Photo and Story by Alexis Marshall / Contributing Writer
The Middle Tennessee State University chapter of the NAACP hosted their second annual Heritage Showcase at the Tom H. Jackson building Monday night. The evening celebrated African American culture through artistic expression, performance and food.
The event opened with a musical performance from Freshman Melanie Wilson who played guitar and sang original songs. She was followed by Francis Truman who performed a spoken word poem and Konsha Chew who sang Alicia Keys’ top hit “No One.”
After the first three performers, there was a short intermission in which guests were invited to help themselves to dinner and cake. As the next set of performers began, the mood of the room was decidedly more serious. As Senior Tayler Ware sang Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit,” the audience was silent. The song was originally written as a poem by Abel Meeropol in 1937, simultaneously describing and protesting the lynchings of African Americans.
After Ware’s performance, there were several more musical acts including Ste’ffon Jones singing and Malik Williams and Kyrus Newman rapping. One of the final acts was a spoken word piece by NAACP Member Keyanna Reaves entitled “Window Pane.” In the piece, she described childhood in a predominantly African American neighborhood. She recalled memories of little girls playing hopscotch and double dutch outside after school. She remembered police patrolling the area more than they would if it were a suburb. Reaves said she saw all of this through her window, and she called it beautiful.
“I wanted to come out and support my black heritage,” said Rhomel Brown Jr., a junior and film production major.
He said he learned about the event on social media and has attended two other Black History Month events so far.
MTSU NAACP Chapter President Malik Lennon said this event was personally significant for him because he values the ability to express one’s culture and history through art and music.
Lennon said that this year’s Heritage Showcase had a good turnout. With more performers, a bigger audience and different types of performances, he said the event had “increased in almost every way.” He went on to say that he was happy with the overall programming for Black History Month this year.
In the future, Lennon said he hoped to reach a broader range of cultural organizations with this event. He said he wanted to make the NAACP Heritage Showcase a “staple event” for the chapter and to have it foster more understanding between the group and the community as a whole.
“For us to grow as people, we have to come together, and we can build from there,” Lennon said.
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