UCF art gallery, open mic night celebrate 'Black Folks'
Clipped on strings hanging across a rectangular, iron structure are pictures that showcase "black folks." Within each picture, elegant artwork, unique poses and an array of colors seems to freeze the culture that is framed inside the white and black border of each Polaroid.
Wednesday night, the Caribbean Student Association and Multicultural Student Center presented an art gallery and open mic night, "Shot by 3D Sights and Sounds of the Afro Soul" in the Student Union's Cape Florida Ballroom.
The event was inspired by photographer and UCF student Kadeem Stewart and aimed to celebrate MSC's Black History Month theme "black folk," said Cherly Lucien, assistant coordinator of MSC's Black History Committee.
Stewart, a senior interdisciplinary major and former vice president of CSA, wanted to evoke originality by displaying images that represented more for Black History Month than past African-American leaders.
"During Black History Month we hardly acknowledge the arts blacks have contributed to history, so I wanted to focus on that," he said.
As people walked through the gallery, Stewart's bold and eclectic images piqued the interest of different cultures. In one image, a woman donning a white, pale face and a Japanese geisha-style dress poses in a praying position. The red of her dress, heart-shaped lips and winged eye shadow bring color to the gray picture.
The pictures display a cultural aspect of black history, said Sheridan Kushner, a senior early childhood development major. The jewelry and the body art in the pictures are different. As someone who is white, it's beautiful and refreshing to see, she added.
Stewart, who was influenced by the works of black artists such as Jean-Michel Basquiat and Banksy, wanted to inspire creation for a diverse crowd.
"If they see a picture and they think of a skit idea for a TV show, or whatever form of creation they do, I just want people to be happy with whatever they're doing," he said.
Lauryn Hill's "Zion" faded out to Erykah Badu's sultry, thick voice. As 90s-themed R&B music filled the gallery's atmosphere, poets prepared for the open mic portion of the event. Adjacent to the art gallery, a black stage with a lonely black mic awaited its volunteers. One by one, each poet spoke to the beauty and diversity of "black folks."
Lucien and Gabrielle Higgins, a sophomore political science major, and member of MSC's Black History Committee, wanted to celebrate all facets of black history by hosting the event.
"The point of the Black History Month theme, Black Folk, was to highlight the essence of the black community, Caribbean culture and hip-hop culture. The people who speak capture the pride, nakedness and the truth of the black community," Higgins said.
The event was the first black art gallery presented by MSC and Stewart. Students and MSC members hope the event continues during future Black History Month presentations.
"Having art modern and beautiful is a way people get a chance to see how it's similar," said Jarell Jones, a junior business management major. "Art is universal and something we all share as people."
Shanae Hardy is a Contributing Writer for the Central Florida Future.