MTSU students rep their roots at artistic talent show

Photos by Shade Narramore / Contributing Photographer 

Story by Altima Sisavad  / Contributing Writer 

MTSU hosted its second annual Rep Your Roots, a talent competition created for performing and visual arts students by the International and Diversity Affairs department, Thursday night in the Tom Jackson building. All MTSU students were encouraged to represent their city, country, organization or club through singing, dancing, acting, comedy, poetry and other talents.

There were over 20 student performers representing wide-spanning “roots,” including students from Memphis, Nashville and Chattanooga, all the way to the Caribbean Islands.

Sophomore Knoxville native Erykah Carter, a biology major, was the night’s big winner. With a soulful performance of Andra Day’s “Rise Up,” Carter earned a standing ovation from a packed crowd.

“I feel really good about winning and had (a) really great support team here for me,” Carter said. 

Senior journalism major Jamie Cooley of Chicago won second place with her spoken-word performance, which featured some guitar.

“I was really nervous to perform, but after I was up there for a little bit it felt natural,” Cooley said.

The show was hosted by MTSU students. Senior information technology major Curtis Johnson was one, along with Tony Strobe and Diana Villanueva, and it was the Memphis native’s first time ever hosting an event.

“It was really fun, and the crowd was very interactive so that made it a lot easier for me,” Johnson said. “We were just given a sheet of paper with the intro and then we just freestyled after that.”

While the hosts fulfilled their duties of keeping the audience entertained during set changes, the judges were met with demanding tasks as well.

Debria Tyler, Christian Sinclair, Malika Datta, Nick Lester and Ontario McGregor were the night’s judges.

“I’m really looking for something fresh,” Tyler, a mass communications major, said. “Watching the performances is different as a judge. I have to judge the whole package. I’m looking at the performance and how the audience reacts to it.”

The night not only brought a culturally diverse and exciting group of people together, but it allowed students to share their unique backgrounds in a fun, artistic way.

To contact Lifestyles Editor Tayhlor Stephenson, email

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