A night of velvet, jewels and Black excellence: Black United Students’ 52nd Annual Renaissance Ball


Matthew Brown

Kent State freshman Daylon Brown is crowned King of the 52nd Renaissance Ball after his showing of a short film he produced alongside an all-Black cast and crew.

Grace Davies, Reporter

Black United Students’ 52nd Renaissance Ball this year was “A Night To Remember In Black Hollywood” with the overall color scheme of black, wine red and champagne. Eight student contestants each showcased a different act to be crowned King, Queen, Prince or Princess.

The Renaissance Ball is a part talent show and part pageant, with the acts each contestant does demonstrating a skill of theirs, whether that’s singing, dancing or something completely different.

DeArrius “D” Gleaves, Jazmin Harvey, Shane Reese, Lillah Tolbert, Khalid Volious, Natalie Phillips, Daylon Brown and Raychelle Malone were the students taking the stage Thursday night at the student center ballroom.

The first hour of the ball was comprised of the guests arriving, finding their seats at the numerous tables across the room, eating some of the food, mingling and chit-chatting.

Kent State sophomore Shane Reese dances with his fellow contestants during the opening number of the 52nd Renaissance Ball. (Matthew Brown)

The room was decorated with shades of red and black with nods to film such as cameras and director chairs. The attendees were equally decorated, with bright suits over turtlenecks, elaborate hairstyles, sunglasses, leather, stilettos, colorful gowns and jewelry.

Reagan Dalton, a freshman general business major, was a first-time attendee of the Renaissance Ball who was also participating in a dance later in the evening.

“I’m really excited,” she said. “This is my first time at the Renaissance Ball. I’m ready to turn up!”

Brian Johnson, BUS’s programming director, and Nashya Poole, a sophomore business management student, introduced the hosts for the evening and the six-judge panel.

The show kicked off with all eight contestants, dressed in maroon turtlenecks with chain necklaces and black tops with corsets, dancing in Pairs. The female contestants did a group dance and lip sync to Beyonce’s “Run The World (Girls)” from her 2018 Coachella performance.  They transitioned from the hip-hop number to “How Will I Know” by Whitney Houston in which they danced alongside their partners from the opening number.

Kent State freshman Natalie Phillips sings an emotional piece during the 52nd Renaissance Ball. A performance that would see her nominated as Princess of the ball by the judges. (Matthew Brown)

A short video was played and introduced all the contestants with their year and majors to the cheering audience.

Each contestant performed an act for the talent portion of the show.

Gleaves presented a fashion montage featuring themself in androgynous color-coordinated outfits in different Kent locations.

“For as long as I can remember,” they said in a Q & A section later on, “I’ve always been made to feel like I don’t belong, or I’m not supposed to be who I am. I make it my priority to always stand out and be different so that I stand out amongst a crowd of so many people who look the same.”

Brown made a short horror film with an all-black cast and crew about a man with social anxiety who creates an alternative personality named Fret.

Two contestants sang. Harvey, lit by magenta, did a cover of Michael Jackson’s “Human Nature.” Phillips did a performance of “Your Daddy’s Son” from the musical “Ragtime,” accompanied by a rain backdrop above her.

“I was adopted by two amazing dads,” Phillips said in the Q &A section. “My song is about a mother burying her child in the ground, but I never got to know my mother. My biggest fear in life is that if I were to become a mother, I wouldn’t be a good one. So, I chose to sing this to sort of get over my fear of that.”

Following her song, Kent State senior Lillah Tolbert takes to the stage again in a dance performance. She would later be crowned Queen of the 52nd Renaissance Ball for her display. (Matthew Brown)

Tolbert combined singing and dance, calling her portion “A Tribute to Her.” The act started with her singing before running off stage to change, come back on and finish her performance off with an exuberant dance.

Malone did a dance performance, starting out with a solo in the middle of partially drawn curtains. With some claps with powder, she was accompanied by more dancers from Kent State’s Royal Flashes, a “stomp ‘n’ shake” cheer team Malone captains.

Volious, clad in a hoodie with a puffer vest, performed an original rap. Reese took a unique approach, performing his poem as if he was leaving someone a voicemail.

In between the talent portions, the hosts announced winners of AirPod and Apple Watch raffles. Two members of the Delta Sigma Theta sorority, including contestant Tolbert, announced the winners of a book scholarship.

All contestants came back up, one by one, to answer two questions from the judges. Then, the audience voted on a fan-favorite contestant, which was won by Tolbert.

Roused by drumrolls from the crowd, the winners were announced. King went to Brown, Queen went to Tolbert, Princess went to Phillip and Prince went to Reese. Johnson and Poole, both choked up, came back to thank the audience for coming and how happy they were with the ball this year.

“This took time to plan,” Johnson said. “And I’m happy that all of y’all came out and y’all are able to witness the Black excellence we really have on this campus.”

Grace Davies is a reporter. Contact her at [email protected]