‘Black Voices Uninterrupted’: Loyola’s Black Cultural Center Showcases Students’ Ingenuity

Students basked in the spotlight at “Black Voices Uninterrupted,” a talent showcase hosted by the Black Cultural Center on Feb. 10.

Creativity blossomed at the Feb. 10 event “Black Voices Uninterrupted” presented by Loyola’s Black Cultural Center (BCC), which showcased its members’ artistic talents.

Host Dorien Perry-Tillmon, a 21-year-old senior, said the event was a celebration of Black culture through song, dance, poetry readings and a student-produced short film. The event is one of many led by the BCC in honor of Black History Month.

“With everything going on on campus, like this week and always, it’s just nice for us to be able to have an event that’s not centered on Black pain,” Perry-Tillmon said.

The event came just one day after the Department of Residence Life announced an anti-Black slur was found on a bulletin board in San Francisco Hall, The Phoenix previously reported.

Love was a major theme woven through the performances. First-year Taylor Shields read one of their poems about heartbreak while dance troupe AfroDescent performed two sprightly contemporary routines arranged to romantic music.

Graduate student Imanii Uwakwe, co-captain of AfroDescent, said the group’s dance style incorporates hip-hop, majorette, modern dance and the background styles of all members. She said she also takes inspiration from her father’s taste in Nigerian music.

Uwakwe described AfroDescent as a “mini sisterhood” and a way to learn more about her culture, like when a teammate from Africa teaches the group legwork pieces from their home country.

“After a long day of classes, go to dance practice and kind of express yourself,” she said. “It calls for a sense of community, a sense of belonging.”

That sense of community was clear as the audience was a kind of performer in itself, with buzzing laughter and approving hums echoing throughout the theater. 

Taylor Shelby, Uwakwe’s co-captain, said the group’s dances — which were choreographed by both captains — served as an expression of freedom.

“There’s a lot of different ways Black people can express themselves,” she said. “There’s not one way to do it. We are not a monolith.”

Shelby said she has been dancing since the age of two. The 14-member group practiced twice a week for two hours for over a year for their two performances at “Black Voices Uninterrupted,” one set to a remix of “nasty” by Ariana Grande and another set to a remix of “Soundgasm” by Rema.

Shelby gave a shoutout to Generation Dance Company in Joliet, Illinois, which she said is one of the only Black-owned and operated dance companies in the state.

“I would not be here without them, able to showcase my talent and the talent of my team members as well,” she said.

First-year Jean Paul Homme presented a short film he directed, which spliced together footage of his friends washed in a night-vision-green filter. Non sequiturs, including a skit of Kenan Thompson in “This is All That” and a clip of Gary from “Spongebob”, framed the footage. The randomness of the clips reminded viewers of the night’s lighthearted nature.

Before showing the film, Homme said he started shooting it as a way to express himself artistically after seeing older directors try to emulate youth culture.

“If you look at TV right now, you see shows like ‘Euphoria,’ and it’s always set in high school, or you can even look at movies placed in college — it’s like, they want to replicate it, but it’s not them,” he said. “The directors are grown men. And I’m really doing it, like I’m really in college, I’m really 18. I want to represent my people.”

Homme said he takes inspiration from Denzel Washington, Quentin Tarantino and Spike Lee and especially likes Lee for his ability to act and direct.

“If you are an artist,” Homme said, “do it for the art, never do it for the money. The money will follow if you believe in yourself enough.”

He said coming to Loyola allows him to work with different types of people and to create art without barriers.

The BCC plans to hold more events for Black History Month, including a trip to the Art Institute of Chicago on Feb. 18 and their annual Ebony Ball on Feb. 24. For more details, the organization is active on Instagram and Twitter.

Featured image by Holden Green | The Phoenix

Mao Reynolds

Mao Reynolds