Within the tall walls and stained glass of the St. Cajetan’s church, Bounteous Basia and Gospel Harmony initiated Black History Month on the Auraria Campus by taking the stage with spoken word and gospel music.
Marking the start of Black History Month, students, administrators — including President Davidson — and community members virtually and physically attended St. Cajetan’s church for the kick-off event Feb. 8. This year’s theme was Black Health and Wellness which led to a night of reflection and celebration.
The Associate Director of Equity and Social Justice Programming at the Center for Multicultural Engagement and Inclusion, Alexandra Jackson, and CU Denver’s Black Student Services came together to create the spoken word event. Jackson began the event by acknowledging Indigenous peoples.
“We strive to begin all program by acknowledging we stand on stolen land, and the ethnic genocide that was carried out to our Native American and Indigenous counterparts,” said Jackson.
Through Olivia Hunte, a social worker at MSU Denver, Jackson found poet Bounteous Basia. With works like, “Divine, Love and Appreciation” Basia felt passionately about the Black Health and Wellness theme. Basia has faced her own battles surrounding health and wellness, including depression. Through her writing, she found a space to express her emotions and inspire others.
“Just to have a space to talk about my own journey, my own wellness,” said Basia, “… and to inspire others that it’s possible, even in 2022. We can still thrive and be Black and be queer and be young.”
Basia spoke about her own background, her work with suicide awareness and her time at the Spiritual Awakening Process in July of 2019. She explained the importance of being gentle with yourself, knowing that you are never alone, seeking help and being present for one another.
To be there for others and complimentary to others was the subject of her first poem, “Celebratory Love.” Inspired by the theme of Black Health and Wellness, Basia drafted the poem the night before the event about celebrating love, your own journey and community.
Basia’s second poem, “Have You Seen the Grass Lately” expresses that you are allowed to feel, to release and to accept. Through breathing meditation, Basia grabbed her phone and voice recorded her thoughts. She mentioned that she writes for herself, but also to share. In fact, Basia shared this poem at the women’s march in October. With emphasis on the words “you are,” Basia moved the audience to head nods, claps and praises.
“It’s just about reminding myself to soar. If I soar, then others will see me. If I fly, then they’ll know,” Basia said, quoting her poem.
Next to take the stage were 12 members of Gospel Harmony. The choir is part of the Colorado Gospel Music Academy and the Hall of Fame 2018 Coir of the Year. Dressed in black slacks and their logo on the upper left part of their purple shirts, 11 women and one man sang a mix of ballads and up-beat songs.
Through their music, the group brought the audience to their feet. After 19 years of performing with Gospel Harmony, Renee Conway was part of the group’s first performance on Auraria Campus.
“… it doesn’t matter the age, it’s about what’s in your heart and how much you love the Lord,” said Conway.
Director Kelly Loggins stood on the ground while directing the choir on the stage. The choir performed choreographed steps to songs that they put their own twists on. At one point in the performance, Loggins took the stage to share her voice with the audience.
Reflecting on the theme of Black Health and Wellness for Black History Month, Loggins hopes that the community will see where they’ve come from, where they are now and where they still need to go.
“We’ve made some beautiful strides,” said Loggins. “We’ve got a long way to go still and hopefully by the time my grandchildren are my age, we’ll live in a free, beautiful world that everybody is equal in.”
The spoken word kick-off was just one of the events that will take place on campus during Black History Month. The Center for Multicultural Engagement and Inclusion continues to host a variety of events to provide opportunities for the community to celebrate accomplishments, to engage in Black restoration and to amplify Black voices.
“Reminding us that we are worthy and that we are royal. And people call us a lot of things, but we are divine. We’re human, which is sweet to be both and make space for that — but we are divine” said Basia.
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