“Have you ever been in a crowded room, only feeling neglection? Reached out left and right for a helping hand, only to receive rejection?” asked Robert Rush ’14, throwing a chair into the wall. Rush presented his spoken word poem, “Innovation,” as part of the Black Arts talent show last weekend.

The powerful poem depicted issues and stereotypes affecting African Americans. Rush commanded the stage as he paced from one side to another, depicting his frustration through sudden hand motions and sharp rises in his voice.

“My motivation comes from the audience. I usually walk around the performance area while everyone is chatting, paying keen attention to how people react to my presence. Facial expressions, comments, slight hesitations all feed the fire that I ignite when I step on stage,” said Rush.

The idea for the Black Arts talent show came from Diana Avellaneda ’14 and Skylar Bree-Takyi ’16, Black Arts Co-Heads. Along with African-Latino American Society (Af-Lat-Am), they organized the Black Arts talent show and all other Black Arts weekend events.

“We just wanted to showcase the talents of the black students on campus, as well as celebrate the way black artists and performers have contributed to the world today,” said Bree-Takyi.
Another performer, Adella Pierre ’14, sang a soulful rendition of Beyonce’s “Drunk in Love,” which engaged the crowd from start to finish. Snapping and singing along with her, the audience participated in her interactive performance.

“I did particularly like Adella Pierre’s rendition of ‘Drunk in Love,’ since it had such a fun, spontaneous feel about it,” said James Taylor ’16, who hosted the talent show.

Andover’s hip-hop group, Hypnotiq, performed a high-energy dance which started to the beat of, “The Andover Song.” Fully in sync, the dancers moved their bodies in fast, successive motions.
About halfway through their performance, the music changed to Britney Spears’s “Work, Bitch.” As soon as the music changed, the pace of the dance sped up to match the beat. The group changed stage positions throughout the performance, giving different dancers a chance to showcase their talents.

The show’s headlining act, Tufts University’s step team, Blackout, was unable to make the show because of Saturday night’s snowstorm. In place of Blackout, Michael Ohakam ’15 performed a powerful cover of Frank Ocean’s “Forrest Gump.”

Ohakam stood on center stage with all eyes focused on him. His smooth vocals gave the performance rich depth and tenderness.

“Music’s ability to move you out of your seat, make you dance and feel something profound motivates me to dabble in performing,” said Ohakam.

Despite their varied talents, the one theme common to all performers is the significance of Black Arts weekend.

“I found Black Arts Weekend to be both a great vehicle for further understanding and expressing pride in my culture. I think that there is always the opportunity to learn more about what one identifies themselves with culturally,” said Taylor.

Ohakam said, “Black Arts Weekend, to me, is a beautiful way of reminding Andover how far we have gone to create immense diversity and celebrate the cultures that add flavor to our everyday lives. Because of the fast-paced nature of life here, we do not always get to fully grasp the scope of our school’s multicultural identity.”

Much of Black Arts weekend is also about reflection. “I hope it’s a weekend of excitement and reverence. And for those not of the culture, I hope it serves as an opportunity to learn and appreciate one of the many cultures that aggregate in Andover, Massachusetts, for nine months out of the year,” said Rush.

Jason Young ’15, an Af-Lat-Am board member, said, “The talent show is really just a great way to showcase aspects of black culture and the talents of black students that we do not always see in our campus culture. We do not always take note of these things, and, with the weekend being dedicated to black culture, students can feel free to express themselves.”