The Black Student Union hosted its annual Black Excellence Showcase Saturday. According to a BSU Instagram post, the event, formally known as the BSU Pageant, was held to celebrate Black excellence at Brown. The showcase featured six contestants who participated in three events for a chance to win the pageant. These events included modeling, talent and a Q&A.
The participants were Justin McAllister ’24, Şiji Şoetan ’25, Ty Scott ’22, Luka Kain ’23 and winners Caziah Mayers ’24 and Makayla McPherson ’24.
McPherson wrote in an email to The Herald that she wanted to participate in the showcase because of her love of performance. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, she has not been able to sing in public, and viewed the showcase as an opportunity to get back on stage.
McPherson added that the event also allowed her to see more Black students at Brown and “celebrate Black joy and talent.”
Mayers wrote in an email to The Herald that he wanted to participate in the showcase because of his love for the Black community at Brown. “We have (the power) to show love to each other within the (Black) community and cultivate spaces that are safe for us despite the hardship we deal with.”
A seventh contestant, Tarrin Dewberry ’25, was unable to attend the event due to illness but called in and said that she was “so proud of … all the participants.”
Delena Alemayehu ’24, who attended the event, said that she was most excited to see new and familiar faces at the showcase. COVID-19, she explained, has made it more difficult for her to meet other Black students at Brown.
The event began with a group dance of all the contestants, followed by a modeling section in which the contestants walked across the stage and struck poses as their biographies were read. The talent section showcased a multitude of the contestants’ strengths, including singing, poetry and dance.
Kash Oseni ’25 said that his favorite part of the showcase was the talent portion since all the contestants were both “beautiful and talented.”
Alemayehu shared similar sentiments and said that the contestants “have different things to express about themselves,” all of which were on display during the talent portion.
Master of Ceremonies Maryclare Chinedo ’22 said that the showcase was like “the Met Gala at Brown.” In its Instagram post announcing the showcase, the BSU wrote that “dressy attire is encouraged.”
In between each section of the pageant, Chinedo and fellow Master of Ceremonies Faith Hardy ’23 hosted activities to engage the audience. These included a game of song association between students of each class year and a dance break during which both the MCs and audience members took to the stage.
Instead of the contestants giving speeches, the last section was a Q&A between the judges and the participants. Each question pertained to Black life and Black issues, including questions on how to explain to their future children what it means to be Black in America and what Black joy looks like to them.
When asked about what they hope their lasting impression on the community will be, Kain said that they would want to be remembered for how they supported the people close to them and created community. They also added that they wanted to try and leave Providence a better place after their time here. “I want to be remembered by my joy,” they said.
Answering the question on what Black joy meant to him, Mayers said that he thinks of love and “going home for Thanksgiving. … Black joy is feeling happy when the world is not watching you because we have each other,” he said.
In her email, McPherson wrote that she was happy to “just participate in the showcase,” but winning made the event even more special.
Mayers wrote that winning the event confirmed that he “can use (his) poetry and (his) art to voice the deep emotions and varied experiences within the Black community.”