If you had any doubts about the amount of talent at Bates, hopefully you were lucky enough to score a ticket to the Sankofa show this past MLK Day. This multi-genre show was jam-packed with great acts. Entitled A Rose by Any Other Name, this show focused primarily on sexuality and it’s place in various races and ethnicities.
The theme of sexuality this year caught many by surprise. The previous two performances dealt more directly with the issues of racial identity following the African diaspora.
“We are bombarded with black bodies having sex but never question sexuality,” commented the director of this year’s performance, sophomore Alex Bolden.
“To me, this was a really good example of intersectionality. In this way they were making it very clear that blackness intersects with gender, it intersects with sexuality and people often identify with these things simultaneously,” explained chair of the MLK Day committee, Professor Nero.
This show grappled with a plethora of cultural issues, and integrated them in a way that was bold and innovative. One piece in particular stuck out as especially daring; a poem entitled “Asheville Offering,” which was performed by Jessica Washington and AnnaMarie Martino.
The poem wrestles with the ongoing battle between the gay community and the black community. It shows the futility of the argument over who has been the most oppressed. The powerful emotion behind the performances by Washington and Martino gave the poem chilling intensity.
“I think it is an important piece because it demonstrates the parallels between the Gay Rights and Civil Rights movements, which many people often think of as somewhat opposing movements,” said senior Martino, about her piece. “I identify as a gay female and have been faced with a lot of the issues I was able to present in our piece.”
The show brought audience members on a rollercoaster of emotions. Each performance was impressively heartfelt. Bates alum James Watkins’ rap, entitled “Love & Hip-Hop,” was an emotional triumph for the show.
“I didn’t want to just rap about some random stuff,” explained Watkins ’12, during the Q&A after the show. “I personified hip hop and exposed myself through the genre I’ve been loving for so long.”
That kind of personal devotion to the acts was clear throughout the two-hour show. Real life couple Bridget Feldman and Culture Brown performed a poem they wrote about the difficulties they face daily as an interracial couple, completing the poem with a kiss that elicited rapturous cheers from the audience.
The music in A Rose by Any Other Name was well chosen, with each song being used to it’s full potential to bring out the soul of the piece. Though Rihanna, Kanye, and The Weekend added depth to the performances, the most impactful musical moment of the night was when Senior Raina Jacques performed Lauryn Hill’s “Freedom Time,” a capella, standing still on one side of the stage.
Reactions to the show overall have been unexpectedly mixed.
“The majority of the bad reviews have reflected on the scripted portion of the performance and claim that Sankofa used stereotypical ways of “blackness” i.e. the angry black woman or the hyper-sexualized black man,” explains Bolden. However, Bolden continues, “We cannot hate Anderson [the father figure in the narrative] because we [society] created him.”
Though some may struggle with the portrayals of the characters, Bolden maintains, “These are situations that happen in real life.”
Despite the controversy, it is indisputable that A Rose by Any Other Name was an impressive, thought-provoking display of the talent and passion at Bates.
There was definitely a resounding message throughout the show. Sankofa’s one repeated question came off as more of a desperate plea to which everyone must listen: how could you hate love?