SWAG Asia Johnson
A couple of weeks ago The Black Student Alliance at the University of Virginia put together a benefit concert for the local youth in Charlottesville. I decided to attend the concert and too my surprise the audience was more diverse than I thought. I expected the audience to be almost 100% black but the audience was unexpectedly diverse even though the majority of it was black.
The first group to perform was the all male acapella group AVP. They started out with the smooth soft-rock stylings of The Fray’s “Never Say Never”. This was a good performance but it did not get a big reaction from the crowd because it was not geared to the right demographic of students. I don’t think the audience was very familiar with The Fray. The next song they preformed was John Legend’s “Green Light”. This song was a hit and the audience instantly began to sing along. The crowd began to scream when one of the white members of AVP came to the forefront and began to thrust his pelvis in front of the black girls in the front row. The girls were embarrassed but they realized it was all in fun and they couldn’t resist laughing. The fact that the “white boy” had a little bit of rhythm was fascinating to them. The group finally climaxed with their last performance of “Ignition” by R. Kelly. Once again, the crowd went crazy and the “white boy” began to gyrate again.
The next group to perform was Remix. Their group was a mixture of races and genders. They continued to build on the momentum that AVP had built with a performance of “ Love in this Club” They mixed it up by having a female solo artist instead of a male artist perform it. The higher vocal range almost gave the song a different meaning. It didn’t seem as sexual in this rendition. All of the songs they preformed were from the Hip-Hop or R&B genre.
In between, the other singing groups were dance troupes and step teams. There was an all black fraternity that stepped, a mixed gender and race step team, and a mixed gender Hip- Hop group. A common thread that I noticed in all the performances was that the minority members in each group garnered the most applause. Since the showcase was geared toward black students the minority members were usually white and sometimes Asian. For example, the hip-hop dance group that preformed had one white male in it. Although he was doing the same movements as the other members of the group he was the minority of the group so he stood out. I could hear people yelling, “get it,” from the audience. Yet, no one was yelling at the black girl in the front row who was obviously the captain of the team.
Week 4 of our syllabus focused on blackface minstrelsy and “ love and theft”. I was surprised that the same concepts of love and theft were portrayed at the concert. Whenever a white person preformed a song or dance that was traditionally black they received a huge applause. Why are we so enthralled by white entertainers that perform traditionally black acts? For example, when one of the white performers of remix did a solo performance of a black R&B song the crowd went crazy. He even tried to engage the audience by acting in a seductive manor. These same principles of “Love and Theft” also applied to the dance performances. All of the non-black performers in the step show received rave reviews. I could her people in the audience shouting their names. Are the non-black members of the audience infatuated with black culture? It’s so interesting that when a white artist can sing or dance like a black person it means they can really dance or sing, but if a black person does the same thing it is not received in quite the same manor. Different aspects of the black culture have been stolen so many times throughout history, and black artists rarely get credit for being the originators of these performances. I’m curious to see if this trend will ever change.