Apollo Night, hosted by the Black Student Alliance (BSA), is back in full swing at Occidental after being virtual for two years. The event took place Feb. 24 at Thorne Hall with acts ranging from a jump rope routine by Angela Guglielmino* (senior) to an OxyBOOM performance. Drawing inspiration from performances at the historically Black Apollo Theater in Upper Manhattan, this event gives students the opportunity to showcase their talents while honoring Black History Month in the process.
According to BSA member Nick Graves (senior), Apollo Night traditions harken back to the original theater in New York City, which has influenced a large part of the Black community at Occidental.
“We have a tradition where people rub the stump for good luck before they go on stage. And it’s a thing that was taken from the Apollo Theater and so that was something that people wanted to carry on at Oxy,” Graves said.
The stump, in this case, refers to a tree stump that is brought on stage for good luck. Singer and performer Zuriyah Smith (first year) said she has grown up with a love for the Apollo Theater and its connection to Black culture.
“I used to watch old clips of live at the Apollo; it was a very significant thing for the Black community. It was about showcasing Black talent,” Smith said. “When I saw it was being presented here, I was like, that’s really cool. It’s important to take part in that as a Black person who has a talent I feel like can be showcased.”
According to BSA member Joy Mopeli (sophomore), a copious amount of work goes into preparing the event, requiring effort in a lot of different areas from BSA members.
“[There’s] extensive planning —we [met] over break to plan, [set] up auditions, creating that and making sure people are aware of the event,” Mopeli said. “The show’s been online for the past two years, so re-advertising the event and reintroducing it to the campus is what we’ve been working on.”
According to BSA member Nancy Massillon (senior), the club held auditions for the event over the course of two days. Prospective performers came in for a 10-minute slot during which they would show their talent. Massillon said post-audition the performers are thanked for their time, and are welcomed to the show on the spot, given that the club usually does not cut any performers.
Massillon said that she was very excited to showcase this years’ performers.
“I think we have a lot of talented people that I personally wouldn’t have seen if it wasn’t for Apollo Night,” Massillon said.
Alyssa Player (junior) sang an original song and said that in the days before the event, the performers were excited but had nervous jitters.
“[I’m] doing an original song that no one’s heard before,” Player said. “That’s very nerve-wracking, but I’m excited. I think it’ll be fun.”
Player said she had been following a rigorous practice schedule in order to be prepared for the show, and had been practicing every day before the performance. Similarly, Smith said she had also been doing many run throughs of her song.
“My process is just listen to the song a million times,” Smith said.
According to Smith, this semester there was a real sense of camaraderie between the organizers of the event and the performers around the show, despite it being a competition.
“I’m not really in it for the competition. I didn’t even know it was a competition at first,” Smith said. “Mostly I want people to enjoy it, and I want people to be proud of it.”
Massillon also said that the event was a great way for students to come together, especially given the show doubles as a fundraiser for BSA.
“Even within BSA, I think Apollo night is a great opportunity for us to work together and collaborate more,” Massillon said. “It is open to Oxy students because it’s a fundraiser as well. So we want to show that anyone can join, anyone can watch the show. This is our biggest fundraiser every year.”
Mopeli echoed these sentiments, and said the success of the show came through the hard work put in by the organizers and performers. She also said the show is a great way to bring the school together.
“It is a BSA event, but it’s really for the whole school as well,” Mopeli said. “It’s a talent show, and so it’s been quite nice to just see all those sorts of different parts of campus come together to create this night. We want this to be space of joy.”
Guglielmino took first place, singers Alexis Chang (junior) and Kiarra Young (senior) shared second, and Player took third place.
*Angela Guglielmino is a Community News editor for The Occidental.
Contact Zoey Solomon at firstname.lastname@example.org.