Students let out war cries against racism and prejudice at Organization of Black Unity’s Black @ SVSU.
“There are some many things going on in this world, and there’s a point where you can only take so much,” said Indigo Dudley, OBU president. “Whether it’s internally or externally, you want to scream, and war cries embodies that.”
War cries, the event them, stitched together various spoken word poems and dances by student volunteers.
As OBU’s biggest event of the year, the organization aimed to share with students what life is like as an African American.
“We talked about … how we feel about prejudices and microaggressions toward us,” Dudley said. “We also said, ‘Hey, black community. There are some issues in our own community as well.’”
Part of the discussion with OBU members involved stressing that Black @ SVSU was not solely for African American students. Dudley said it was just as important that those unfamiliar with the African American experience helped fill up the packed Rhea Miller Recital Hall.
“It’s eye-opening for people who haven’t been in this community to see what we go through,” she said. “I’m a music major. I love being onstage and performing, and I saw this as a way to showcase my talent and how I feel about these issues in the only way I know how to do it.”
Last year, OBU had more time to prepare, since the polar vortex last February resulted in several snow days.
“It was easier to have practices last semester,” Dudley said. “A lot of the challenges for me involved managing students’ stress levels as well as making sure everyone is OK and able to do what they need to.”
Dudley said the OBU eboard clearly communicated with each other in the weeks leading up to Black @ SVSU.
“If we fell short, we let each other know,” she said. “It was definitely a challenge, but we pulled through.”
During the performance, around 15 students shared their experiences and used the platform to voice their thoughts on the African American experience. Students were asked to bring ideas for a performance to OBU meetings prior to the event.
“We took an idea, we saw how we could develop it and then we brought it out as a spoken poem, song or skit,” Dudley said.
While no one opted to perform a skit this year, a variety of spoken-word poems and dance numbers kept the audience’s attention.
“I came out to see my friends perform,” said freshman Mysteries Howard. “I learned a lot about how stigmatized self-harm is in the black community and that it’s still hard to talk about mental health.”
Fellow freshman Bree Ferguson said the performances made her realize the true effects of gun violence.
“The performance about the victims of gun violence stood out to me,” Ferguson said. “It was shocking to hear how bystanders often get hurt in those situations.”
After the performances, Alumni Relations sponsored a reception, and alumni in attendance left with SVSU and OBU swag bags. Dudley said she believed Black @ SVSU provided students a chance to learn about how prejudice and racism still affect their peers.
“It’s all about the students and their perspectives,” Dudley said.