Shades of Black, originally started at the University of Idaho, came to the Simplot Ballroom Saturday, April 23. Each performance was like a one-on-one conversation between the audience and the talent, in some cases speaking words that touched on the cracks within societal points of logic, and in other ways giving the sheer entertainment that can only come when bodies move effortlessly in an alliance with the music that climbs and makes home in our ear canals.
“Expression is divine—especially when it’s done creatively, intellectually and respectful(ly),” said the creator of Shades of Black, Kwapi Vengesayi. “We used the performing arts to tell stories and one can never underestimate how performance shaped the world.
From Shakespeare to Bob Marley, from dance and praise in the church to poetic speeches by JFK or MLK, this show taps into that same energy. I want the community, staff, and performers to walk away feeling enlightened, empowered, and/or entertainment,” Vengesayi said.
The wide variety of acts were woven together with the official theme of love. Shades of Black focuses on the acceptance of multiculturalism in aspects of self, others and society.
Acts ranged from the Underground Crew, a dance team who were so stunning they could give you a heart attack, to Give Chase, a girl band with raspy voices and enough talent to take your breath away.
“One of the pieces is like, why do we long to be separatists and why do we crave divisiveness? When we’re all reaching for goals, we’re all striving to be whole, we’re all on the same plane of existence,” said junior philosophy, political science, social work major Christopher Bower. “We have infinitely everything in common.”
Bower is part of Wooden Feels, an acoustic indie band that performed at Shades of Black this year.
Their piece, Quicksand Blues, married spoken word and acoustic guitar with lost lullabies and peace of mind. Quicksand Blues was the kind of song that skipped your ears and went straight to your soul.
“(Quicksand Blues is about) the puzzlement. Like whether or not to follow the alley that society prods us toward or whether to develop into the individual that we are,” explained freshman philosophy, creative writing major McAlister Mallory. “And according to the wifi password at the place I work love is the key.”
Wooden Feels comes straight out of Boise and is planning on recording their first album over this summer, but has had a couple of setbacks, including of the loss of their main guitarist when he left the band.
As the performance got closer, Wooden Feels had to change up their routine to be able to get ready in time for show day, and felt it was a great opportunity to not only be part of something that celebrates diversity, but to crack down on some of the songs they had been avoiding.
“We really have to hone in on stuff. Obviously it allows us to explore a little more. It’s like the spoken word piece they’re doing for this, obviously they wouldn’t have wrote that if it weren’t for this,” said junior environmental studies major Drew Riemersma, guitarist for Wooden Feels.
As Shades of Black came to a close, all performers, volunteering members of Delta Sigma Phi, Martin Luther King Living Legacy Committee, and Afro-Black Student Alliance came on stage to perform the Cupid Shuffle.
As bodies meshed together in a medley of loud claps and stomping feet, more than half the audience got up to join them.
If you’re interested in being a part of Shades of Black, you can attend any of the upcoming events at in Salt Lake City, University of Washington, or Washington State University. Attend Shades of Black at Boise State next year, audition to be part of the show, or read Kwapi Vengesayi’s book “Hashtags: The dumbest, smartest, funniest, deepest things I’ve ever (and never) said about love, politics and everything in between.”