Last Friday, the Association of Black Collegians and SA held the first ever Expressions: City-Wide Black History Talent Show, a competition aiming to celebrate Black History month through performance. Fifteen acts performed, with a variety of talents ranging from salsa dancing to spoken word.
Because of technical difficulties with the video for the first act, Marjorie Sheaff kicked off the night with “Summertime,” an aria by George Gershwin for the opera Porgy and Bess. With the style of singing, it was difficult to hear the words. Her voice, however, was beautiful and a peaceful way to start off the night.
Evan Ng performed next, using diabolos, a type of juggling prop, with occasional dances and a video. The performance was split into two parts: act one chronicled the Pan-African root culture and act two chronicled more recent African-American historical events. Spiritual Pan-African music played in the background as Ng did various tricks with his diabolos, and a slideshow went through images of Africans in native garb. In between the acts, a brief message about the history of Africans and African-Americans flashed on the screen. In act two, the stage went dark, and Ng used LED diabolos in his performance, which was accompanied by Common’s song “Glory.” This setup made the tricks on the diabolo even more amazing in their height and Ng’s ability to catch them, as they stood out in the dark. Ng ended the performance on a high note, with a message proclaiming the achievements of African-Americans.
“Miss Celie’s Blues,” composed for the movie “The Color Purple,” was performed next by Chyna Evans. In the movie, the song is meant to help Celie remember her worth and demonstrate the love the singer had for Celie. Evans made her body part of the performance, putting attitude into her words to emphasize the message.
In “Talking to You from the Grave,” Tim Butler revived Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for what he called an “original dramatic poetic sermonette.” Butler combined words Dr. King had said with his own ideas about the reverend’s view on current topics.
Butler referenced several topics, including the recent Terrance Crutcher shooting, talking as if he were King looking down from the heavens. The piece built from a relatively calm lecture to a loud, impassioned cry to finish the work he had dedicated his life to. Throughout the piece, Butler repeated the phrase “from the grave,” as if to remind the audience they were being watched by history. As it was a sermonette, the piece did make many references to the Lord, and how the church and love were the solution to the issues of today.
Maddy and Darcy performed Aretha Franklin’s “Do Right Woman, Do Right Man.” This piece was slower and demanded that if the listener wanted a “do right woman” then he had to be a “do right man.” The two switched off parts of the song, singing the chorus as a duet.
Playing three instruments and also singing was Harlan Barnes, aka Solo Touch. Barnes started off the performance with the instrumental horn, then switched to the electric guitar and bass guitar, before ending with a light bit of singing and the instrumental horn. He encouraged the audience to stand and clap to his piece, in which light smooth jazz music played as a background to his live performance. His energy motivated the audience to sway and clap.
With acoustic guitars, Garrett and Joshua performed a mashup of songs from iconic black artists and groups. These songs included “Man in the Mirror” by Michael Jackson, “Isn’t She Lovely” by Stevie Wonder and “All of Me” by John Legend. They switched off duties singing as they switched in between songs, moving through moods smoothly.
The OU Gospel Choir performed a medley of negro spirituals in black and red outfits. The performance started off with a solo of “Swing Low Sweet Chariot” before the rest of the choir joined in . Each member got their body involved in the performance, transporting the audience to an impassioned Sunday morning. At one part of the song, each of the three voices sang a piece of the song, which highlighted the ability of the choir.
The spoken word piece “I’m not giving my black back” by Jewel Diamond Taylor, performed by Amya Jamison, was a touching acceptance and embrace of blackness. The piece started off with an unapologetic embrace of the poet’s stereotypically black features, like her “greens” or her “grits.” The poem often referenced black heroes and icons, in a refusal to give them up.
Perhaps the audience’s most loved line of the poem, however, was during its celebration of black beauty, in which Jamison said, “I love putting lotion on my ashy legs.” The poem also celebrated the achievements of African-Americans and Africans in general, proving a celebration and reminder.
The Tulsa Touch team danced a type of salsa that incorporated elements of Afro-Cuban and Afro-Caribbean dances. The group of four, while seeming slightly out of sync, lit up the stage with bright costumes and twisting hips and legs.
Queen Jamia came to the event with her original piece, “Jesus Help Me,” in which she pleaded with Jesus to help her throughout her struggle in life. She sang and played guitar for the performance, starting off slow and quiet and ending with a more energetic, loud cry for the Lord’s help.
Miko the Artist started off her spoken word piece, “do you know you,” with singing about how society was trying to kill the black race. Her piece emphasized the achievements and history of the African race, beginning with them being the cradle of civilization. By knowing one’s history, her poem argued, one can cause change. She ended the poem with the short song she’d started with.
The band (JC)^2 brought Bruno Mars’s “Locked Out of Heaven” to the audience. Composed of two guitars, a brass instrument, drums and a singer, the band’s cover was lively. The use of the trumpet in the song provided an interesting twist, with a solo that boasted of skill; however the singing seemed a bit too high-pitched to cover Mars’ work.
Gabriel Jones ended the night by dancing to “Where You From,” by Missy Elliott, in which he popped and locked across the stage. At times his limbs seemed static, jumping from one position to another, while at others, they flowed smoothly as if he were made of jello. He attempted to keep the audience engaged and excited in the act, which didn’t prove too difficult, as the song caused many to reminisce, cheering loudly at complicated moves.
While the judges decided the winners, KIDD, a beatboxer, entertained the audience. Starting off with techno beats that were reminiscent of electro dance clubs, he then transitioned to Ginuwine’s “Pony,” making the background/synth noises with his voice and singing as well. His singing and beatboxing skills both proved good, much to the delight of the audience. After his short performance, the audience and kids from the Tulsa Dream Project were invited to the stage for a dance competition. The music proved to be hits that had inspired dance crazes like the nae nae, and the dancers amazed the audience, some doing backflips and splits onstage.
At the end of the night, President Clancy announced the winners, himself a judge, along with his wife, Paula, and a few others Tim Butler was awarded third place, Amya Jamison second, and Queen Jamia, first. The event, which brought various parts of the Tulsa community together, will hopefully be repeated in the future as a entertaining but educational way to start off Black History Month.