As students exit their late afternoon classes, funneling out onto Upper Sproul Plaza, they are normally confronted with a bare courtyard, a few club tables and fellow students stomping unaware to their next destination. Friday, students found a different Sproul Plaza, energized by the SUPERB X AASD Student Group Showcase.
The African American Student Development office, together with ASUC SUPERB Productions, hosted a vibrant music scene and vibrant collective of students for an incredibly successful evening. A huge turnout of student organizations, including Black Engineering and Science Student Association (BESSA), Educational Opportunity Program (EOP), Black Students in Health Association (BSHA), Haas Undergraduate Black Business Association (HUBBA), Black Recruitment and Retention Center (BRRC) and more, united on Sproul to inform and collaborate as a community. Student performances, speeches from clubs and Kamau’s concert all promoted this goal while creating a spirited environment, emblematic of the individuals participating.
The collection of student performances that preceded the Kamau concert were the work of many different individuals. Notably, different fraternities and sororities took to the plaza with choreography of their own. Alpha Kappa Alpha’s secret-agent-themed dance combined sharp, precise movements with a performance art style to address their message of friendship and empowerment. Omega Psi Phi came together with a thoughtfully coordinated and exceptionally timed step dance.
Alpha Phi Alpha’s and Delta Sigma Theta’s showcases stood out for the way they stimulated the audience as well as the intense gravity of their performances. Alpha Phi Alpha’s hardened facial expressions as they hit each beat with beautiful synchronization was unparalleled. Chanting as one and commenting on the purpose of community, the fraternity incited emphatic cheers from the impacted audience. Delta Sigma Theta, dressed in all black and donning red berets, began their step dance performance with recordings of news coverage that critiqued the Trump administration and the termination of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA). They were engaging, each step made with purpose, and as the rest of the members of Delta Sigma Theta stormed the plaza at the end, the sisterhood between them was undeniably evident.
A myriad of other student performances followed, all leading up to the big event: Kamau’s concert. The audience— already hyped by the dance circle before and the amazing student rap artists that touched on deep realities — was even more invigorated when Kamau took to the steps of Sproul Plaza. He walked out with confidence and poise and set the concert straight into motion with no difficulty getting the audience psyched for his dynamic set.
In sweatshirt and beanie, going back and forth across the steps, he became one with the UC Berkeley community. He took advantage of the casual intimacy of the venue, connecting his exhilarating set to the audience — each song was interluded nicely with shoutouts to the crowd, adding a familiar touch to his already friendly presence.
As multicolored lights flashed green and purple over Kamau, he performed with frantic enthusiasm, shaking his hands and reaching out to his audience. His performance of his politically charged song “PohLease” seemed to resonate with the crowd that answered his lyrics with loud whoops and pumping arms. The fast pace of his verses mingled with the soothing background track and meshed perfectly with the crowd’s own tone – passionate and spirited, yet relaxed in the company of friends and classmates. As he filled with tense and fervent energy, he allowed the crowd to take over the lyrics for a moment and the audience met his vocals in unison.
Kamau’s music — which, when streamed through headphones, is all-consuming — translated smoothly to the stage, resulting in a captivating performance that allowed one to have a simultaneously individual and communal experience. His presence added a tangible devotion to his already empowered music; Kamau had a unique power on the stage, where his dynamic verses and beats were given life. His fresh instrumentals, lilting lyrics, facial expressions and movements all clicked together to be a complete image of community. As the night came to a close, his ending verses filled the plaza with an ambient awakening that was perfectly representative of the event’s communal energy as a whole.