Performers from different backgrounds showcased their talents at the 15th annual Shades of Black show Saturday in the International Ballroom of the Bruce Pitman Center.
The goal of the event was to bring together a diverse group of poets, dancers, singers and Greek life members from the University of Idaho, Washington State University and Eastern Washington University. Created by UI student Kwapi Vengesayi in 2003, the show has become one of the most anticipated multicultural performing arts showcases in the Pacific Northwest.
The host for the night, Gabriel Dumbrique, stood on a platform in the middle of the audience, exciting them with high energy and shifting their attention between him and the stage. This year’s theme was “togetherness is where the magic lives.”
Vengesayi said the show gives students a chance to perfect their craft and find their voice. It is publicized and appreciated all the way from Vancouver, Canada to San Diego, California, Vengesayi said.
“(Shades of Black) has been a place where people have not only learned to be advocates for themselves, but how to be advocates for others,” Vengesayi said.
The show had strong language and sensitive content, but the goal was to dive deep into reality and understand why some topics can be uncomfortable. There were three videos shown throughout the night, all depicting themes that weren’t meant to be lighthearted. The content ranged from Native Americans’ perceptions on Christopher Columbus to how black women are often used as sex objects in rap videos.
Vivi Gonzalez, program coordinator for the Office of Multicultural Affairs, said many students use the event to make a name for themselves and gain recognition for their talents.
The event was born from a lack of diversity on the Palouse, and it’s a time for everyone to come together from different backgrounds, cultures and life struggles, Gonzalez said.
“It is beautiful to see people telling their stories, no matter how difficult it can be, through various art forms,” Gonzalez said. “The event has had a full house every year and it is an opportunity to bridge the gap of different ethnic backgrounds and traditions.”
The Multicultural Affairs mission is to strengthen cultural competency through robust, enriching events.
UI freshman Gabrielle Lynn said she attended the event because she hadn’t been to anything like it before and it sounded interesting.
“It is easy to feel small, especially in a small town in Idaho, but there are simple ways to express ourselves that aren’t as violent as rallies,” Lynn said. “The most important thing I gained from this event is that it is possible to make a movement and gain support.”
Allison Spain can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org