The Africana, Latin American, Asian American and Native American (ALANA) Cultural Center hosts regular Open Mic nights, and the success of Saturday night’s performance makes it easy to see why. Anyone who hasn’t gone to an open mic at ALANA is missing out; more than 60 students were in the conference room at 9:30 p.m. on Saturday night and there was still more than enough pizza, chicken wings and soda for everyone. The atmosphere was casual, with plenty of time to talk with friends and go back for seconds (or thirds) before the speakers started.
The night coincidentally wrapped up a weekend with Hill L. Waters, a performing duo of two “artist scholars” who use performance for social justice, education and healing. Dominique C. Hill – the first part of the group’s name – is a Colgate alum, and she and her partner, Durell M. Callier, held six events at Colgate this weekend. First on the agenda was a Women’s Studies Brown Bag on Friday titled, “Black Girls, and Queer Boys, and the Margins, Oh My: Doing and Thinking through Interdisciplinarity and Vulnerability in Research.” A title that long should be a tough act to follow, but later that day the pair held a fireside chat in ALANA. Saturday, Hill L. Waters held four workshops on “Activism, Anger and Social Justice,” “Revolution Begins in the Self,” “Anger as Activism” and “Building and Sustaining Critical Coalitions,” lasting most of the day. As doctoral candidates and artists-in-residence for the weekend, the pair had given a lot of time to the Colgate community already before the Open Mic even began, which only made their performance more impressive.
Co-sponsored by Women’s Studies, the Office of Undergraduate Studies, ALANA, the Dean of the College Division and Residential Life, the Open Mic was titled, “Who’s Mad?” and focused on identities, different ways of being mad and life at Colgate. Audience participation, in the form of tweeting or talking, was highly encouraged, and everything from being “madly in love” to “mad at certain people” came up. The choir, fresh out of Gospel Fest and ready to contribute, even serenaded all February birthdays with a resounding rendition of “Happy Birthday” that brought down the roof.
The highlight of the night, though, was the performers who had signed up. Students, interns, adults and Hill L. Waters themselves had come ready to perform, with stories, songs and spoken word poetry. Hill L. Waters also emceed, presiding over everything from an original performance by senior singer/songwriter/guitarist Karl Jackson to a Twitter complaint that Jackson had not yet recorded his untitled hit. The song, written while Jackson was in Japan, was performed for his boyfriend, together with a fantastic cover of a Frank Ocean song.
Other performances included stunning covers of “Hear My Call” by Jill Scott and “Fairytale” by Sara Bareilles, two original pieces by Drea Finley ’13, a list of things people shouldn’t feel obligated to be and a piece from Hill L. Waters in memory of Mark Carson, who was killed last May. For many students, it was a night of release – the refrain of the night – while for others it was educational, emotional and validating. Everyone in the audience participated late into the night. This Open Mic was place to air troubles and a space to be different.