BBSO hosts powerful ‘Shades of Blackness’ performance

March 2, 2018

The Brandeis Black Student Organization (BBSO) held a “Shades of Blackness” celebration on Saturday, Feb. 10 in Levin Ballroom to honor Black History Month. Hosted by resident comedians, Cyril Ojilere ’21 and Curtis Beatty ’21, Shades of Blackness opened to an enthusiastic and inspired crowd.

Shaquan McDowell ‘18 was first to the stage, where he discussed the difficulty of having an interest in history without having a clear knowledge of his own history. He emphasized the importance of his grandmother’s stories on his passion for history and reminded the audience that for many African-Americans, tracing historical roots is hard to come by. As a young historian, he focused on sharing the cross-generational links and influences from African-American ancestors.

After hosts Curtis and Cyril tried to demonstrate moves of their own, Platinum Step Team took the stage to show everyone what “step” really means. Their intricate and powerful moves of stomping, clapping and even jumping drew cheers from the audience. The steppers made sure their audience was enjoying the performance but also ensured that everyone got their “daily dose” of Black Girl Magic. Their fierce display of rhythms and sounds made with only their bodies almost stole the show in just its second act.

Herlyne Das ’18, an empowered Haitian poet, followed up the step team with a proud performance of an original poem about the strength of the people from her home nation. Das honored the accomplishments of a few Haitian scholars at Brandeis, praising their scholarship earnings and dreams. She directed some of her words at President Donald Trump over the crude language he used to describe Haiti, Ecuador and countries in Africa.

One of Brandeis’ very own acapella acts, the R&B group, Voices of Soul, brought the audience to a standstill with their strong and sweet voices. Jessica Whimper ’21 and Andrew Baxter ’21 were soloists of the first part of the Voices of Soul performance, while the rest of the group provided backup vocals and harmonies. The talented students’ serenades were simple, but wonderfully moving.

The Women of Color Alliance’s WoCa fashion show took the audience’s breath away. A crew of talented and stylish women—and a few men—strutted across the stage and past the lively audience, inspiring calls of admiration. The stars showcased their signature styles through their wardrobes and their commanding presence on the catwalk. The soundtrack progressed from one powerful anthem to another to showcase the music and fashion flairs of the performers.

A University of Massachusetts student, Bridget Kamanzi and her group of young dancers started off the second half of “Shades of Blackness.” Girls in the group, including one as young as four, clearly formed fun memories as they demonstrated African dance styles in a beautiful and exciting way. Eyes were especially on the littlest girl, who was both adorably confused and a successful dancer

Latin Xtreme took over the stage next, with members donning white face paint in an proud effort to represent Afro-American religious cultures such as those from Haiti, Cuba, and Brazil. Their outfits were pretty, but their moves were flowing and precise.

As the penultimate act, LaShawn Simmons ’18 recalled Ntozake Shange’s “For Colored Girls” to deliver a witty monologue. The act incorporated historical figures like Toussaint Louverture and George Washington Carver, with one line joking about Carver’s penchant for working with peanuts. The content was interesting but Simmons’ speech stood out for its power and creative flair.

Finally, Brandeis’ sole majorette line, Toxic, brought the performance to a riveting close. Decked in sparkling outfits, the majorettes switched from one complicated formation to the next as they danced along to songs from Beyonce’s “Lemonade.”

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