Behind the Hewitt Union ballroom stage, the executive board of the Black Student Union came together in a football-style huddle. Their apparent encouraging words and chant was inaudible as the Caribbean jams of DJ Tumbo welcomed incoming students to the ballroom.
It was 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 21 and the annual variety show was an hour behind schedule. But no one seemed to care; there was no tension in the air as the freshest kicks and most rocking high heels on the Oswego State campus waltzed their way over to their friends. The audience itself was runway-ready, a rarity on campus where daily wear consists of snow boots and heavy layers.
Entitled “315 To My City,” the BSU Variety Show is often seen as the highlight of the celebration of Black History Month on campus. Arranged by the student organization, but a collaboration of anyone who wants to volunteer and participate, the show is a way to celebrate black culture in a mostly Caucasian campus. It is part of a month-long program consisting of educational programs, networking and peer, recognition catered, but not limited, to the underrepresented population. Fashion scenes, intricate dance choreography, poetry cyphers and historical remembrance made the 2014 show the best the Oswego State campus has seen in years.
Hosted by two alumni (who, for privacy, asked to not be named), the show started with an amateur, but strong video of remembrance to life of Trayvon Martin and other pioneers and victims throughout black history in America. The remainder of the night had a lighter feel, as the hosts addressed the diminishing reputation of Oswego’s party scene (among students of color we have “turnt down,”) ignited the age-old debate of Brooklyn vs. the Bronx and shared personal stories of their time in the tundra.
The first scene of the night, M.A.A.D City, showcased urban, trendy fashion to the tracks of rap artist Kendrick Lamar. The ballroom exploded as the attendees (easily over 300 people, with over 100 just standing in the back) roared with approval. Side glances between the hosts and organizers forced the hosts to improvise and buy time as performances transitioned. They took the time to engage their audience and even brought back models to the stage that stood out.
Nana Yaa Ansah, a transfer junior impressed the hosts with her letter-print midi dress from Asos during the M.A.A.D. City scene. Ansah said that she wanted to be a part of the show after watching it last year. “The community is great, everyone is very involved and supportive,” Ansah said. “It’s fun just working with your friends and meet new people.”
The rest of the night featured the annual rap cypher with student rappers (with incomprehensibly bad audio), a beach theme scene, a gentlemen showcase encouraging brotherhood, a performance by Image Step Team, a two part poetry cypher created by Vaal English and the reinvented infamous lingerie scene.
Titled Sophiscated Seduction, the closing lingerie scene was organized by vice-president of BSU Ashley Freeze and director of special events Anny Sigaran. According to Freeze, the lingerie scene is famous for getting the male audience’s attention, but it needed to be revamped into something more respectful for the ladies involved.
“When I came as a freshman, not to bash BSU at all, I love BSU and it’s mission, but the way the young ladies were dressed when they came out wasn’t something that I wanted to see,” Freeze said. “It wasn’t tasteful. This year we didn’t want to take away the lingerie scene, but we just wanted to bring sophistication, poise and class to it.”
With music from Beyonce’s latest album, the ladies involved danced and walked sensually. The lingerie worn, unlike in years past, was more conservative and mysterious.
Bilikis Adebayo, president of the African Student Organization, helped choreograph the dances and said she was skeptical of performing in the scene due to its reputation.
“I’m very conservative when I dress and I don’t like to show off,” Adebayo said. “But it brought out the point in the scene which is women empowerment and women being comfortable in your own skin.”
Freeze is satisfied with the turn out of the variety show.
“It’s just crazy to me that none of us are event planners, or are looking to go into that field but we can pull these shows off, and choreograph these dances and scenes and cut music,” Freeze said.
She believes the goal for the future is to top what was done this year and preserve the professional, comfortable and safe environment created.
As the strong scent of cologne and perfume faded, and water bottles of red juice were left on the ground, the audience’s ears still rang with the fresh sounds of a culture fighting to be heard.