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Souls with Voices fills silences


Published: Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Updated: Wednesday, April 13, 2011 15:04

Each year, the Black Student Union (BSU) hosts Souls with Voices, an event that gives students and people of color around and within the Vassar community an opportunity to come together to celebrate and promote their culture. This year, the event will take place on Saturday, April 16 at 7 p.m. on the second floor of the Students' Building.

According to Literary Editor of the BSU Cydney Smith '13 , this year the performances will be especially exciting, as they'll showcase everything from spoken word by local artists from Poughkeepsie to the black musical group Vassar Has Soul to stand up comedy by Brandon Greene '13 to special performances by rapper Ade Raphael '12, Ade Ra as known onstage.

For nearly 10 years, one of the main goals of the event has been to give voice to the people in our communities who are often under-represented. "I feel like different types of art forms are silenced. We have so many different musical groups on campus, but even though black music, art and dance—from African drums, blues, jazz and even many contemporary art forms—have been so influential, we don't have a lot of it on our campus," President of the African Violets Cordelia Elaiho '12 said. The African Violets work directly with the Council of Back Seniors to offer resources to graduating seniors.

Souls with Voices has thus provided an outlet for expression on campus. Its success in previous years has greatly influenced creative pursuits within the Vassar community, specifically inspiring the music group Vassar Has Soul. The event gave a group of students exactly the type of supportive thrust they needed to take off as a musical act: "Many of our members had been a part of different musical groups on campus, and our needs were not being met. We wanted a group that represented many of our religious backgrounds and was inclusive of our soulful tastes," said Stephanie George '14, member of the newly formed musical group Vassar Has Soul. Although Souls with Voices is a great showcase, Vassar Has Soul wanted to become something permanent, something year-long. They were given necessary confidence through the annual event to become a full-fledged group. "We were inspired by the Souls with Voices event, and wanted something that was not only active within it, but something that we could engage in all year. When our voices come together during a performance or weekly rehearsal, I am able to escape all the mundanity of college life," George commented.

Taking place during the annual Focus weekend, a three-day program for incoming admitted students, the event is also effective in its ability to highlight the diversity and many creative voices on campus. "My prospie [prospective student] was present at the event last year, and she got to see me perform. She absolutely loved it," shared Sharon Onga '13, another member of Vassar Has Soul. Prospective students from different backgrounds are able to see how Vassar students pursue their interests in a supportive environment. As representatives of a racial minority, incoming students of color are given a chance to see all the ways they can get involved with campus life at Vassar and to have their voices heard.

Each year the BSU planning committee hopes to see a greater turn-out involving more groups: "Our goal was to reach out to the talent of the Vassar community, Poughkeepsie and other organizations such as Poder Latino and the South Asian Student Alliance." Spoken word by one of Poughkeepsie's finest poets, Bettina "Gold" Wilkerson, will also be an integral part of the event this year.

Souls with Voices is an event for everyone to come together, celebrate and integrate those who are often overlooked, and an opportunity to highlight how the College expresses and appreciates the voices of individuals from different walks of life. According to Elaiho, "There is no event like it, it bridges the gap between all forms of expression and showcases all types of talent."

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