Snap, Snap, Release:

Annie Norcia

Events in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. took place all over the Colgate campus on Monday. The day-long commemoration, featuring workshops and discussions, culminated in a fitting, uniquely Colgate celebration: the return of “Release Night” in Donovan’s Pub.

A tradition created by the class of 2002’s Tehmekah MacPherson, “Release Night” started as a chance for students to “let go”- be it in verse, story or song- and share what was on their minds. While such events occurred more regularly in past years, time had lapsed tradition. Senior Malik Wright, President of the Black Student Union, is hoping to see more like it in the months to come.

The Black Student Union (BSU) organization is integral to cultural events planning on campus. From forums on race and politics to perspective, the BSU core crew – 12 strong – is ever-present on campus. With the help of ALST department, they have several events over Family Weekend, and are responsible for fall’s Black Solidarity Day. The role of the organization on campus as Wright sees it is in, “getting voices heard.”

“It offers both support and networking,” Wright explained, as active alumni bring the organization’s numbers to over 80 members. “With the racial climate report coming up, [the BSU is] a chance for us to inject our perspective into the dialogue.”

“Release Night” was the work of many dedicated members. Seniors Wright, Thomas Dilworth, Courtney Richardson, Marcelina James and Freddy Sessions; juniors Jamil Jude and Gabby Barrow, sophomore Crystal Jones and first-years Alyssa Arnold, Henry Grant and Rey Baldwin helped the revival get off the ground. Also helping to coordinate the event was Ernest Daily, the staff advisor through the Dean of the College.

Wright felt the biggest challenge the BSU faced was advertising. They had become used to organizing, he explained – calling in the mountains of pizza, wings and soda, securing a venue and creating a list of willing participants. A list of performers was created before the event, and volunteers were encouraged to ‘release’ after the scheduled performers. It was a challenge only accepted by charismatic host, junior Jamil Jude, who ended the program in uproarious laughter and “snapping.”

The attendees got a quick tutorial in “Snap…Release” etiquette upon arrival, to remind veterans and educate newbies alike. After the performer’s introduction, the audience snapped their fingers twice, and said “release” in unison. Though the correct response to the performer’s work (clapping, yelling, snapping?) fluctuated, it was ultimately decided that their performance should be celebrated with snapping. Jude was animated in his explanation of procedure, and the crowd laughed along with him.

The energy in the room was positive; it was a laid back group, enjoying one another’s company and having fun. Scheduled performers included sophomore Neli Semela, who started the evening with an easy, lyric verse. Will Redmond followed, comfortable with the crowd and able to command an audience. Thomas Dilworth read his own work, evoking a strong emotional response and Mike Walden read a poignant piece based upon his youth. Sophomore Meriden Weems performed as well, with a powerful poem about identity, expectation and self understanding. The topics were varied: Family, culture and truth were examined, identity, faith and human connection addressed.

Though Release Night was a great way to celebrate a successful day and reflect on traditions past, the BSU is ever looking forward. With a host of new events in the works and fresh ideas percolating, the president of the Black Student Union is excited.

“We’re ready to create some new traditions,” Wright said.