‘Shades of Black’

From staff reports

This is not a country of a single race. This is a melting pot where anything and anyone can be tossed in.

“Shades of Black” is a show created and executively produced by University of Idaho alumnus Kwapi Vengesayi. Gathering talent from the Pacific Northwest, the show represents multicultural talents and diversity. The show will be on Friday, hosted by WSU’s Student Entertainment Board (SEB).

“It’s important because it features experiences in our society and experiences unique to the Palouse,” said Sophia King, a senior creative writing major and the spotlight programmer for SEB.

As the spotlight programmer, King is also responsible for other SEB events including open mics, Coug Spotlight and their Battle of the Bands.

“Shades of Black” features performers from WSU, University of Idaho, Eastern Washington University, Western Washington University and others around the Pacific Northwest. At least 70 percent of the performers in Friday’s show are from WSU.

Some acts in the show are a little more permanent, but there are changes over every season. Auditions are held for the shows through video submissions, King said.

The performances include dances, singing and spoken word skits and monologues. All of them are related to some experience in America, such as hula dancing from Hawaii and monologues related to injustice.

“It’s expression through the performing arts, where we have a conversation in an entertaining way.” Vengesayi said.

Vengesayi said he noticed a lack of connection between UI and WSU despite their neighboring locations. The campuses seemed much intertwined, yet few events were done together. In 2003, Vengesayi began “Shades of Black” to help with that.

The performers also spoke with students at Eastern and even Boise State University, inviting them to check the show out. The concept of the show spread to each university and has developed into different variations, Vengesayi said.

“‘Shades of Black’ is not about having the best dancer or the best singer or the best poet,” he said. “It’s about having someone who’s passionate and has a story to tell.”

King said the show is a way to celebrate diversity and address race-based issues and concerns at WSU and the country at large. It is important to come together in the community, and performing arts is a great medium to do that with.

People coming to see the show hopefully come with open minds and hearts and take away new knowledge, King said. She thinks people will feel more welcomed and want to be part of that community.

King believes the show will apply more directly to U.S. citizens because it shows diversity in the country rather than other countries being represented.

“I think it does apply to America and to the experience of being multicultural in our society,” King said.

“Shades of Black” will show at the CUB Senior Ballroom today at 7:30 p.m. Admission is free, and the doors will open at 6:30 p.m. Come early to ensure good seating and proper starting time.

Reporting by Catherine Kruse