, the dance troupe, Rebelle, brought the heat with their experience, exciting formations, turns and use of levels.

Michelle Dennis ’18 performed an interpretive dance solo set to soft a instrumental piece with child’s voice reading the names of black victims of police shootings. Her choreography was a beautiful blend of ballet and contemporary, combing fluid motions and impressive leg extensions with sharp, broken lines and powerful jumps.

One of the most impressive performances came from musician scholar Bethel Adekogbe ’20. Adekogbe demonstrated a unique technological skill set as he created rhythms on the spot while reading facts about Reverend King. With just a keyboard and a computer, he spontaneously developed beats and melodies to go along with his statements. He concluded his moving set with recordings of the famous “I have a dream” speech.

Bilingual poet Elba Valerio, Program Coordinator for the Intercultural Center, recited an original poem, first in Spanish, then in English. She was accompanied by a slideshow of personal images, including one with her husband, whom she recently married. She finished with some of her favorite quotes from Reverend King.

A highlight of the night was the address by activist and poet Wil Jones ’18. He delivered a keynote speech, discussing topics such as the polarization of good and bad through the scope of history while giving shoutouts to his mom in the audience. He offered an interesting discourse on MLK, discussing how King was an important figure for him as a young boy. He also pondered on how to interpret the legacy of Reverend King after revealing the underlying sexism of King’s movement, saying “How can I celebrate in the name of equality when women in the civil rights movement received little recognition, in public and private, for their leadership and contributions?”

Jones also considered the sanitized version of history he had been given in elementary school, but recognized that learning about Reverend King was the only time he learned about his own history outside of the Civil War. His final message, however, was one of accountability. As he declared “Accountability doesn’t have to be about knocking our faves off their pedestal. It doesn’t mean that Gandhi didn’t do all of the amazing things that he did, but it does mean we have to look at some of the negative aspects and attributes of their tenures as well. It does mean that if we begin to look holistically at their strengths and their weaknesses then maybe we can piece together futures that dont consist of—well, what they consist of now.” Jones clearly had more to say, as he later stated, but concluded his address anyway to thunderous applause.

The show also featured a stunning performance from the DMJ United Voices of Praise Choir. Their bold, powerful voices filled the theater and kept the crowd on their feet for much of their performance.

The final acts included thought-provoking art from Lizzy Topper ’21 and recitation of one of King’s speeches by Kwesi Jones ’21.

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