Festive ceremony marks close of Black History Month

The Black Student Union (BSU) and Sankofa gave students an idea of what pride sounds like at their annual cultural day, held last Wednesday in Brower Student Center to celebrate the long, arduous journey of blacks from slavery to civil rights.

A mixture of bongo drums, chants, choruses and cheers complemented this year’s theme of “Celebrating Community.” “We will be highlighting black, fraternal, civic and social organizations,” Kamaria Byrd, BSU’s vice president of resource development, said. “Tonight is for fun, but it’s also about recognizing these groups,”

The master of ceremonies, Monique Reuben, echoed Byrd’s sentiment in her opening statement.

“It is nearly impossible to pay homage to all the groups who have helped pave the way for African-Americans, but tonight, we will try,” Reuben said.

Several educational and multicultural Greek organizations attended, and they talked about how their presence has broken the social status quo. Members from the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) approached the stage and talked about their roots. The organization was founded in 1917 at Purdue College, and it was one of the first science-oriented groups for blacks.

Like the sciences, Greek life did not represent diversity until Alpha Phi Alpha, Delta Sigma Theta, Phi Beta Sigma, Zeta Phi Beta and Sigma Gamma Rho were founded. Each of these fraternities discussed how it had broken the race barrier upon foundation. Several of these organizations, which started out as small groups of friends simply looking to make a change, now have more than 80,000 members spread across the United States, the Virgin Islands and Bermuda.

The Greeks weren’t all about recounting history though – they were also there to entertain. Each organization performed a step-dancing routine, including Phi Beta Sigma, who won Inter-Greek Council’s annual “Steppin'” contest last year. The crowd gave the Betas a standing ovation after they completed their routine, which included a series of stunning leapfrogs and front flips.

Prior to the Greeks’ dance display, Sistah Mufalda and her Kuumba Dancers took the stage. She invited the crowd to follow her on a journey through black history, from the traditional village days in Africa to the dark times of slavery.

Mufalda and her dancers wore vibrant garb and immediately launched into a song about the niches of the men and women in a traditional African village.

Mufalda showed her full range of talents, shifting between song, dance and spoken word to both enlighten and entertain the crowd.

“Remember your roots and your culture,” Mufalda cried out as the group began its second song, a reverent drum-accompanied piece about the beginnings of slavery.

She spoke in poetic verse while her chorus and drummers supported her with smooth and, at times, heartbreaking vocals.

Mufalda then shifted gears, disappearing from the stage and leaving her chorus to invoke the tradition of African gospel music.

Her chorus cut loose with a hymn that delighted the crowd, until Mufalda reappeared sporting a long yellow-and-white dress.

She informed the crowd that the closing number would be an Afro-Puerto Rican dance that came out of the plantation era. The slaves used it to mock their captors and pass information. This particular dance was known as “the people’s newspaper,” she said.

The Gospel Choir Ministry also performed. Students took the stage and belted out a series of hymns about Jesus Christ.

The musical backing was provided by Ahmad Sanon (bass), senior psychology major, Jason Smith (drums), sophomore psychology major, and Benjamin Akumer (keyboard), sophomore communication studies major.

“Our music has a simple message,” Anon said while he was tuning his Carvin Custom five-string bass. “We spread the word of Jesus Christ. We are victorious through his empowerment.”

From the ethnic food and gospel music to the cultural dancing, BSU hosted a celebration that praised several aspects of one of the most complex and engaging stories in human history.