Campus Cotton Club
Celebrating black culture from the 17th through the 20th centuries,
the Organization of Black Students presented Throughout Time,
its third annual cultural show, on April 24 in Mandel Hall. The
evening began with dinner in Hutch Commons, transformed by OBS into
an atmosphere reminiscent of Harlems renowned Cotton Club,
combining Caribbean and soul food with plenty of music and dancing.
The Organization of Black Students was formed more than 30 years
ago as a support group and cultural outlet for black students on
campus. According to its mission statement, events like the annual,
open-to-the-public cultural program are intended to contribute to
the pursuit of multicultural expression and understanding.
Event co-coordinator Athaliah Watkins, a second-year pre-med student,
says the show provides a way for the U of Cs black community
to come together and to be proud of who they are, as well as where
they came from. We must never forget those who paid the price
for the position we hold today, she says.
Co-coordinator and fourth-year English concentrator Linara Washington
agrees that the show does carry a political message. The show
said that we were a conquered people who went through a lot, and
we can forgive but we cant forget, she explains. The
show was a way to honor ourselves and the people who fought for
During the program, OBS members wearing red bow ties and white
shirts served up jerk chicken, greens, yams, and red beans and rice.
Dinner was followed by a dozen dances by OBS members, kicking off
with the gumboot, created by migrant laborers in South Africas
mines as a way to pay homage to the families they had left behind
and as a means of communication. Gumboot dancing is now a form of
entertainmentand competitionpopularly known as stepping.
The show also carried the audience of 300 through the days of
black slavery, the emergence of swing dance in black dance halls,
and the creation of jazz in African-American communities. OBS members
incorporated the Black Panther movement and Motown music into depictions
of black political and cultural revolutions. One Motown music act
featured a medley of Jackson 5 songs performed by OBS members, including
I Want You Back, ABC, and Whos
Fourth-year Abby Chua, a Law, Letters, & Society concentrator,
applauded the shows display of popular culture: The
show was accessible to the audience because African culture has
influenced American culture in so many ways.
The final set of acts portrayed modern black culture, with Caribbean
dances, rhythm and blues music, and interpretive dance. The Caribbean
dance series featured salsa and merengue dancing set to Puerto Rican
reggae and underground music, all influenced by African rhythms.
Students like that OBS approached black culture in a historical
context. It was wonderful watching how black culture moved
through time and how it wasnt static, said Purvi Patel,
a third-year biology concentrator. It transformed, it changed,
it was reinvented.J.P.