Annual Friendship Day an Artful, Varied Meditation on Companionship

Clara Shannon

Despite the chaos that always ensues after spring break, Oberlin students and faculty alike came together to celebrate and honor the meaning of friendship at the Cat in the Cream on Tuesday afternoon. Friendship Day showcased student performers of many forms and genres, including spoken word, jazz, folk, didgeridoo, speech and poetry, all of which focused on the topic of friendship. Along with the entertainment, attendees were encouraged to eat free food, doodle with a friend, make friendship bracelets and relax in the warm, positive environment.

Friendship Day was originally created in the spring of 2010 and has remained an Oberlin tradition since then. The two-anda-half hour event was organized by Oberlin’s Friendship Circle, a campus and community initiative that promotes friendship as a framework for “developing international, interfaith and intercultural justice and peace from the personal to the global levels.” The Friendship Circle grew out of an idea sparked by Professor Jafar Mahallati, Oberlin’s presidential scholar of Islam. The Oberlin Friendship Circle meets every Wednesday from 5 to 6 p.m. for tea, cookies and discussion in the Multifaith Center at the Lewis House.

The event began with a passionate and charismatic vocal performance by College senior Jonathan Weiss, who sang original compositions along with a cover of The Beatles’ “With a Little Help from My Friends.” The afternoon progressed with an official proclamation of Friendship Day by City Manager Eric Norenberg and a pleasant and soothing performance by Oberlin’s Jewish a cappella group, CHALLaH cappella.

Next came an unusual yet charming performance by The Unwanted, an all-female trio featuring banjo, vocals and didgeridoo. The group played a cover of The Wanted’s “Glad You Came,” swaying with the music as the didgeridoo kept the beat. The crowd, surprised and amused, laughed along with the performers, adding a light and fun touch to the afternoon.

Professor of Classics Benjamin Lee took the stage next and gave a thought-provoking and enlightening speech on Aristotle’s conception of friendship and the elements of truly good friendship. Lee’s speech explained the different types of friends presented to us in life — the friends we use, the friends we find attractive and enjoy and the true friends that make life worth living. “The friends you make at this place will last you the rest of your life,” he said, “and, probably, that’s the greatest thing that will happen to you at Oberlin, is the friends you make here.”

Everybody’s Big Band played next, performing jazz standards and highlighting solos on instruments such as trombone, drums, flute, guitar, trumpet and saxophone.

Professor of Piano Sanford Margolis recited the moving poetry of Rumi and Daagh Dehlvi, surrounding the theme of friendship and its importance in life.

Friends Trio, made up of Conservatory senior Shea Pierre on piano, double-degree fifth year Dan Pappalardo on bass and Conservatory senior Miles Labat on the drums, performed two short jazz pieces afterward, adding a cool and fun touch to the event. While performing, the trio seemed in sync with one another, exchanging glances and smiling as they truly enjoyed the music and each other.

Community member Meeko Israel and saxophonist and College senior Malachi Kehinde Thomas were next. Performing an original work titled “Listen-in,” the duo captivated the audience with passion and a commanding stage presence. Thomas calmly and beautifully answered the power of Israel’s spoken word with lush tones from the saxophone.

Oberlin’s Hip-Hop Collective took the stage in its first ever performance of all-original works, followed by a jazz quintet performing on vocals, drums, trombone, bass and piano to end the afternoon.

Friendship Day was a wonderful display of not only great showmanship and on-stage fun but true support from the audience as well. Through and through, the event was a celebration of love and support of anyone and everyone.