Alpha Phi Alpha’s 8th Annual B.L.A.C.K. Performing Arts Showcase

President speaks on how this event is for everyone


Briahna Switzer

Photo of crowd cheering taken by Briahna Switzer

On Sunday night at 6:06pm Alpha Phi Alpha hosted their 8th Annual B.L.A.C.K Performing Arts Show in the David Student Union Ballroom . The time 6:06pm is not a typo, but instead is completely intentional. “‘06 actually Represents our fraternity we were founded on December 4, 1906,” Mark Jessup, a member of Alpha Phi Alpha explained. The Acronym B.L.A.C.K stands for Beauty, Love, Achievement, Culture, and Knowledge. This acronym represents the type of community Alpha Phi Alpha strives to create with this event. The show included art presented by black artists who currently attend Christopher Newport University (CNU), live in the Newport News area, and one highschool student. “ We try to reach out to the community. We try to start first at CNU. We encourage students who do have talents to reach out to us. We sent out emails through specialty student art departments, but we also reached out to the community. We have a community outreach with a bunch of different brothers,” Elias Mattar the president of Alpha Phi Alpha said. 

The first performer was Travis Bartee, a 2020 graduate of CNU, who sang “Make You Mine” and engaged with the audience well. The audience welcomed his engagement and met Bartee with warm applause. The next performer was Sanai Williams. She presented her variety of art that she has been working on since high school. A piece that stood out to the audience was called “Keep Quiet.” Williams described the piece of art as a self portrait of her and her friend with some magazine scraps. Williams also displayed some digital art that she likes to do in her free time.

There were also members of the Newport News community performing and vending. One performer was K. Russ, a saxophone player, who is currently in “Vibrations the Band.” Another member of the Newport News community was Zamar Steward. Steward was showcasing his upcoming art studio that will be in Newport News called “Black Sovereign.” A quote from his mission statement that describes the studio is, “New world that does not follow the norm.”  The studio is meant to be a place where people can create lite animations, music and visuals, feature art, original merchandise, and digital products for content creators. His website that has information about him, his studio, and his merchandise is 

O’Brain Holloway is a high school junior from Bethel High School. Holloway received a $100 scholarship from Alpha Phi Alpha as he continues to prepare for college. He gave a marvelous rendition of Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. Majority of the crowd stood after his passionate presentation.

After Holloway’s performance was Derrick Pough Junior singing “Song for You” by Donny Hathaway.  Once again the majority of the crowd stood and gave an emphatic round of applause. 

Showcasing his new clothing brand was current CNU student Joshua Stokes who was also acting as a vendor at the event. On his website his mission statement says, “J’s Block designs universal garments, promotes positivity and peace, supports community development and inclusion, while connecting people with non profits across the globe.” One of his most recognizable shirts has a print of a picture he took in Cape Town, Africa while studying abroad.

The final performance was Elias Mattar. He staged a spoken word poem that was inspired by a YouTube video he saw of the spoken word poem “To the Girl I Met at Starbucks.” A line that got the crowd excited was, “Like the dance we can both come in the middle because my side of the story is just as important as your side.” “I write a little bit on the side, and when I was inspired by it (“To the Girl I Met at Starbucks”) I started figuring out how it could apply to my life, and because we had this event coming up I thought it was perfect to personify black woman as one being,” Mattar said. 

At the end of the event there were multiple vendors to buy an assortment of hoodies, shirts, and shoes. One was Jamal Madison, a Newport News local. His brand is False Fantasies which contains hoodies and shirts with original designs. His website is Shai Franklin was selling shoes and a PS5 that she earned from raffle ticket sales. Her Instagram for her shop is @sshai_store. 

When asked about the last remarks of the event Jessup said, “It’s open to the community, especially if you guys have talents. Entrepreneurship, singing, dancing, jokes, whatever your talent is you are more than welcome to come here, especially for young black businesses and young black entrepreneurs to come here and voice their opinions and really show what they have to offer the community so they can continue to grow.” 

Mattar added, “This is not a black exclusive event. We get that a lot. It’s for Black History Month, and we do have only black performers. But in terms of the audience it is definitely open to the community, and more people need to know that.”

Alpha Phi Alpha plans on having this event again around the same time next year.