By Adriana Avila | Assistant News Editor

Students partake in a spoken word piece by Savannah Mattox. (Courtesy of Adriana Avila)

On March 21, the Saint Mary’s community gathered in the Soda Center for the 16th annual Expressions of Blackness. Expressions of Blackness (EOB) is one of six cultural nights that are put on by students and members of the Saint Mary’s community. The theme of this year’s EOB was “Through Our Eyes.” With a set list of 18 performances, students expressed themselves through song, dance, spoken word, video, and other various art forms.

Upon entering the Moraga Room of the Soda Center, it was hard not to notice the detailed and symbolic artwork that decorated the stage. One piece illustrated three women as silhouettes, painted in the Pan African colors. The silhouettes were positioned next to a globe that highlighted the continent of Africa.

Adaora Ezike ‘18, the Chair of EOB, gave some details of the artwork: “The pieces were spearheaded by Alexandra Gonzalez, a member of our cast, and assisted by other cast and crew members. They represent how diverse blackness is, and how black folks can be found all over the world. It also represents the unity that can be found within blackness.”

EOB has been a special part of Ezike’s experience at Saint Mary’s. When asked about her role as Chair, she replied, “It was amazing. I have been a part of EOB since my first-year in various capacities, and this was my second time being Chair. I loved that I could finish off my final year at [Saint Mary’s] as EOB chair. I especially loved my team, the cast and crew, as they were especially crucial in putting together a great show. Cultural nights have been my favorite event at [Saint Mary’s], and I am glad to have culminated my experience with these events.”

Desiree Anderson, the Director of the Intercultural Center, explained cultural nights as “a space and place for the [Saint Mary’s] community to learn about what lies beneath the surface. While there are more similarities than differences between ethnic groups, there are central experiences that communities have that are not talked about in many other spaces on campus, and EOB is that event for many students to get to showcase their experiences through their varying talents.”

In one performance, Savannah Mattox ‘18 and Tom Muyunga-Mukasa ‘20 performed a spoken-word duet titled “Black is Golden.” They took turns highlighting special parts of their cultural identity. This set was followed by a piece called “Second Sight” where Mattox shared some of the struggles that black women often face in our society. On the stage, Mattox stood in the middle amongst other women and men who partook in EOB.

“Seeing fellow cast members stand on stage with Savannah Mattox in support was truly an embodiment of solidarity in action,” Anderson said.

After many moving pieces, the night closed with a song sung by a choir. Ezike chose the piece “Kuliko Jana,” a song by the Kenyan afro pop band Sauti Sol. “ I first heard Kuliko Jana during my commute to school,” she said. “It shuffled on…and I thought to myself, ‘This is how I want the choir to end EOB.’”

“Most of the people in the choir have been singing together since our sophomore year,” she said. “It was emotional for us to end with this piece. It ended up that all of us who sang were seniors, but that wasn’t the original idea, it just worked out that way.”

The audience joined the choir in singing the chorus. “I wanted the audience to join us because they are an important part of the night, and I wanted them to share the space in our ending. Also, the song is in Swahili, and the chorus was easy to follow, so I wanted folks to learn something new,” said Ezike.

Ezike and Anderson hope that audience members took something away with them after attending the event. “I hope that folks are able to recognize how diverse blackness is and black folks are,” said Ezike. “I hope that students participating walk away with a greater sense of community and belonging and the audience to walk away recognizing the courage and talent of the student performances to see the vastness that is the Black experience at Saint Mary’s College and beyond,” said Anderson.

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