Performance does matter

Historically, USI has always made a point to provide a variety of entertainment at the many annual events on campus. Unfortunately, the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Luncheon this past Monday hints at a sharp and particularly worrying downturn in the scale of such events.

The latest example of this was Monday during the MLK luncheon, keynoted by Major General Barrye Price. This continues the university’s long-running tradition of inviting prominent African Americans to speak to the student body about the fight spearheaded by King for civil rights and about the ongoing struggles for equality faced by the African American community today.

However, there was something noticeably absent from the event: entertainment.

At first glance, that sounds like a base observation, like I’m missing the point of the event entirely. But let’s put this into context.

Previous years have always had the keynote speaker’s presentation accompanied by some form of performance piece, and it has always been a performance analogous with the interests of the African American community as a whole.

Previous MLK luncheons have had percussion bands laying down drumlines, step teams stomping out powerful beats and contributions by the talented individuals from Designed by Grace, be it in the form of their dance teams or their Gospel choir.

In the end, these performances are an inexorable part of African American culture.

It’s a shame this year didn’t see them present. And, on a decidedly less troubling note, when you consider the gradual downsizing of the university ‘sSpringFest festivities, to the point where concerts at its tail-end are now a thing of the past, one could be forgiven for looking at these changes as a whole and wondering, “Well, what am I paying for?”

Bringing things back to the luncheon and the purpose it serves for the student body, being made to wonder like that simply isn’t fair.

Monday’s proceedings were, as  they are every year, a proud reminder of the legacy of the civil rights movement and its most prominent face, but the performances provided by the community are very much a celebration of the culture that King fought for and represented.

I understand if their absence this year was the result of circumstances that couldn’t be helped, but that just makes it all the more imperative that they return in the future.