Black expression benefit for Flint water crisis


Preston Davis

Members of Black Students United presented “Too Black” with a thank-you plaque following his show.

By Preston Davis, Writer

Raw aggression and sincere emotion took the stage at an event last Thursday, Feb. 4, in the Student Union Starbucks Lounge to benefit the victims of the Flint water crisis.

“Too Black,” a spoken-word poet from Indianapolis, was the event’s keynote performer, which was organized by UA’s Black Students United (BSU).

BSU President Angel Poole and Marketing Director Tyeal Howell contacted “Too Black” and the Dayton-based group, Underdog Academy, to perform at the benefit concert.

Water, canned food, or monetary donations of $2 were accepted as admission with proceeds going toward the United Way Flint Water Fund and Haven of Rest in Akron.

The Flint Water Fund accepts and distributes donations to those affected by lead-contaminated drinking water. Haven of Rest is an organization that provides food, clothing and shelter for the homeless in Akron.

Many performers and groups graced the stage with acts ranging from stand-up comedy and poetry to rap and dancing. A unifying theme among the performers was that of self-expression and black identity.

The content of the performances centered on social injustice and racial inequality of blacks in the U.S.

In his poem “Gangsta Gangsta,” “Too Black” contrasts the criminal intent of a stereotypical gangster against that of a powerful politician or CEO capable of committing crimes with impunity and little regard for those affected.

It is the subject of this poem that draws such close parallels with the situation in Flint, Michigan.

“Too Black” rapidly layered verse upon complex verse. He acknowledged that his writing is filled with anger and hostility. His sentiments are echoed by other performers who share his experience of racial prejudice.

“The event is about expression,” said Ebanee Bond, a third-year mechanical engineering student. Offering her own expression, Bond walked onstage and informed the crowd that it was her first time performing her poetry. Listeners would be hard pressed to tell —her delivery was confident and smooth, with no signs of first-time stage fright.

The subject matter of many of the performances was challenging and could be difficult to listen to as it portrayed a cynical outlook of ongoing persecution for one’s skin color.

Cynthia Sorrell, a student majoring in social work, described the event as “not uplifting, but needed.”

For most artists, the event represented an avenue to vent. Sorrell said her favorite part of the evening was “‘dancing with [her] group.”

Sorrell performed a variety of dance styles with her ensemble “Kings and Queens of Africa.”

“Too Black” took the stage as the final performer. With all of the seating full and many more standing, he delivered a lengthy performance dense with imagery.

Between poems, “Too Black” elaborated on the meanings of his work and the importance of supporting humanitarian efforts like the United Way Flint Water Fund. The audience applauded his performance, after which he took questions from the audience.

Members of Black Students United presented “Too Black” with a thank-you plaque following his show. In his final remarks of the evening, he explained that his work represents a cold outlook, but is a reality. He argued that confronting widespread racial injustice requires a realistic perspective and warned against constant entertainment escapism.

The event was put on as part of Black History Month. Poole and Howell invite anyone who is interested in raising awareness of racial issues and taking action towards solutions to attend a Black Students United meeting in Bierce Room 268 on Monday from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.