The Black Student Union is once again planning UB’s biggest fashion show of the year. And it’s turning back the clock this time.
Black Explosion, the club’s annual fashion show celebrating African American culture and unity, is honoring the Black Panther Party with March 7’s “Rebirth.” Black Explosion, which features a performance from rapper Sleepy Hallow, DJs PVO Sounds and an appearance from special guest host Cleotrapa, will hit the runway at the Marriott Hotel in Niagara Falls with doors opening at 5 p.m. and the event starting at 6 p.m. While last year’s Black Explosion, titled “3067,” demonstrated a thriving future world, this year’s theme is taking it back to honor cultural leaders.
The BSU was founded 53 years ago in 1967, one year after the formation of the Black Panther Party, a revolutionary political organization that inspired African Americans to take pride in their culture.
“It is so important to us because the Black Panther Party had such a huge influence on BSU [as a] club,” BSU secretary Polo Ramone said. “Essentially we started because of them.”
The annual fashion show has been successful since its origin and has been heralded as “the biggest fashion show in all of Western New York,” according to Olaide Lemoru, BSU’s Black Women United Coordinator. Through their hard work and preparation, BSU members expect this year’s show to reclaim that title and more.
The show will celebrate the power of unity in the black community through fashion by acknowledging how the past shaped the present and how it is shaping the future. The clothes showcased in the event, some designed by designer Clavon Leonord whose work was recently featured in New York’s Fashion Week, will display how the black community has used fashion to define themselves through the years and continue to do so.
BSU President Florence Ayeni hopes this year’s Black Explosion will show students the cultural significance of the Black Panthers.
“Once you hear ‘Black Panther,’ people think of the Marvel movie instead of the actual party,” Ayeni said. “Which is kind of disheartening because of how much effort and how much influence that the Black Panther Party has had on our community.”
The show will emphasize this history and act as an educational tool, but BSU wants the event to be as entertaining and relatable as it is informational.
“Some of these students don’t know about the Black Panther Party, but they may know about majorette dancers or this rapper or this singer and stuff like that,” Ayeni said. “We’re trying to intertwine these two and lessen the seriousness but also push forward so students take something home.”
Preparing this year’s show to educate and entertain as well as satisfy each BSU e-board member’s vision of the event has been an obstacle, but BSU believes they have done just that.
“I think it has been a learning process,” Ayeni said. “You’re dealing with 15 other minds on the [BSU] e-board and everyone just wants the best for the show.”
BSU focused on finding performers who align with the theme and purpose of the event.
“Nowadays, us kids kind of follow people that aren’t the best influence,” said Lemoru. “So, we try to find people that stand for something and are within our budget that also pay respect to the Black Panther Party.”
Attendees will hear tunes they recognize during the performances, but in honor of the show’s themes of the Black Panther Party and respecting cultural roots, traditional African music will be featured as well.
“There’s going to be a good variety with the music involved,” said Ramone. “It’s new school, but we have to pay tribute to the Black Panthers, that’s the whole point of the show, so we’re definitely going to include some old school aspects.”
Ayeni believes that this year’s Black Explosion is different than those that preceded it. This time around, the UB community will feel the club’s dedication and a “history of culture and love” in the black community.
“Honestly, I think you’ll see how hard we’ve worked. It’s not just UB, the Buffalo community is tying into this,” Ayeni said. “It is one for the books.”
BSU believes that this year’s Black Explosion will display the black community’s influence on UB and beyond.
“The power of Black Explosion is in the name itself,” Lemoru said. “It’s to show people that we are excellent, we are vibrant, we are impactful, we are an explosion and we make a difference.”
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