Black is Bold, Black is Beautiful
2023 Black Student Union Fashion Show Review
March 22, 2023
Long Reach’s annual Black Student Union Fashion Show didn’t just open with a bang. It opened with a reaffirmation of black life and a beautiful, powerful rendition of “Lift Every Voice and Sing” by the Long Reach Orchestra. Complementing the sweeping spectacle of violins and cellos were the angelic voices of the electrifying Dana Goins, Alyssa King-Lewis, and Madison Lee. It was at that very moment that the true magic of the fashion show was unraveled (in no less than five minutes of it starting); faint singing from the audience synergized with the soaring vocals of the impressive soloist women. This once faint singing graduated into a roaring applause from the crowd as the show’s stunning introduction concluded. Everyone was happy to be there. And the whole rest of the show was still in store.
Just like that, Beyoncé’s “Break My Soul” echoed from the speakers and models poured in from the back of the auditorium. They strutted down the aisle, moving in perfect synchronization with the booming music. The fluidity and raw confidence in each step evoked wild cheers from all throughout the audience. “You won’t break my soul,” Beyoncé belted as each model marched onto the stage. Nothing could stop them; nothing could break their souls.
A consistent theme in the show was overcoming adversary and broken souls—turning narratives of sadness and loss into grand, sweeping demonstrations of black love and art in an extraordinarily touching and anthemic manner. One of the primary examples of this was found in the show’s meditations on the Soul movement, portrayed through the indubitably inspiring Soul Survivor Walkway, where the models strutted through the vast stage with faces of seriousness and unrelenting confidence in all gray outfits, displaying their Herculean strength and total bravery against the hatred and naysayers of the world that attack the Black movement. An ingenious double entendre is found in the show’s constant referral to the “soul,” which act both as a calling card to the Soul movement but also the durability of the black community.
The strongest element of the entire presentation is its ability to weave a whole audience into a collective bundle of overflowing joy and pride. Audience members screamed, chanted, clapped and sung as every model marched up to the stage. Black is beautiful, the show emphasizes time and time again, and even when lamenting the darkest moments of the black experience it’s never to evoke despair and misery but to highlight the black experience as a source of strength among the community and its special power in surviving some of the most devastating vignettes of history. Never fret, the show declares, because black is beautiful—and nothing can break beautiful. The show discusses the tragedies and triumphs of figures such as Harriet Tubman, Whipped Peter, and Frederick Douglas; with every tragedy, we are reminded of the eventual triumph that follows after.
Another powerful point of the show is that it doesn’t just focus on one shade of black culture, but instead offers an entire mosaic. One moment the show will discuss the cultural conditions of the Harlem Renaissance and the ways black people in the U.S. would wear their clothes and conduct themselves. Another moment, the show will shed light on African traditions through their clothes and music.
Israel Isidahomen, model and president of the Black Student Union, expressed similar sentiments: “I think that the way we choreographed everything with the storytelling and the way it was sorted out— the way we incorporated African wear with black, African American hip-hop wear—it helped connect the cultural blockade that occurs between, say, African immigrants and African Americans,” Isidahomen articulated. Not only did modeling help Isidahomen come out of his comfort zone, but it worked as a way for him to express the most authentic parts of himself.
Behind the scenes, a step-by-step process informed many of the runways and displays. To Taylor Jeudy, a model in the show, a real sense of community was found in the hard work poured into each runway and set piece. “We were given the song, and then… Ms. Covington’s daughter, she helped us with the choreography and helped coordinate how we were going to walk. We had some input as well,” said Jeudy. “I gained a new sense of family from the fashion [show]. It also helped my confidence. I’m not big on new people, so when I’m put in a place where I have to do things with people I’m not familiar with, I get nervous, but this experience changed that for me.”
Of all of the set pieces and displays, it is hard to choose a favorite. The “Everyday We Lit” rendition was received with much dancing, laughter and love. The “Keep Rising” rendition was also a gracious display of black women and their ethereal beauty.
Isidahomen was ecstatic about the positive reception to the show, and displayed an eagerness to work on the project again; “I want to give a huge thanks to EthniCITY and DJ TWO 40UR. Without them, we wouldn’t even have the show. A huge thanks to Ms. Covington and Ms. Grice as they worked hard everyday to put the show on. I hope it happens every single year and they never give up. It helps raise money and it helps bring the community together—it’s a great thing for the black community.”
At the very end, each and every member of this project came together, dancing, laughing and swaying to the beat of the funky music. And at that very moment, it becomes very clear just how powerful and important these projects are. There’s culture, art and community to be found in the collective black experience, and best believe that as long as projects such as the BSU Fashion Show exist, the world will never forget just how beautiful black truly is.