By Marcaela Allen, PWHS 11th Grade
Royalty and unapologetic expression were the concepts of Plymouth Whitemarsh High School's Black Cultural Awareness club's night of cultural exhibition. On Friday, May 3, 2019, PW's BCA club hosted their first annual fashion show entitled "Ade Shades of Brown," taking the title word after the Yoruban word for "royalty".
Treasure Greene, a sophomore member of the BCA's Leadership Committee said, "In an age where the black community struggles with issues of colorism and self-loathing, we made sure to include all 'Shades of Brown' in our show to emphasize the beauty of all African Americans."
Black Cultural Awareness: That doubles as both the name and the mission of PW's BCA club. BCA, which serves as PW's Black Student Union, strives to raise awareness of issues and cultural achievements of Black Culture.
The fashion show, which featured local black-owned clothing lines, vendors, and entertainment, was entirely coordinated and produced by members of the BCA club. The event spotlighted local African American designers, performers, and vendors in order to showcase Black culture, expression, and beauty in a positive way.
BCA sponsor Kim Williams recounted how, "the vision of showing African American people in a positive light, supporting each other for a good cause, was just beautiful."
Functioning as an outlet for Afro-artistic representation, the fashion show also acted as a fundraiser, raising over $1,500 for the Lupus Foundation of America, a non-profit organization that researches cures and treatments for the disease that ails primarily people of color.
PW's BCA has worked on many events in the past, such as their annual Black History Month unity walk and fundraising block parties, but this one is especially remarkable due to its focus on highlighting Black talent and expression in its various forms. Some of the designers and performers featured were Plymouth Whitemarsh's own students and alumni. These designers include Quon Cook (Beyond Blessed), Katelynn Williams (DreamFit Collection), Malikah Major (Beaded by Peaches), Yahmina Martin (Go Chanel), and current senior Kyree Pendleton (Concentre).
BCA committee members PW senior Bryant Martin and sophomore Treasure Greene emceed the show.
"I felt like it was good for me to see PW doing something so black- because being out here in the suburbs, in a school like ours, sometimes you don't see yourself as much as you'd prefer," Martin said. BCA wanted to demonstrate not only to themselves, but also to their community, that their culture is expressive and beautiful.
The show also included various performances by PW's own students, such as a soulful solo by Jazmyn Gee, a touching duet by Bryant Martin and Bree Middleton, and a spirited dance performance by Jakiah Belton, Issa Crawley, Kylis Pendleton, and Damera Wallace. Plymouth Whitemarsh alumni Alex Williams also displayed his talents by rapping an original song. Aviance, a female singing trio from Philadelphia, opened the show with "Lift Every Voice and Sing" and also performed two original songs. PW graduate Justin Brown served as DJ.
BCA was also aided by Antoine Johnson, an organizer of Philly Fashion week and head of House of Talent, as he helped to brainstorm, organize, and give guidance to the club's vision. Chanel Williams-Smith, PW alum and co-founder of the Torrey Smith Family Fund, helped coordinate the event set-up and decoration, and local model Jackie Watkins taught the students runway walking and helped with run-of-show. In addition to the PW-connected designers, other local clothing lines featured were Reserv|d Row, All Pressure, All$um, Freek Ugly, KMD, Epic Life and Life University. Torrey Smith, former Eagle and two-time Super Bowl champion, also made a guest appearance, escorting Lupus survivor Sabrina Corbin, whose son Nasir Sweet also rapped at the show.
The show received rave reviews.
"The outfits and music were amazing! Definitely a show to remember, and all for such a great cause!" commented PW junior LeAnne Khuu.
While the show itself focused primarily on showcasing Black talent, the club made sure that the event was all-inclusive, making sure that everyone was welcome and encouraged to partake in a night of celebration.
"It was really inspiring to see that all the kids' hard work paid off when they came together to put together such a dynamic event," PW teacher and BCA faculty advisor Amanda Edwards said. "And by having a sold-out show, with standing-room only, the kids felt supported by their community."