Arts and spirituality for UMOJA Week


Poems were presented at an UMOJA event on Thursday at the ARCH




On Thursday, UMOJA Week hosted an event celebrating arts and religion.

Students gathered in the ARCH Building for “Arts and Spirituality in Black History” performances and discussions surrounding the intersection of arts and faith. UMOJA Week is several days celebrating black heritage at Penn. UMOJA is the umbrella organization for black student groups.

Wharton sophomore and UMOJA Internal Affairs Chair Joshua Butler hoped students would see this event as “a reinforcement in how important religion still is and how important religion is to performing arts is in the black community.”

Second-year School of Social Policy & Practice student and 2012 College alumna Nicole Royer praised the collaboration of the two groups for bringing Christianity and the black community to the forefront on campus.

African American Arts Alliance members and College sophomore JaLinda Dunovant , College junior Kristie Gadson and College senior Alexis Van Eyken started off the night with poetry readings about the struggles of slavery. The three later recited an original piece about the impact of the Civil Rights Movement.

Royer mentioned the latter piece as a performance that stood out to her. “[The poem] showed the history of what the black community has gone through and used the art form to express how they’re feeling,” Royer said.

College junior and 4A Vice President Alexander Rafi also recited an excerpt from a speech originally given by President Barack Obama.

The event featured performances of spirituals like “Kumbaya, My Lord,” “I Open My Mouth to the Lord” and “We Shall Overcome” by New Spirit of Penn Gospel Choir.

The event concluded with a discussion moderated by College juniors Stephanie Jideama and Victoria Ford , who are also members of black Christian group God’s Property.

College senior Janelle McDermoth appreciated the discussion questions raised by Jideama and Ford. “It’s important to acknowledge the history of something and to speak about it in a modern context,” she said. “It’s important to understand how it’s relevant for us today and how it influences us as Christians and as artists.”

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