Managing Print Editor
28 February, 2023
“This assembly is a celebration of Black art, Black joy, and Black friendships,” said Simi Adeniyi, the creative director of Atholton’s Black Student Union (BSU). After nine months of planning, BSU performed their assembly in honor of Black History Month three times on February 23rd. They performed during third and fifth period, along with a night show for parents at 7:00 PM.
“I want people to recognize the beauty of Black culture. I want people to recognize the struggle and culture behind it. It’s much bigger than your new favorite rapper or artist, or nice new painting you saw in a museum. I want Atholton to recognize that and really appreciate it,” said Chriss Ojo, the lead actress of the assembly.
The assembly was performed as a production to celebrate Black artistry in several different mediums. The production followed five friends and their struggles as Black artists. The main character was Amarachi, played by Chrissa Ojo, and her struggle with facing constant racism at her French dance school. Amarachi gets to the point where she wants to quit dancing completely, and the rest of the cast must convince her to not give up on her passion. Through a variety of means, such as singing her a song and taking her to a party, Amarachi learns to love dance again. In the end, she doesn’t go back to France, but she decides to stay in America and dance with her people and culture.
The five main characters of the production all represent a different art medium. Cameron, played by Ope Ogunmolawa, represents music. Taylor, played by Raquel Rookwood, represents fashion. Alex, played by Xavier Julien, represents visual art. Nia, played by Taylor Brown, represents writing and poetry. The characters also represent different cultures within the Black Diaspora. Although they are all Black, Taylor is an Ethiopian immigrant, Alex is Afro-Latino, Nia is Jamaican, Amarachi is Nigerian, and Cameron is African American. All of the characters have scenes meant to inspire Amarachi and teach the audience about Black artistry.
The first major scene was Taylor’s fashion show. The stage turned into a runway and many BSU members modeled African inspired clothing. After this came the introduction of a new character. Destiny, played by Princess Serebour, is Cameron’s cousin that came to visit. Cameron and Destiny sing “Don’t You Worry About A Thing” by Tori Kelly to Amarachi. The curtains closed and six BSU members read The Prestige by Hanif Abdurraqib, a Black poet and essayist. The Prestige is about violence and grief. The curtains once again open, this time for Cameron to deliver a lecture on hip hop and how it is a reflection on issues artists face. This is followed by a dance number, with approximately forty people. Cameron returns to give a lecture on the influence Black people have had on various genres of music and the roots of gospel music. A chorus walks on stage to sing gospel style music. The stage is then converted into a classroom, where Nia and Alex delivered a lecture on Caribbean art. They touch on the indigenous population of the Caribbean, such as the Taíno people, and their influence on art. Students in the class ask questions, such as what has come out of Caribbean art, which were then answered by Alex and Nia.
The many people who assisted in the assembly took their bows. After months of hard work, they finally delivered the final product to the cheering audience and achieved their goal. Atholton senior Simi Adeniyi, the Creative Director of BSU stated “The goal for this assembly is to educate and not just to say the same old stuff we’ve been saying for years. It’s to say something new.” Adeniyi wanted to not only educate Atholton, but to correct common misconceptions she witnesses among her peers. “It’s just supposed to shed light on things I hear and say something new that is often misunderstood about Blackness.”
While the assembly was an amazing production, there were issues behind the curtain. Asamoah mentioned the struggle of finding rehearsal space because the spring musical is often using the auditorium for their own rehearsals. Lack of resources, such as set design or funds, was emphasized by Adeniyi. Additionally, attendance to rehearsals was a constant source of frustration. “Motivating people for an assembly that isn’t for a grade or for the school musical is difficult. It’s very hard to get people to show up to rehearsals,” said Adeniyi. Despite these struggles, BSU still put on an incredible performance.
“I think they did a really good job with it. I liked how much music there was and how they used it to represent the culture. Most people that aren’t African American don’t understand how important music is to the culture, so it was cool to see that.” said Atholton junior Micah Rao.
Many students who are not a part of BSU also helped with the assembly. Assistance with lights, makeup, sound, and other aspects was provided by those who did similar work in school musicals and plays. “This assembly would be absolutely nothing without the tech crew. If Ayo Awefeso didn’t help with the sound, there would be no music and no one would be able to hear us on stage. Keiran Sutton did a fantastic job with the lights, and the transitions were fantastic. Eva Mendoza has been an amazing stage manager,” said Ogunmolawa.
BSU crafted this assembly with the hope that Atholton would not only learn something, but internalize what they were saying. Adeniyi said “I want them to empathize with the characters and understand them. I want them to realize that the world they know is so much deeper than they realize.”