BUS Renaissance Ball showcases student talent, black history

Carley Hull

Students dressed in gowns, cocktail dresses, suits and traditional African attire filled the Student Center Ballroom to capacity Wednesday evening at Black United Students’ 45th Annual Renaissance Ball “Ode to the Motherland.”

The event was created by BUS in the late 1960s after black students were excluded from the Kent State Homecoming, BUS President Roslynn Porch said, and the event has continued to celebrate black culture.

“I want people to understand what black Homecoming is,” Porch said. “We aren’t trying to racially exclude any other organizations or any other students on campus. All it is is us recognizing and engulfing different cultural and political and other organizations on campus that are in the AALANA (African-American, Latin-American, Native-American) community. It’s to celebrate our heritage … We welcome everybody.”

The event opened with a spoken-word poem by two male students playing with the theme of royalty and history to give an empowering message to the audience.

The pageant portion of the evening began with the 11 contestants dancing to booming tribal music and performing a modernized African dance.

Contestants then performed an array of talents, some bringing the theme “Ode to the Motherland” to life through a fashion show showcasing couture with an African inspiration, as well as three performances with the Billie Holiday song “Strange Fruit” ­— a pre-civil rights anthem against the horrors of racism.

“I think (the motherland theme) worked well,” Porch said. “It was shown all across the board with our contestants as far as music and inviting modern culture in.”

After the talent portion was through, the contestants showed off their formalwear and answered a question.

“It is completely an honor to be embraced by all this black excellence,” pageant announcer Devin Bates said before the winners were announced.

At the end of the pageant Jordan Lewis, junior English and teaching English as a second language major, was crowned king; junior psychology major Terryn Mathis was crowned queen; sophomore fashion design major Rena Wilson was crowned princess; and sophomore fashion merchandising major Jared Walters was crowned prince.

Lewis captured the crown by singing poetry in Mandarin Chinese, while Mathis played the snare drum in a drumline performance.

“I definitely think (the winners) reflected the organization well,” BUS Vice President Mary Rogers said. “Everybody worked so hard, the talents displayed were so broad, and I think it just really showcased talents of the students on this campus.”

Contact Carley Hull at [email protected].