African Student Union presented “Harambee: Back to Black-ish” on Feb. 10 in Langford Auditorium.
The showcase used the theme of TV shows to highlight significant issues facing the Black community both at Vanderbilt and in society as a whole. By incorporating student videos and acting, the showcase discussed implications of Blackness in the U.S., including implicit biases and police brutality, and the intersection of such issues with the immigrant narrative.
Harambee also celebrated African heritage through its fashion show and dances. From Ethiopia to Ghana, the showcase celebrated the diversity of African nations and culture.
The showcase featured a beautiful performance by Melanated A Capella, an a cappella group geared towards students from minority backgrounds, whose goal is "to create a more inclusive a cappella culture on campus."
“Harambee is always a really special production; I have had the chance to be on both sides of it (planning and audience) over these four years and it has just kept growing and getting better each time," said Skylar Williams, Harambee Chair. "As with all of the cultural showcases on campus, so much goes into it and it's something you don't fully appreciate until you're at the center of it."
“For me, being Harambee Chair was one of the best, yet most challenging roles I have taken on so far," Williams said. "Every year the show gets more challenging because the university and African Student Union are constantly growing and changing, and the show inevitably starts to reflect that. I think this year we did a fantastic job with combining so many different elements of the show in terms of script, videos, fashion, dances etc. so that it incorporated so many different cultures across the continent and really touched on some very current and poignant issues within the Black community at large. That's one thing that is always really complex to pull off for Harambee every year: finding the balance between entertainment and the show's serious educational purpose. I think the audience would agree that we really met the challenge this year, and I couldn't be more proud of the results.”
“Choreographing was a brand new experience. I don’t have any background on dancing, so doing it for my first time was exciting because I’ve always wanted to create art through the form of dance," said sophomore Chelsea Udeh. "However, it was also challenging because I was stepping out of comfort zone. Since it was my first time doing this, I wasn’t sure how others would react to my choreography. Overall, I learned to accept what I created, and it was also helpful working with my co-choreographer, Nancy, and my dancers, who were also patient and encouraging of my ideas.”
Coordinators, choreographers and first-time Harambee performers alike valued the experience of the showcase.
“This was my first time doing Harambee, and it was wonderful,” said junior Aneesha Dasari. “This show has the quickest turnaround of any of the dance shows on campus, and because there are fewer dances, the dances have longer time limits. I participated in Nigerian Contemporary Fusion, and it was so great. My choreographer Luwi was amazing at incorporating hip hop as well as traditional Nigerian moves into the dance. I’m only sad that I didn’t start participating earlier in my college career.”