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Kweli rocks campus

Published: Monday, April 14, 2008

Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 19:01

Campus got a dose of pop culture on Saturday night as the Black Student Forum (BSF) presented a concert by hip-hop artist Talib Kweli. Several thousand students filled the arena for the show, which also featured performances by many other artists, including a Boston College alumnus. The concert was only one part of an eventful Black Family Weekend, which also included Spike Lee's appearance on campus on Wednesday, an awards brunch, and the ALC Showdown.

"The whole thing with the ALC Showdown was a partnership between ALC and the Black Student Forum," said Dan Sievers, vice president of the Undergraduate Government of BC (UGBC) and A&S '09. "I don't think that it would have happened without this partnership." While the UGBC provided some funding as well as marketing support, BSF co-presidents Jessica Baker, A&S '08, and Maryann Odusanya, A&S '08, said that they received support from a wide range of on-campus groups. Among organizations acknowledged for their contributions to the event were the AHANA Leadership Council (ALC), the Organization of Latin American Affairs, and L'Association Haitienne.

Baker and Odusanya said that the administration was also very supportive in making the event a possibility, including Sheilah Shaw Horton, interim vice president of student affairs, and Karl Bell, assistant dean for student development.

"This year has been a particularly difficult year for us with funding," Baker said. "This year, we had a great response from many other cultural clubs as well as the undergraduate student government." From the show on Saturday, one would never expect that the BSF was experiencing financial difficulties. Presented on the same stage that hosted the ALC Showdown on Thursday, four opening acts and Kweli brought hip-hop to Conte.

Offkey, a Boston-based band founded in 2008, was the first to take the stage. They were followed by DJ Maverik, a BC alumnus who has built a presence on Boston radio. He began his career as a DJ while at BC and continues to perform often in the Boston area.

Maverik played double duty for the night, also acting as emcee. He introduced all of the acts, forging a connection between the performers and the crowd.

Rebel Starr, a dynamic act made up of rappers Back Wordz and Likwuid, brought their performance to the stage. The program for the night billed them as a group concerned with "political and socio-economic consciousness." In fact, many of the night's acts displayed a heightened level of social consciousness, and an awareness of social issues pervaded their lyrics, but certainly not at the expense of entertaining and expressive music.

The final act before Kweli, Who Dem?, energized the crowd with their rhymes and free T-shirts. The group won the 2006 Underground Music Award for best rap group.

Though the opening acts were well received, the crowd began to grow a bit restless as two hours went by and Kweli was still nowhere in sight. He took the stage around 9 p.m. The crowd responded enthusiastically to Kweli's performance, which kept up a constant energy for his hour-long set.

"Response to the concert was great," Baker said. She said that BSF released about 2,000 tickets for the concert, and while final box office numbers were still not in, she believed that sales approached sell-out levels.

The idea for a concert was a new one for Black Family Weekend, which is in its 36th year. "Jessica and I sort of knew that we wanted to have a year of change," Odusanya said. "For the majority of Black Family Weekend's 36 years, the Saturday show has traditionally been a fashion show," Baker said.

Baker and Odusanya began working on the weekend's events as soon as they arrived on campus in September, they said. They said that they looked at a list of a number of possible artists, with an eye toward acts that would appeal to a cross section of the student body. "Talib Kweli stood out for us," Odusanya said. "We sort of knew from the beginning that he would draw a lot of people on campus."

The concert was a success by all accounts. "We decided that a concert would be a great way to broaden our scope and attract more people," Baker said.

"I've just heard great feedback from all of the events," said Jenniffer Castillo, president of the UGBC and A&S '08.

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