This past Saturday, Feb. 28, I went to the Cultural Expressions Show hosted by Black Student Union (BSU). The show was excellent. Each act was varied and well put together. The night was filled with passionate music, poetry and dance performed by Lawrentians of all kinds and it was a special experience to see people who I did not know were performers up on stage.
The thing that really blew me away, though, was the audience. Despite the tense environment on campus surrounding race, Warch Campus Center’s Esch-Hurvis room was filled to the brim with an audience that was there to celebrate the art of black and brown students in the closing days of Black History Month.
Most of the time, I feel like there is a small part of the audience for any performance that wants the performers to fail. Whether it is an actor who stumbles on a line or a speaker who fumbles her words, there is a certain drama that comes with live performance because there is a chance that something will go wrong.
At Cultural Expressions, I did not have this sense at all. Everyone in the room was filled with pride and love for the performers. As the performers came on stage, the audience yelled encouragement. After each act, hollers and applause filled the room. I have never been to a variety show that had as many standing ovations as there were that night.
Each performer seemed genuinely honored to be given the space to perform and the exchange of ideas and beauty between those on and off the stage was continued throughout the night.
What really came through to me was how many individuals came together to put on the show. It was enormously clear that the BSU board and all of the performers had put hours into rehearsing and organizing. The show’s production and professionalism was very impressive, especially for a student organized performance.
The only word that I think can describe the feeling in the room is an Americanized Yiddish slang term, probably because of my thirteen years at Jewish private school. The audience was kvelling, which means bursting with pride, as over one’s family, over the performers. Hundreds of students put their heavy workload and weekend plans aside in order to show up for their friends.
The feeling of community support in that room was palpable. It was so refreshing to be in such a positive space when often times it feels as if people do not wish well for one another for no clear reason. The positivity was also great to see this late in Winter Term, which can be a time when many students feel stressed and overworked.
I left Cultural Expressions proud of my friends and peers who performed and really honored to be among an audience who showed so much respect and gratitude. In my short time at Lawrence, there have been few moments when I was prouder then I was on Saturday to count myself a Lawrentian.