Black History Month ends with an artistic bang!

Courtesy of Bellevue College's photostream

Black History was definitely in the house on Feb. 24, 2012 in the BC cafeteria. The program was MC’d by Shanika Russel. If you were able to join the special, classy dinner and entertainment celebration brought to you by the lovely African-American faculty here at BC, you could not deny the treat you were given. The aura delivered in the room was majestic. It was similar to what one might experience during an intellectually stimulating dinner date, followed by dessert and a movie.
The night opened with soul-food substance: Cooked beans, salad, brown and white rice, corn bread, three types of differently seasoned chicken, gumbo with melt-in-your-mouth pork and of course, brownies, peach cobbler and bread pudding to wash it all down! The house singer sang the black national anthem for the night, Zack Bruce, who performed a falsetto rendition of this classic.
High-class dining felt like a meal on Mars, when midway through my plate an angel-like Chelsea Richardson flowed down the center of the cafeteria towards the stage singing. She delivered a freedom poem, which implored the crowd to stop, think, and push. This, I believe, marked the beginning of the shift in the minds of the audience, who originally expected this to be a night of feasting and a musical performance.
“Are we really free?… Try calling racism racism when you see it – it is like asking an atheist to call upon the face of God…Try Mumia’s 30 years in the penitentiary for speaking out against injustice…Try Troy Davis – it tastes like the tears of Emmit Till’s mother on your lips,” says C. Richardson. The hooting and hollering in response from the crowd definitely marked the beginning of a memorable night. We weren’t here to listen; we were here to be conscious.
Zack Bruce proceeded in singing “A Change Gon’ Come” by Sam Cooke. Then our very own Aaron Reader performed a poem entitled “Showtime” with a cutthroat message of the false identities many Americans adhere to today.
“Distracted by consumption… it used to be pick out cotton in hopes to be free, now it’s pick out cotton and charge it ‘cause it ain’t free…,” says Aaron Reader. He was mesmerized by the phrase black folks know too well: “If you want to hide something from a black person put it in a book.” He dared us to become educated and speak without cursing, to “quit acting like a bird hiding behind rib cages that will never fly – because you will. They are watching you. Wake up. Because show time is over.”
Zack Bruce, yet again, lifted our hopeful spirits by singing “Higher Ground” by Stevie Wonder. Chelsey Richardson hopped on stage to perform a poem about the identity crisis all mixed-race kids must struggle with at some point in their lives. The audience took a breath as Bruce’s sweet voice flew us to redemption by way of Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror,” which softly asked us to make a change. There was a five-minute funk interlude by an exquisite house band, then back to business as Chelsey Richardson’s very own daughter Raven and a young boy named Cypher from NW Tap Connection performed an interpretive style dance to the famous slave song “Wade in the Water.”
The fluid dance flowed perfectly into another poetic piece by Ms. Richardson, a literary performance which was an ode to her daughter. “I hope she understands her beauty has nothing and everything to do with how many times a man glances at her when she walks down the street… The eye is not a microscope.” She warned her daughter of the pressures of falling in love. “I hope when she gives up her heart it is like a yoga pose – a slow and cautious release of the muscle.”
Then the adorable Raven took the stage singing a song, which somehow eased our worries about all of the ugliness this world seems to create.  She sang “One of these mornings you’re gonna rise up singing, baby. One of the mornings you’re gonna rise up… Until that morning, nothing’s gonna hurt you. So don’t you cry.” Aaron Reader then asked us to “put it into context, because black love is too complex…”
A simple night with a complex agenda. The entertainment had us laughing, thinking, brooding and asked us to simply enjoy life. The night ended with Bruce singing “Isn’t She Lovely” by Stevie Wonder and a game of “Soul-Train” scrabble. We were thrown into history, and we didn’t want to leave. I overheard an audience member say, “Someone is going to go home and bootleg hella old cuts.” I couldn’t have said it any better myself.