Cultural Expressions, a five-year tradition at Lawrence University, returns on Feb. 23, the conclusion of People of Color Empowerment Week on campus.
A week of activities celebrating and empowering people of color on the Lawrence University campus will kick off Saturday with a new event, the Excellence Ball.
It will be held Saturday night in the Esch-Hurvis Studio in the Warch Campus Center to officially launch the annual People of Color Empowerment Week.
The week, featuring a series of speakers and performers, will culminate with the Cultural Expressions talent showcase, set for Feb. 23.
The Excellence Ball is the new entry this year. It will be a stylish affair, with attire billed as black-and-white formal wear. It runs from 8 p.m. to midnight and organizers say it aims to be a gathering to “acknowledge the accomplishments of people of color and to come together as a community to uplift each other and to have a good time.”
Music will be provided by DJ King Szn.
Cultural Expressions, meanwhile, is all about showcasing talented Lawrence students. Following a 4 p.m. dinner in the Diversity and Intercultural Center, an art gallery will be featured in the Mead Witter Room in Warch, showing students’ work in a range of art, film, poetry and sculptures. That’s followed by a series of performances in music, dance, poetry and spoken word beginning at 7 p.m. next door in Esch-Hurvis.
Admission for all of the student-organized events is free. All of the events are open to the public.
Awa Badiane ’21, president of Lawrence’s Black Student Union (BSU), said the Excellence Ball was added this year to provide a more significant launch to Empowerment Week.
“We’ll have posters and framed pictures up of people who represent black excellence,” she said. “The Obamas will be up, Maya Angelou, and others with captions underneath to describe who they are. It’ll be decorated like a ball. It’ll be a formal event with everyone dressed up.”
Like Cultural Expressions, the new ball is being organized by BSU.
“There was never really a celebratory event to say, hey, this is going to be a week about empowering and uplifting,” Badiane said. “So we’re going to start it off with this.”
Empowerment Week activities are being organized by All Is One: Empowering Young Women of Color (AIO), led by President Krystin Williams ’19.
Empowerment Week participants will include Vision, a spoken-word artist, at 7 p.m. Wednesday in the Diversity and Intercultural Center; Sin Color, a Latin band from Los Angeles, performing at 7 p.m. Thursday in the Warch Campus Center; and Brienne Colston and Jaz Astwood, two Lawrence alumnae with New York City-based Brown Girl Recovery, facilitating a conversation on community accountability at 7 p.m. Friday in the Diversity Center.
Also planned is the showing of the movie “The Hate U Give,” set for 6 p.m. Monday at the cinema in the Warch Campus Center. Organizers also are working to set up an open mic at 6 p.m. Tuesday in the Diversity Center.
Brown Girl Recovery is an organization in the Bronx that “aims to create avenues of support and community for black and brown folks through innovative and social justice-based programming, workshops and events,” according to its web site. It was founded by Colston, a 2015 LU graduate. Astwood, also a 2015 graduate, works with the organization.
“I think it’s nice to have alumnae from this campus back who did a lot for people of color while they were here,” Williams said of bringing Colston and Astwood in for Empowerment Week. “To bring them back and show the progress and how they’re still helping women of color in their own hometowns.”
Badiane said seeing alumni return for Empowerment Week sends an important message to current students.
“As a person of color on this campus, I do see the effects that POC Empowerment Week has,” Badiane said. “It’s essentially empowering you while you are on campus. It says I matter. And you see representation throughout campus, and you see accomplished people who get invited back. …. And you say, wow, that’s my goal.
“You see people who were in your shoes taking steps toward their goals or who have reached their goals, and you’re doing what they had been doing. So, you deserve an opportunity to celebrate that.”