On Friday night, the Cadence Step Team held its eighth annual gala commemorating the conclusion of Black History Month and emphasizing the importance of self-empowerment.
The semi-formal event brought together over 150 students of all cultures and backgrounds for a night of free food and live performances in SAC Ballroom A.
The theme this year, Celebrating Y(Our) Truth, encouraged every student to share and embrace their “truths” and the qualities that make them who they are, regardless of society’s stereotypes.
“The goal is to get people to have a safe space where they can talk about who they are and not just who they look like,” Cheyenne Vlymen-Williams, a senior mathematics major, as well as the secretary and former president of Cadence, said.
Students were given the chance to anonymously write what their “truth” was on a card and hang it on the Wall of Truth, a colorful board located at the side of the auditorium.
Throughout the night, students came over to the Wall and read each other’s unique truths.
Vlymen-Williams said that the reason the Step Team hosts this gala every year is to collaborate with the Black History Month Committee and the other clubs and students that participate in organizing Stony Brook’s Black History Month event series, with the aim of educating and celebrating what it means to be black.
Stony Brook’s Dean of Students, Dr. Timothy Ecklund, attended the event to show his support for Cadence and join in the night’s festivities.
“They invited me to come,” he said. “When groups invite me, I think it’s a good thing for me to come. I’m really glad they thought of me.”
He added that this gala is “an extension of our Black History Month celebration which is a part of the Dean of Students’ Office of multicultural Affairs.”
The gala, hosted by Cadence step-coordinator Jocelyn Jeffrey, kicked off with musical performances by Stony Brook Live and the Stony Brook High C’s, followed by a spoken-word group that came all the way from SUNY New Paltz, Urban Lyrics.
The auditorium, echoing with dozens of conversations, fell silent when the five members of Urban Lyrics performed their powerful spoken-word poetry.
Audience members usually snap their fingers to appreciate spoken word performances, but at the end of Urban Lyrics’s poem entitled “I Speak,” the crowd was cheering. The poem discussed social injustice in general as well as in the black community and represented those whose voices are not heard.
“I speak for the misunderstood individuals who don’t fit the norms of society and are constantly being pressured to fit a standard when they are obviously limited edition,” three of the members said together.
The performance was followed by a speech by Robbye Kinkade, a clinical assistant professor in Stony Brook’s health
Her 13-minute speech fit with the night’s theme and focused on how people of all skin colors and backgrounds, in her words, “collectively represent a resilient people.”
She then narrowed her discussion to the topic of black people’s resilience and how they have managed to rise in today’s society despite the visibly lasting impact of slavery.
“Black students represent 6 percent of the student population here at Stony Brook University,” Kinkade said. “You are the elite indeed, but you must remain humble… It is my prayer that you become grateful and aware and give thanks when you think of your personal experience, your truth, that has allowed your resilience to shine.”
The Stony Brook University Gospel Choir followed next with a performance of “Amazing Grace.”
Then, Cadence Step Team junior advisor Zoe Sumner performed a spoken word poem she wrote, entitled “Bentrification.”
A buffet-style dinner commenced at 9:15 p.m. with a selection of dishes including Caribbean jerk chicken, BBQ chicken, rice and peas pilaf and fried plantains.
There was also a non-alcoholic Cadence signature cocktail for guests to enjoy.
The second set of performances included a solo act by Cadence president Cary Lamb.
He danced to the song “Alright” by Kendrick Lamar, which won two Grammys this year for Best Rap Song and Best
The final scheduled performance was by Stony Brook student Khairika Al-Sinani, who sung two R&B songs in an elegant red gown
The songs included “If I Ain’t Got You” by Alicia Keys.
Of course, the night would not be complete without a step performance by Cadence.
Although the team was not planning to put on a show, it knew what the crowd wanted.
The female members immediately removed their high heels and the group stepped together to one song in their dresses and suits.
The crowd stood and cheered to end a successful night and a successful performance.