‘Night at the Apollo’ celebrates empowerment

Students danced, sang, rapped and recited poetry at Black Student Union's "Night at the Apollo" talent show on Friday, Feb. 8.


As part of their celebration of Black History Month, UNI’s Black Student Union (BSU) hosted a “Night at the Apollo” talent show at 7 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 8 in Lang Hall Auditorium.

Over 100 students and community members packed the auditorium to show their support for the night’s 15 acts, which included singing, dancing, rapping andmotivational poetry.

“Tonight is all about showcasing the talent that UNI has,” said Paris Haywood, sophomore marketing major and BSU president. “We also have a lot of performers from the community, so it’s a chance to connect the Waterloo community with the UNI campus.”

Between acts, hosts Nova and ShinDigg kept the crowd engaged with a raffle and a few rounds of “Black Card Revoked,” a game in which audience members were called onstage to answer trivia questions about African-American heritage. Contestants shouted out answers to questions such as “In what city was Martin Luther King, Jr., assassinated?” and “How many fights did the Fresh Prince get into?”

At the show’s end, Nova and ShinDigg brought all the acts back onstage to decide the evening’s winners. One by one, performers stepped forward and were greeted by cheers and applause from an appreciative audience.

Based on audience response, junior psychology major Mahlia Brown and junior social work major Ryan Frank took home first place for their duet vocal performance, with Frank on piano. Camry Stewart received second place for her high-energy hip hop dance performance, while brothers King TyQ and King Davis were awarded third place for their dance.

The final decision was challenged by the brothers and their exuberant fans, with audience members supporting King TyQ demanding a dance-off. Both competitors exhibited their best moves for a second time while the crowd — with everyone on their feet by this time — cheered and whistled their approval.

In the end, after one final vote, Camry retained her second-place spot. After sharing a hug with the brothers, she left the stage to tumultuous applause.

Brianna Lyons, a freshman early childhood education major, expressed her approval of the final verdict.

“I’m a big fan of Camry,” she said. “I was cheering the loudest at the end for her.”

First-place winners Brown and Frank said they chose their song, “The Kids are Alright,” as a message of optimism even in difficult times.

“We just saw a lot of students going through a lot of stress, given the political climate of our nation,” Brown said. “And a lot of times people just feel hopeless, and we just wanted them to know, the kids will be all right. We’ll be all right. Things go on.”

This message of hope and positivity pervaded the entire event. Earlier in the evening, junior vocal music education major Shannon Jones performed a rendition of the song “I’m Here” from Broadway musical “The Color Purple.”

“As a black individual, I feel like this song has a really important message to be shared,” Jones told the crowd before her performance. “Not very often do you hear that black is beautiful, and black is beautiful.”

Stazsa Phillips, who performed a musical interpretation of Maya Angelou’s poem “Phenomenal Woman,” shared a similar sentiment before her performance.

“Empowerment comes from being confident in your own female skin,” she said.

BSU will have many more events throughout Black History Month. Their next event is a poetry slam in the Maucker Union Hemisphere Lounge at 6 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 11, featuring guest poets Queen Gabby and Jalesha Johnson.

The Night at the Apollo event and all upcoming BSU events offer students an opportunity to express their cultural pride, said Brown.

“Live as who you are,” she said. “Live for your culture, and don’t be ashamed of that.”