Kalamazoo College's Student Newspaper
By Tessa Lathrop, Staff Writer
The theme of this year’s Cultural Awareness Troupe was “Soul’d Out!”. Presented by Kalamazoo College’s Black Student Organization, this show was based on a comment that a student made about last years show. The student felt that they were “being sellouts” and that they were not “being real” in their performances. From this consideration spurred the idea of calling this show “Soul’d Out!”.
During the BSO’s preparation for this show, the members made an effort to reflect on themes of interpreting the soul, and that being “soul’d out” was focused on the authenticity of finding soul identity and remaining committed to sharing their voice and experiences.
Act I had a variety of performances, spanning from an empowering ukulele cover of Alicia Keys “Superwoman” by Mele Makalo, to fresh and chic “Blipster Fashion Show”, directed by Melba Sales-Griffin and Shatia Thompson.
Keeping with the theme of finding soul identity, LaShawn Etheridge’s “Code Switching” spoke out on the struggles of what makes one a sellout in one’s culture. In Etheridge’s skit, she voices her struggles of going back home to her predominately Black community and being criticized for “talking white”.
Illustrating the dichotomy of code switching, Etheridge ends her skit with the message that talking intelligently is not a “white trait” but rather, that her intelligence stems from the universal attribution of just being a human being who enjoys reading. To her being “soul’d out” does not mean she is not being real or true to her black heritage, but rather she is being herself.
In one of the performances of Act II, Khaliah Griffin, Tanj McMeans, Melba Sales-Griffin, and Sarah Anita Ghans address several stereotypes they have encountered in “Dear….”. This collaborative letter includes a span of feelings: from being excluded from the “feminist voice” to dealing with racial assumptions like “eating grits”. These four women capture the audience’s attention as they confidently voice their intolerance for these racial stereotypes and assumptions.
While the performances from the BSO help the audience to re-think some of the offensive sayings and ignorant beliefs they may have held before, the first priority of CAT was for its members to voice their experiences and insights on what it means to be black at Kalamazoo College.
The Vice President of BSO, LaShawn Etheridge commented that she wanted the audience to get something out of the show, but that she was doing it first for herself. For her, CAT gave her an outlet to “let out some of the anger and frustration that has been building up in the last four years”. Now, she feels strong and comfortable in sharing what it means to be a black woman on this campus.
From freshmen to seniors, the collective efforts of BSO family showcased both the creativity and hard work of the members, and also the support that this group maintains. After leaving CAT, one cannot help but be incredibly impressed by the awareness this group has brought to the campus and the sense of community they hold as they all commit to voicing their experiences in the authentic dialogue about race.