EVOLVE: A Generational Celebration of Black Culture and The Arts (3/31/2018)

On March 30, 2018, ASU Jonesboro enjoyed hosting a highly entertaining and celebratory fashion and art show entitled EVOLVE. For an hour and a half, the patrons that attended the event got the opportunity to witness the black culture and artistic excellence from the afro-wearing and soulful 70s to the hip-hop infused and politically woke 00s. The event was brimming with entertainment that included singers belting out classic hits that represent each decade.

After we received a powerful introduction that featured the dance and musical stylings of the recently released film Black Panther, we were delightfully wisped into the 70s with the nostalgic yet smooth skating skills of a model participant. Once the colorful and bold fashions, which included an homage to the television classic Soul Train, passed, the show evolved into the bass bumping and hip-hop royal 80s. From there, the slick rhymes of Slick Rick and the funky raps of Kurtis Blow were showcased perfectly alongside the bold and daring jewelry and accessories of the 80s.

Having been a late 80s baby, I found myself laughing at the Jheri curls and gaudy necklaces of the past. But in that same sentence, I found myself, and I would predict several millennials would say that they were 90s babies, at least honorary.

The 90s segment featured a beautifully sung Boys II Men tribute and plenty of press to boldly patterned fashions. Quickly dubbed the “best” decade, it was fascinating to watch the crowd burst into a unanimous spelling of singer Usher’sUsher’s name during Nice and Slow’sSlow’s song. 

As the show began to make its way to the 00s, EVOLVE continued to evolve as three model participants broke down every fun and highly energetic dance moves of the decade. With the highly recognized and infamous beat drop of Back That A** Up, the 00s were infectiously celebrated as a time of having fun, being loud, and being bold. In honor of today’s era, the show took a more political tone and incorporated an emotionally delivered dance. As the sorrowful song Strange Fruit played in the background, the crowd witnessed a dance routine that spoke more verbally than artistic. The symbolism of the dancers’ performance, along with the music and visual imagery of the lighting, held everyone’s attention. At this moment, I was quietly reminded of the present social injustices that have plagued the African American community collectively and how a global movement of Black Lives Matter was spurred because of it.

Drawing the show to its unfortunate finale was a symbolic blackout moment. The model participants walked out to lowered music and signs that featured positive affirmations found in the black community both online and off. After watching this brilliant showcase of excellence, I was honored to have received the full intentions of this event. Because we live in a world of constant inundation of negative press and media coverage that stereotypically displays us as having rage and nonexistent aspirations, it was immensely refreshing to see a show that celebrated our accomplishments and creative excellence.

EVOLVE not only allowed us to go back in time to highlight our accomplishments in fashion and the arts, but it also allowed us to see the resiliency of our culture. Despite the societal trappings heavily present in each decade, the African American community still rose to the occasion. EVOLVE practically reminded everyone that our people have evolved and will continue to grow in ways that continue to push us forward progressively over the years and decades to come.

This event was sponsored by the Arkansas State University-Jonesboro Black Student Association, Multicultural Center, and Ejji Photography Studios.