Black Student Union puts on fourth talent show

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Elly Woods, [email protected]

The stage lights glowed orange, pink, and blue as “God’s Plan,” by Drake, played on the evening of Feb. 23 in the IMU Second-Floor Ballroom. People began filing in their seats around 7 p.m. for the Black Student Union’s fourth-annual talent show.

Seven acts performed, with talent ranging from singing, rapping, poetry, Irish dancing, and playing the violin and piano. The contest had five judges from different UI areas. Each year, the Black Student Union Executive Board chooses the judges.

Before the show, Judge Charlotte Brown of the Center of Student Involvement and Leadership said she was excited to see the variety and the ways contestants creatively showcase the Black Student Union’s values.

“I’m looking for someone who engages the crowd and gets them excited,” she said.

Black Student Union President Arika Allen said the organization’s purpose is to foster unity and inclusion of self-identified black students on the UI campus.

KayLee Kuehl, a first-year representative in the union, said that joining the organization has been helpful in building her leadership skills.

“I knew it would be a good way to expand my horizons,” she said. “I knew it would be a way to get out of my comfort zone and build my character.”

The show is the group’s biggest event of the year, and it is used to top off Black History Month. Throughout the show, hosts Takayla Al-Amin and Latrell Burden quizzed the audience with Black History Month trivia. The show began as a fundraiser for the organization so it could afford events such as the monthly Sunday dinners.

The night began with a spoken-word performance by Marquise Jackson, the reigning champion of last year’s show. His poetry questions the whitewashing of history and whether the United States is truly united.

Contestants auditioned in November and could have all of winter break to plan their acts. They spent most of early Feb. 23 performing microphone checks and rehearsing for the show that night.

Before the show, Allen said, she couldn’t choose a favorite act, but she was excited to hear Simeon Taylor sing “Lift Every Voice and Sing.”

“Growing up, my mom is a singer, so she would sing ‘Lift Every Voice and Sing,’ which is like the black national anthem, but I haven’t heard it here at the University of Iowa in a really long time,” Allen said. “I think that’s what I am looking forward to the most, because that song means so much to me. And man, they can sing.”

Jason Vegas, an alumnus of the talent show, was the final performer.

Third place went to Dallas Clark, a fourth-year student who sang “Too Good at Goodbyes,” by Sam Smith. Second went to Mikhayla Hughes-Shaw, a third-year student who played violin. The first-place winner was Emeleeta Paintsil, an Irish dancer. Her performance began with classic dance accompanied by traditional Irish dance music, then she broke into a spunky remix halfway through.

Allen said that the main focus of the show was not the competition but rather, the community.

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