MRC Colors of Rhythm Celebrates POC Creative Expression


Jules Greene

Students turned out in force this Wednesday for the 23rd annual Colors of Rhythm showcase. This year, the theme was “Freedom in this Village.”

The 23rd annual Colors of Rhythm showed loud and proud at Finney Chapel this past Wednesday, putting students of color and the organizations they represent center stage. The event invited all to come and share in the variety of art forms expressed, including dance, singing, spoken word, and storytelling. 

The theme of this year’s Colors of Rhythm, “Freedom in this Village,” was chosen to honor E. Lynn Harris, who was a prominent figure in Black gay male literature for more than 25 years. In every act, individuals celebrated their freedom to express their culture in an inclusive and welcoming space. 

Historically a showcase of student activism on campus, Colors of Rhythm celebrates performers of color who are usually disenfranchised from mainstream campus culture. The event foregrounds cultural dance forms and expression that Oberlin classes do not regularly cover; attendees and performers participated in the ongoing construction of a cultural narrative through the many performances and their witnessing.

“This theme … is a call to the practices of perseverance, resilience, radical self love, hope, faith, resistance, self-determination, and intercommunal cooperation that we need and employ within our Oberlin POC community in order to heal, fight, remain, and build a better future for those that will come after us,” said Khalid Taylor, OC ’17, the student life program coordinator at the Multicultural Resource Center. 

As a POC-centered event, all members of the audience were encouraged to cheer and respond to the various acts. 

“I need noise, I need yelling, I need clapping,” said emcee and College junior Brian Smith as he prompted the crowd to support the artists who came on stage. This statement was met with a huge chorus of applause and cheering, which was sustained throughout the event, keeping the energy in Finney high. This support was felt by the performers, the emcee, and those watching and appreciating the performances.

OCTaiko, African Students Association, dance company And What!?, Japanese Student Association, and South Asian Students Association all performed, among others. Double-degree sophomore Kopano Muhammad, who helped organize the ASA dance, articulated an intense appreciation for Colors of Rhythm and the space it provides for cultural expression. 

“Colors of Rhythm is a fulfilling act of solidarity for me,” they said. “It is inspirational to share my culture with others as they share theirs. A productive cultural exchange and appreciation.” 

Some students performed solo, too. Among these were College sophomore Katie Kim, who performed a Japanese karaoke song about “the one that got away;” double-degree senior Daniella Hope, who invited the audience to sing in a song/spoken word piece by her mother called L.I.F.E., short for Living in Faith Everyday; and College senior Nani Borges, who recently shared her personal narrative in her senior show Songs from My Mother’s Seashore, performed a cultural dance in a bright yellow dress and veil, gracing the stage in the same golden light she embodied in her previous show.

In addition to supporting performers of color on stage, the MRC also uplifted other campus voices through this event. Upon entering Finney, students were encouraged to donate to the Undocumented Students’ Fund. Donations of business and professional clothing for the MRC Free Store were also accepted. 

College senior and MRC Student Associate Ti Ames performed twice throughout the evening — including a joint piece with Taylor that told the story of significant events in their friendship. Ames greatly appreciates the event and all the voices of support that ring out from the stage and in the audience.

“There is no ego or narcissism involved; it’s all about bringing communities, both POC and white allies, together and supporting all the gifts and talents folks have to offer with open arms,” they noted. “It’s always a good time when you put out a call on that Finney stage — in song, dance, poetry, etc. — and the entire chapel responds with, ‘YAS!’” 

For those who were unable to make it to Colors of Rhythm, here is a list of upcoming POC-centered performances and events on campus: 

The ASA Afropolitan Banquet is April 20 from 6–9 p.m. in the Root Room. Tickets are $10 and can be purchased from any ASA member. Individuals who attend the African in America student panel on April 17 from 4:30–5:30 p.m. in Wilder can get a $2 discount! This banquet is open to all Oberlin students.

ABUSUA’s Spring Formal is April 27 at 8 p.m. in the Root Room. Tickets are $5.

Drag Ball is April 26 from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. in the ’Sco. To get priority ticket times, people can attend workshops which will be happening up until the event.

Pretty Fest 2019 is April 20–28. A wristband is $15 and will grant you admission into various events throughout the week, including the ’Sco event on April 27 featuring br0nz3_g0dd3ss, Junglepussy, ND1K0, and Afrofatty.