Solos, SLAM and Spoken Word: Students Perform At First Black Arts Coffeehouse and Talent Show

Dressed in identical black tops, jeans and white sneakers, members of Andover’s step-dance group, SLAM, commanded the stage in the Underwood Room with their powerful movements. Stomping and clapping to the beat of Nicki Minaj, Drake and Lil Wayne’s “Truffle Butter,” SLAM members high-kicked and clapped their hands under their legs, earning cheers from the audience. SLAM performed its routine as part of the Black Arts Coffeehouse and Talent Show last Saturday.

SLAM Captain Lexi Johnson ’16 said, “Black History Month is definitely one of my favorite months and, since stepping originates from black culture, I thought it would just be appropriate to [perform today].”

In celebration of Black History Month, the Black Arts Committee and the African-Latino American Society (Af-Lat-Am) collaborated to host a Black Arts Coffeehouse and talent show, along with other Black Arts weekend workshops. Although Black Arts Weekend has been celebrated before, this is the first year a Black Arts coffeehouse has been held.

Emily Ndiokho ’18, an Af-Lat-Am board member, said, “The [Coffeehouse and Talent Show] are especially important because they really allow black students to showcase their talent or allow students to showcase how they feel about black culture, which is often something that’s sometimes ignored on campus mainly because we are in a predominantly white institution.”

Keynotes, the Andover’s student co-ed a capella group, also took the stage to sing a soulful rendition of John Legend and Common’s “Glory.” The group stood in a semicircle, their voices blending as Nate Redding ’16, the first soloist, stepped out to sing a simple, heartfelt line. Jason O’Dwyer ’18 then proceeded to perform an energetic and empowering rap before Kiarah Hortance ’17 finished the song with a deep and rich solo.

Sara Kowdley ’16, a member of Keynotes, said, “I think that ‘Glory,’ which we initially prepared for the MLK Day All-School Meeting, is such a powerful anthem. We were actually asked to perform for this event, and we were really, really excited about it because we feel like this is a great moment of togetherness and supporting black arts. [‘Glory’] is such an empowering song, and it seemed fitting for the event.”

Andover’s hip-hop dance group, Hypnotiq, began its performance with a freestyle dance routine to “Bring Em Out” by T.I. and Jay Z. The music soon changed to A$AP Ferg’s “Work,” and the dance subsequently slowed down to match the beat of the song. The music then changed from “Freakalator” by Soundmaster T to “Dawin” by Dessert and Silento and, finally, to Missy Elliott and Pharrell Williams’s “WTF (Where They From).” Every time the songs changed, the group members would change their dance moves to fit the beat and switch stage positions to allow everyone, at different times, to display their talents frontstage.

“Everyone did a really good job, staying on beat and everything, and even in such a small space, we managed to keep it up and get the crowd going which was nice. I was worried about that, but it was a good time,” said Zach Ruffin ’17, a member of Hypnotiq.

Dakoury Godo-Solo ’17 performed an untitled spoken-word poem,
illustrating his thoughts about issues and identity in his everyday life as a black student in society. He delivered his performance while conveying his meaningful message with emphasis and hand gestures, stating powerful lines such as “I think I knew I was black before I knew my name” and “What’s blacker than fear?”

“[I performed what I did because] it was just what was on my mind. It went along with the weekend well in terms of black identity. It touched on a bunch of different aspects of being black and I thought that it was a good message,” said Godo-Solo.

Keely Aouga ’19, an audience member, said, “I loved the fact that today was a day to celebrate black arts, because that’s not something that happens a lot on campus. People were able to express themselves in a comfortable environment and because there were so many people here, many people got to see from the other point of view of people of color.”