‘Souls of Black Folk’ to take stage in Blackman

The Harlem Renaissance was a powerful movement in the 1920s that celebrated black culture through literature, song and dance.

Tonight, that same spirit comes alive in Blackman Auditorium.

“The Souls of Black Folk” is a program sponsored by the Northeastern Black Student Association (NBSA), the Office of Minority Student Affairs, the John D. O’Bryant African-American Institute and the African-American Studies Department. Its aim is to recreate the passion and feeling of the Harlem Renaissance through both a mix of student and professional performances.

Mark Harvey, program coordinator, began brainstorming ideas to commemorate Black History Month with the NBSA this past summer. Preparation and planning for the event started in September.

“I noticed there was a lack of programming that really celebrated this kind of stuff,” Harvey said. “And the Harlem Renaissance transformed African-American history and identity [but it also] transformed American culture as well.”

The night is going to be an exciting blend of many aspects of black culture, Harvey said.

Audiences can expect to be exposed to expression through a variety of artistic mediums including gospel music, jazz, spoken-word poetry and tap dance. The performers hail from both the Northeastern community and outside the state, including the Duke Ellington Memorial Band and the Unity Gospel Ensemble.

“[We wanted] a signature event on campus that focuses on the black experience … one that really exhibits history, culture that celebrates who we are as a people,” Harvey said.

Jeremiah Shepherd, assistant director of admissions, is performing a spoken word poetry piece. He wants students to walk away from all of the lights, colors and sounds a little wiser than when they walked in.

“My goal is for students to really leave this event with a wider experience than what they’ve grown up knowing,” Shepherd said.

William Reese, president of the NBSA, who is also serving as the evening’s host, agreed.

“I’d like people to leave first feeling that they really learned something about a period that perhaps they didn’t know much about,” he said. “… The event is about a really important event in American history, so I really hope to bring that out in the show.”

Reese also noted putting on an event of this magnitude was no easy task.

“[It was] a lot of work. In terms of planning, we looked for the best groups we could find to bring the vision we had,” he said. “Some of the hardest work is what we’re experiencing right now. Getting the word out, trying to make sure everybody comes and getting people interested.”

But Shepherd emphasized even though the program is titled “The Souls of Black Folk,” it is not simply aimed at one culture or demographic. He encouraged students of all ethnicities and backgrounds to come out and support the event, noting that they aren’t simply celebrating Black History, but American history as well.

“It’s not just a transformation of black culture, but a transformation of culture for this country,” Shepherd said.

Jhanea Williams, a middler architecture major, is performing a poetry duet with Sophia Snow, a high school student at Boston Latin Academy. Along with Shepherd, she, also voices her hope that this event will bridge cultural boundaries.

“I would love to see everybody here, the experience of one group of people is everybody’s experience,” Williams said.

But in the end, as with any show, Shepherd makes the one desire of any performer universally clear.

“[I want students] to have a good time, see a good show and enjoy the performances,” Shepherd said.

Tickets are $3 with a Husky Card and $6 general admission. Contact soulsofblackfolk@gmail.com for more information.

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