Black Students Union hosted their 18th annual Pan African Expo last Sunday. This event titled “Kings and Queens” was attended by over 200 people and showcased a variety of black song, dance and fashion styles. The performance traveled through different eras in black history, from the famous African kings and queens to the hip-hop stylings of today.
The event began with a stirring rendition of James Weldon Johnson’s “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” Empowering songs and spirituals were performed throughout the show, providing a nice musical backdrop to the actions on stage. After the procession of queens, a group of female UR students performed traditional African dances. The dances were choreographed by SUNY Brockport Professor of Dance Edna Laryea.
The most powerful moment of the evening came during the scene that depicted the civil rights era. After opening with Rosa Parks refusing to give up her seat on the bus, the scene quickly shifted to display a mix of black leaders.
Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, John F. Kennedy and the Black Panther movement were arranged across the stage, and gave intermingling speeches on the civil rights movement. Background members on the stage responded to each message, raising their fists in salute when junior Narada Campbell read his lines.
Then shots rang out, and one by one the civil rights leaders fell as they were mock assassinated. Their wives cradled the fallen as Marvin Gaye’s “Whats Goin’ On” was sung in the background.
The scene was very moving, and the audience was silent with appreciation over the lives lost in the struggle for civil rights.
The music and dance numbers were some of the strongest parts of the performance. The 1930s era that was portrayed in the famous Harlem nightclub, the Cotton Club, featured tap dancing, and a fantastic rendition of Billie Holiday’s famous tune “God Bless the Child.” The piece was sung by community member Debbie McEwen.
The Pan African Expo is just one of the activities BSU puts on as part of Black History Month.
DeSantis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.