Students celebrate diversity with soul music

by Kelli Hennessey

To commemorate Black History Month this February, Cultural Events Coordinator senior Ashton Skinner, worked with the Swing and Ballroom Dance Club and the Black Student Union to hold a swing dance lesson followed by a Sodexo-catered dinner of soul food and a live concert featuring Grace Love & the True Loves held Saturday, Feb. 21.

The event began at 7 p.m. in the Multipurpose Room of the HUB with a lesson sponsored by the Swing and Ballroom Dance Club and was attended by approximately 16 student dancers and several members of the band. After the dance lesson, a meal of fried chicken, macaroni and cheese, greens and pie was served while students waited for the concert to begin.

Tacoma native Grace Love blends soul and funk into music that is described on her Facebook page as “a fusion of human nature mixed in with sprinkles of heartache, and chocolate velvet melodies.” The soul singer is backed by a five-piece band and played for an hour, adding in an encore after an enthusiastic request from the crowd. Love’s set included her new single, “Fire,” as well as a well-received blues-infused cover of “No Diggity.” Love’s enthusiasm, coupled with the smell of soul food, brought in a crowd. What started as 20 students quickly became 40, then 80.

Students kept the dance floor occupied throughout most of the band’s set.

Love also took some time to speak to the audience about Black History Month and encouraged others to speak with her about the connection between soul music and Black History Month.

“The best thing about celebrating something that a lot of people don’t understand is to educate them. Not tell them what they should know, but to educate them,” Love said.

“It’s nice to be a part of something educational and not just, you know, a show type of place … this is fun because we get to bring something culturally cool to the campus … most times, people tie race to soul music and blues music and all different kinds of music, but I think it’s just something that is a feeling, and if you can create that kind of feeling in a group of people who have never experienced it, you’re going to get a reaction that you never experienced,” Love said.

Senior Jade Faletoi also thought the participation in the event was positive.

“I was really hoping that people would come to this, and it seemed like a lot of people came, [which was good] because this is an event that should be happening at Whitworth and people should be coming to this kind of stuff  [because] when you don’t have stuff like this, it kind of sends a message that you don’t belong here, that your culture doesn’t belong here, so diversity events like this especially make people feel at home, and it kind of creates a space for more students to be here,” Faletoi said.

Skinner organized the event with the goal of exposing new cultures to Whitworth students and hoped to create a fun, casual event.

“I think it is going to be a good time for some people to come into Black History Month and celebrate by what they already do, which is share food, share music, have fun,” he said. “I tried to make an event that is right in the HUB so people will just kind of wander in. I hope to get people to come in whether they were planning on it or not. I think it’s important to have events that aren’t so formal, and I think this will be one of those events. This is going to be the kind where people can chill and hang out.”

Grace Love & the True Love’s single “Fire” will be available in April, and can be streamed now through links on the band’s Facebook page.

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