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Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024
The Observer

Black Coffee House to showcase student talent

The Black Cultural Arts Council (BCAC) will be putting on the annual Black Coffee House event Friday. The two-hour event has taken place in its current form since the early 1990s and presents an opportunity to experience and engage with black culture, art and artists from across campus in a relaxed setting and across a variety of mediums.

“Imagine a jazz house — that’s the type of feel for coffee house,” senior BCAC president Erin Williams said. “We do spoken word, a lot of of people play music. This year we’ve got a saxophonist. It’s a very low-key feel. We have coffee beans and the lights are turned down, so it’s a very relaxed environment.”

The event generally includes around 12 different acts or performances from mostly student artists across campus. While the event has no official theme, as to not limit the kinds of art and topics on display, the pieces tend to focus on some aspect of black culture or the black experience.

“It’s about uplifting and highlighting the black experience, or even experience from the African diaspora,” said Iris Outlaw, the director of Multicultural Student Programs and Services and faculty advisor to the BCAC. “Those are the types of performances that happen.”

Performances from past events have often had a deeply personal aspect that impacted both the artist and the audience.

“Some of the pieces have just been so prophetic; they’ve really resonated,” Outlaw said.

In addition to singing, music, spoken word and other poetry performances, this year’s event will also include an art gallery. The gallery will display a variety of student-created pieces and types of visual art, some of which will be for sale. This addition allows the event to display not only the normal performance art pieces, but also visual art from artists who can otherwise find it difficult to make their work and its message seen or heard.

“It’s always wonderful and great to have a space for black voices to be heard because oftentimes they’re silenced or suppressed,” Williams said. “I think it’s important to create a space for black artists to say what’s on their minds, to say what’s on their hearts and to be able to send whatever message to the world that they think is needed at that time.”

In this way, the event presents an opportunity not only for artists, but for anyone interested in engaging with, learning about and talking about cultures that sometimes lack visibility on campus, in addition to being entertained.

“It’s a great space to come and listen and understand the culture and be a part of the culture of another person, and to have fun and interact and be entertained by the great artists that you see there,” Williams said. “It’s a great place for coming to an understanding of other people’s voices and other people’s interpretation and perspective of the world.”

Tickets for the event are available for $3 at the LaFortune Box Office as well as at the door. All proceeds will go toward the BCAC’s Thurgood Marshall Scholarship, which is a yearlong scholarship awarded to first-year, non-athlete students involved with the BCAC.

In addition to the various art pieces and performances, free coffee will also be offered to those in attendance. The event is open to anyone interested in attending and will start at 7 p.m. in the LaFortune Student Center ballroom.