By Cynthia Laguna
The Black History Continuum at East Los Angeles College spread the message of unity and love through a mixture of various arts in the S2 Recital Hall last Thursday.
The event, which was named “A Mirror at the Crossroads of the Americas,” involved spoken word, music, dance, visual arts and poetry to convey impactful messages that Africans have made across the Americas.
Viver Brasil sang the song “Samba no Pé” accompanied by dancers and live music. They mixed together dances of samba driven by African drums, guitar, trumpet, and other instruments.
The audience was captivated by the dancers vibes, making it hard to not dance along. “Samba no Pé” was definitely the performance of the night as it indulged the audience to dance and clap along. The message that the music carried moved people so much that some began tearing up and others stood and clapped.
John Zamora, 11, was among a group of students from Fourth Street Elementary School invited to the performance.
Zamora compared the event to cooking. “It’s like mixing everything together: the stories, the music, and the dancing are all mixed into a big performance,” Zamora said.
The JazzAntiqua Dance and Music Ensemble provided a dance and musical performance, which brought diversity to the night’s performances.
JazzAntiqua blended jazz and blues to emphasize the importance of both genres in the African-American cultural history.
The audience was moved and driven by the music as they clapped along.
“It is a gift for us to have this program in the community,” audience member Rocio Fernandez said.
She also said that it’s wonderful to be able to bring different cultures together with the use of their own cultural performances and arts.
Dancer Laila Abdullah danced a piece called “Vessel’s Journey” along with a drumming beat by John Beatty with dialogue by ELAC Dance instructor Wanda-Lee Evans, the director of the event.
The noise of the drums gave out powerful, yet emotional vibrations that were expressed through the smooth and swift movements of the dancer.
“We are all connected by a common language, the language of love,” Beaty said.
“Through the Diaspora,” performed by Abdullah and Beatty on the drums, is a dance dealing with the struggle of a group or groups of people forced to leave their homeland. Abdullah performed a traditional African dance with a background story of adaptation for people who had to leave a place they call home and migrate for a better future.
Vocalist Phillip Brandon sang the well known protest song “We Shall Overcome.” The song became the anthem of the African-American Civil Rights Movement in 1960 when Guy Carawan stepped up to sing this song at Highlander Folk School, which focused on non-violent civil rights activism.
Brandon follows up that performance by singing, “Make Them Hear You” from the musical “Ragtime.”
Many young people lose sense of who they really are culturally and this performance reminds and pushes the audience to help our cultural traditions to continue being passed from generations to generations.
Brandon beautifully sang with such emotion that made the audience feel and understand the meaning of the lyrics. Both songs have been sung throughout different times in history to comfort people in times of great difficulty and struggle.
The variety of cultural performances and arts, show how people are and continue to be influenced by Africans.
Evans and J. Edward Stevenson were masters of ceremony for the event. They explained how the program included a collection of visual arts.
Evans said that “we are all mirrors” that reflect each other and all cultures melting together.
In the lobby, as the audience waited to be let into the Recital Hall, they were able to look at photos of people such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela, Harriet Tubman and Muhammad Ali along with many others who have influenced African-Americans in a positive way.
Volunteer Keny Long was a dance instructor for 40 years and has been a part of these event for Black History Month for several years now. He taught a mixture of different dances and emphasizes that the “purpose and goal is to show how the African influence is very strong,” Long said.