“This is our own kind of disturbed therapy, our laughter tells our stories, our laughter says as much as our tears do.”
These are the closing lines of local writer Lydia Collins’ poem “Ain’t It Funny?”, a work that served as the opening to the Black History Month Cultural Showcase that took place on March 8. The poem, sincere and serious in overall tone, is an important one, stating the pain that women of colour face. The powerful piece feels rich in experience, sure to strike a chord with many who have felt the same way before. It was a powerful note to start the night on and surely a familiar one to many. As a result, it was there that the sense of community the Cultural Showcase was built upon had already begun to feel almost tangible in the room.
Organized by the Brock East African Student Association (BEASA), the intent behind the showcase was to highlight artistic talent in the Brock community while celebrating — and, at times, even educating on — the culture of East Africa.
The night made use of every form of artistic expression one could imagine, from live music to dance to spoken word. One of the big highlights of the night was a showcase of East African fashion, packed full of bright colours and beautiful designs with both modern and traditional spins. At the back, a group of artists gave henna tattoos to attendees. Off to the side of the stage was a live painter putting together a piece to be auctioned off at the end of the night, as entrancing to watch at work as a main performance taking place on stage. Culture and talent spread throughout the room everywhere one was to look, making for no lulls in activity, even between performances.
Following the selections of poetry from Collins’ book Angry. Black. Woman. was an introductory dance featuring members of the Brock University Ghana Association (BUGA) that radiated charm. BUGA set the tone for the rest of the night, their fluid moves and unwavering smiles drumming up enthusiasm within the audience and leaving a sense of animation reverberating throughout the room. It was obvious this night was as important to any attendees as it was to the performers themselves, with shouts of encouragement and excitement consistently eliciting from the audience no matter who was taking the stage next.
In fact, audience interaction was integral to the showcase overall. The aftermath of BUGA’s performance were impromptu dance battles that felt like a break from the show yet every bit as entertaining as the rest of it. Later in the night, the audience was asked to separate into groups for East African trivia, a task taken on by attendees with visible ardor. At the end of the showcase, flowers were even awarded to the best dressed of the evening. All throughout, the audience was receptive to everything tossed at them, the infectious sense of enthusiasm BEASA managed to bring out of attendees one worth taking to heart.
Eventual promises of an unexpected special guest soon to take the stage eventually set the audience abuzz with questions and the answer did not disappoint. The final hour of the night belonged to Scarborough rapper Stretch, who took command of the stage the moment he stepped onto it. Stretch breezed through a couple of his songs with high spirits being offered in response.
Themes weaving the show together were both appreciation and education, with performances tackling a variety of topics — poems featuring discussions of black womanhood and Sudanese tribes, songs celebrating the confidence of East African women. Every part of the night was clearly born from pure passion, a magnetic desire the artists had to show off the pride they have for their culture. It was through the obvious vigor that went into every piece of art within the showcase that made the event even more worthwhile. It wasn’t just a showcase of local talent, it was a showcase of cultural pride, and an important one at that.