On Saturday, March 4, the second annual “Lost in Black Excellence” art showcase was hosted by Moors Engaged Noble (M.E.N.).
Introduced and held in Woodland Commons last year, this show was meant to not only present the multi-talented students on UMass Dartmouth’s campus, but enlighten and educate viewers.
With a theme surrounded by the idea that event goers should get lost in a maze of Blackexcellence, including the beauty of it all.
Senior marketing major and social chairman of M.E.N. Sulaiman Sesay said, “In our society, Black excellence seems to be a taboo subject of sorts. Everyone knows it’s a thing but it seems to be ‘rarified’ by the media which tends to focus on the negatives of the Black community whenever it is mentioned. This event was our chance to show what kind of talent and respect the on campus black community commands.”
With a myriad of auditions, the executive board of M.E.N. had to make hard decisions and once an act was approved, they left it up to them to deliver. As his second year in the show, junior painting major Erick Maldonado contributed to this theme saying, “I think Lost in Black Excellence is important in that it showcases different talents on campus. You get to know more on campus hidden talents.”
Maldonado presented a few original pieces, including a sculpture and his favorite, a self-portrait out of acrylic paint. Held in the College of Visual and Performing Arts (CVPA) building, he was one out of many painters, graphic designers and photographers to show their original work.
In the first-floor hallway, the glass display cases were filled with the works of these students, as well as one student who was painted vibrant gold, surrounded by other gold fabrics and décor. With the move to CVPA, the student organization felt that the larger space “contributed to the individual acts in terms of individuality.”
In CVPA room (room where paintings are displayed), photographs and graphic design pieces were displayed on the walls. What surprised spectators were the mannequin-like students positioned around the room, posing as Black artists and figures. An information card for each figure cited their birth date, accomplishments and contributions to the Black community through their life’s work. Students posed as people including Civil Rights activists Malcolm X and Angela Davis, and actress and singer Dorothy Dandridge.
After mingling between these two areas, viewers were led to a different space or room to experience another segment of Black excellence. For one of the first segments, M.E.N. brought spoken word poet Dominique Coley who performed a piece with just a spotlight on her as she sang and shouted out.
Led almost entirely in the dark, the audience received free light up balls to guide their path through CVPA. CVPA was also lighted with colorful fluorescent lights on the walls with a black curtain as the backdrop.
One of the exhibits was senior production ad operations management major Cassandra Bruny’s fashion segment, “Purpose.” Models donned original pieces created by Bruny walking to Kanye West’s “Famous.” Having worked on her pieces for a week, Bruny endured her share of sleepless nights to make it happen. She was grateful to be a part of the show saying, “It sounded like the perfect place to showcase my perspective on Black excellence: empowered Black woman…it was an incredible opportunity and everything came together exactly the way I wanted it to.”
The audience viewed other performances in different rooms throughout CVPA including NYLO songstress Caiana Luse accompanied by the groups bassist Antonio Irons in a dimmed room, dance group Pan-African clad in grass skirts and dance team Rhythms of Africa.
Senior biology major Shaina Gilbert was pleased to see the transformation of CVPA and watch her peers perform for the show. “Each room sparked a different feeling as if each act let me in to experience their world…from Cassie’s room with a tease of high fashion to OVRLKD’s room with a taste of street fashion.”
A unique show, both in content and execution, Lost in Black Excellence will continue to present Black talents on UMass Dartmouth’s campus.
Photo Courtesy: Sade Smith