Black Arts Dance: A Non-Affinity Celebration of Black Culture and Music

As red and blue lights flashed over the walls of Paresky Commons’ Lower Right, students danced to both classics and new hits sung by prominent Black artists. In celebration of Black arts and the Black community, songs by musicians like Nicki Minaj, Cardi B, and Blueface were remixed and blasted through loudspeakers. Ajahla Jefferson ’24, organizer of the Black Arts Dance and Co-President of Af-Lat-Am, described the non-affinity nature of this event.

“Almost all of the events on the Black History Month calendar have been affinity only, so I thought it was really important to have an event where everyone on campus was able to attend and enjoy Black History Month, and again we just wanted to really highlight Black joy,” said Jefferson.

Andover’s Black Student Union (BSU) and Af-Lat-Am hosted the Black Arts Dance last Saturday night. According to Mayumi Kawano ’25, the dance not only allowed students to have fun listening to their favorite artists, but also promoted Black pride.

“Playing music by a Black artist highlights a lot of what Black growth has been throughout the years and how we have been able to really step into the genre of making music, of making performances, and having a voice,” said Kawano.

Additionally, unlike the packed mosh pits of many other dances hosted in Paresky, the smaller turnout resulted in creative styles of dance. Marisol Tang ’26 reflected on why the dance was important to her.

“I think the dance just reinforced how good music made by Black artists are, and this dance gave the opportunity to do dance styles (hip-hop and drill) we don’t really see in normal PA dances… Events that support people of color all around bring everyone together for an enjoyable time. It also gives a reason to celebrate who you are,” said Tang.

According to Jefferson, the preparation process for the dance went smoothly. BSU and Af-Lat-Am worked alongside faculty advisors such as Reverend Gina Finocchiaro and Yasmine Allen, and also collaborated with director of student activities Chrisptopher Capano to bring in a DJ.

“[Finocchiaro and Allen] were really, really helpful in getting this in order. We also worked closely with Mr. Capano, he was able to make sure that the DJ was there on time, everything was paid for, everything was set up, and really made sure that the dance was an overall success. Also shout-out to CaMD for helping us promote the dance… I think we accomplished [this with] not that many challenges,” said Jefferson.

An overarching goal of BSU and Af-Lat-Am was to celebrate Black art on a more personal level on campus, allowing Andover students from every background to celebrate the accomplishments of Black artists. Jefferson elaborated on how mainstream culture often overlooks Black art.

“It’s important to recognize and celebrate Black artistic voices through events like these because oftentimes I feel like we’re not celebrating [them] enough. These days Black art, and just Black culture, is getting more and more famous and mainstream, but when it comes to sitting down and appreciating [and] understanding Black artists, like where they’re coming from and their stories, I don’t think we are doing enough of that, which I think is really important,” said Jefferson.

Looking ahead, Jefferson hopes to host an interscholastic dance with Af-Lat-Am. The affinity group wants to partner with Latine and Black affinity groups in nearby schools and host the event at Andover.

“No guarantees, but we are hoping to host another dance for Af-Lat-Am and we’re not sure if it can be affinity or not, but [there] have been talks with other BSU’s and Af-Lat-Am’s throughout other boarding schools in the area of having a dance in the spring… Also, this spring is the 55th anniversary of Af-Lat-Am, which is a really big accomplishment,” said Jefferson.

Editor’s Note: Ajahla Jefferson is a Business Manager for The Phillipian.