UVM’s Black Student Union (B.S.U.) teamed up with the Mansfield University Cultural Dance Team in a fashion show and dance presentation Friday, Feb. 23.
The “Ebony Fashion Show,” held in Ira Allen Chapel, was a fundraiser to benefit the vic-tims of Hurricane Katrina that struck several states, most notably Louisiana, in the summer of 2005.
The event was attended predominately by ethnic minority students and was intended as a cultural gathering to celebrate the community of minorities on campus. According to the Master of Ceremonies, Edwin Owusu, it was also an attempt to foster support for addressing race related issues within the UVM community.
Owusu, who went by his stage name S.I.N., is a Burlington resident and UVM alumnus, originally from Ghana.
Owusu said the reason that the black community was so well represented at the show was because the minority students at UVM do not see black history as a thing of the past, but as a continuing struggle for equality.
For Owusu, the racist spirit of UVM’s Kakewalk has pro-duced a legacy that still exists today. Kakewalk was a long-standing minstrel tradition at UVM as the hugely popu-lar highlight of the annual Winter Festival. Greek organizations were di-rectly responsible for putting on Kakewalk until the late 1960s, when it was finally recognized as racially offensive by the vast majority of UVM students and staff and consequently abolished.
In this sense, the fashion show was a celebration of modern hip-hop and traditional African culture. The music that the dancers performed to almost always had elements of both in it, and the fashion show portion of the evening had themes with titles like “Going to the Club” and “Back to our Roots” among others.
“UVM has never seen anything like this,” Jamillah Moore, president of the B.S.U. and one organizer of the event, said.
This novelty was not lost on the white audience members either.
“One of the things that struck me was that we are a minority [here] … culturally it was not a stoic, white audience,” Deb Boopsie, a white parent, said. “This was a great fundraiser, we believe in what they are doing … it’s disappointing that there weren’t more people here, especially white and older people,” Boopsie’s partner, Louise Brooke, added.
The funds that the fashion show raised will benefit the victims of Hurricane Katrina. Moore said the club did not want to simply give the money to the local Burlington chapter of the Red Cross for fear that the funds will be divested to other issues. Currently the B.S.U. is seeking another non-profit agency to give the money to.