By Kiyanna Noel
Black Onyx: The Black Student Union hosted their eighth annual Mr. and Mrs. BSU Pageant Feb 25 in the Warren Ballrooms at the Angell College Center.
Hosted by David Harris and Samuel Atuahene, the doors were open at 6 p.m. but the event itself did not start until 7:45 p.m.
The first performer of the evening was student Evans D’Pulpit playing several Rihanna songs on the piano while salads were served by Chartwells.
To kick off the show, Harris and Atuahene introduced judges, Vice President of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Allison Heard, Multicultural Student Success Coach Travis Gorham and Educational Opportunity Program Counselor Arlis Garcia.
Contestants were then welcomed to the stage four at a time to introduce themselves to the audience and the judges. The first group was Rashad Nicholas, Nochamy Bamba , Michael Gaines and Ohemaa Owusu-Poku.
In their introductions, each contestant was given the opportunity to introduce themselves and explained their social movements.
Nicholas’ movement was the underlying mental health of Black men in today’s society.
“The social movement that I’m doing is mental health for Black men. That’s a topic that’s not really talked about a lot mainly because for men, it’s hard for us to open up about our feelings. Personally, it was always hard for me at a young age to deal with it,” Nicholas said.
Throughout his speech, Nicholas explained the pressures he faces in his family and how his mental health played a big role in either keeping him motivated or stagnant.
Bamba spoke about her experience in the dance world in New York City. She explained how her dream was to be a dancer and how she was constantly rejected by dance companies because of her skin color. Bamba’s social movement was “inequality and racism within Black dancers.”
Gaines’ social movement was Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder within the Black community. He elaborated on how he lives with PTSD in his day to day life.
“I chose this movement because it resonated with me,” Gaines said. “Despite having PTSD, I honestly believe that I always have room to grow and live this life the best way I can.”
Owusu-Poku’s social movement was the Anti-Apartheid Movement. In her introduction, she explained how Nelson Mandela could turn a “no” into a “yes” and how she turned around and did the same thing when it came to her education.
The next four contestants to present their social movements were Michael Johnson, Sydney Wise, Jaherah Seales and graduate-student Ayesha Abdallah.
Johnson introduces himself by explaining how he was born in a dance studio. Being born into dance, he quickly learned what he wanted inequality in the entertainment industry.
Wise’s introduction explained how she loves being a Black woman and how growing up she found herself questioning who she is as a Black woman. Her social justice movement was about understanding Dr. Umar’s school and how it is the beginning for Black people to build a community of their own as a way of uplifting each other and coming together. The school is designed as an institute for Black students to be taught by Black teachers and learning about their heritage.
Seales began his speech by explaining the meaning behind his name and what he represents as an individual. The social movement he represents is prison reform. Based on his own personal experience in the prison system, Seales showed passion throughout his introduction and explained what the system not only did to him but the people around him.
“Along this journey, I’ve seen a lot of people that I’ve grown up with, people that I look up to and people that I represent be imprisoned and be lost amongst themselves, whether it be to prison or the system,” Seales said. “So, tonight I’m running for Mr. BSU, but tonight I want to represent win, lose or draw. I want to spread the message of the reform of Black imprisonment, especially of Black men.”
Abdallah’s social movement was the systemic inequity of African Americans being under-treated for pain in the medical system. She began her introduction by telling a story of how a patient had to beg for treatment because some doctors thought she was exaggerating her pain and it ended up being a serious medical issue.
After each contestant gave their introduction, the first four returned with three questions to be answered geared toward what being a Black person means to them and why they chose the inspirational role model they did. Following this, the second group of contestants returned to do the same.
Afterward, there was a brief intermission followed by a spoken word performance by poet Fanta Ballo and D’Pulpit accompanying on the piano. Ballo started out in the back of the room before making her way to the front, being sure to make eye contact with the audience as she went. As she spoke, she used her hands to mimic her feelings and represent a connection not only with her words, but with the audience. Ballo’s words and heart was shown on the stage in many ways. The audience seemed captivated by her love poem.
The talent portion of the fashion show created a strong reaction from the audience. People cheered for their friends more than they ate the food that was presented to them.
Nicholas, Bamba and Johnson did dance routines. Gaines did a spoken word piece about Trayvon Martin. Abdallah lip synched a skit about learning where Black features originate from and what they represent. Wise read a poem she wrote called “courage”. Owusu-Poku sang two songs and Seales rapped to a song that kept him going while he was incarcerated, accompanied by D’Pulpit’s piano playing.
While each performance was special in their own way, three of them had a more powerful impact. Owusu-Poku’s voice was heard so clearly and efficiently, and everyone gravitated toward her. Nicholas’ routine was crisp, clear and he kept his and the audience’s energy up throughout his performance. Seales’ performance was powerful from the way he dressed to his animated speech. He wore an orange jumpsuit and shed tears as the words really connected with him.
While the judges left the room to deliberate their choice, the audience was instructed to vote for their favorites on a Google form. During this there was a performance by High Voltage, which didn’t receive much reaction from the crowd.
The results were in: Nicholas became Mr. BSU and Owusu-Poku became Mrs. BSU. The runners-up were Wise and Seales. The two fan favorites from the voting polls were Seales and Owusu-Poku.
After the winners were announced, Nicholas’ and Owusu-Poku’s mentors were welcomed to the stage to say how it was working with the contestants and thank everyone for showing their support.