African Student Gala celebrates culture and heritage

African Student Gala celebrates culture and heritage

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Hundreds braved the unwarranted snowstorm to gather at the Wharton Center on Saturday, November 15 for the 29th annual African Student Gala, hosted by the African Student Union (ASU).

The 2014 African Student Gala, “Afroexposure: The Awakening of African Culture,” was “a wedding of westernization and African culture,” said this year’s emcee, Dulo.

Students, faculty and culture lovers from all walks of life were welcomed to celebrate the diversities of African heritage. Weston McJames, a junior from Okemos, Mich., learned of the event from his professor.

“I’m a political science major with an African studies specialization. My Swahili professor mentioned [the gala] and I thought it would be fun to attend,” he said.

“I really enjoyed the dancing,” said junior Lindsay Strong.

From 5-7:30 p.m., spectators watched as actors performed a romantic play, models flaunted traditional African garb and musicians and dancers shined on stage.

Although the African Student Union is housed at MSU, the gala is a national and global collaboration.

“Two years ago we invited T-Boy, an African comedian from England. This year we brought dancers from Wayne State and flew Dulo in from Baltimore,” said ASU’s former Vice President, Ekenamolisa Ofili.

In years past, students attended the gala from other universities in Michigan and across the Midwest.

“The gala is a big deal,” Ofili continued, “It’s definitely the biggest event we host. We spend a lot of time organizing and planning who we want to invite.”

When ASU isn’t hosting events, it is the ultimate resource for an African student’s transition to Michigan State.

“I’ll never forget Brooke Cutler. She was an amazing lady in charge of bringing international students to MSU. She literally picked us up as soon as we arrived, took us out to dinner and told us about ASU,” Ofili said.

For more information about the African Student Union or upcoming events, visit ASU’s website at

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10 dope female artists you need to know

10 dope female artists you need to know



Jillian Rose Banks—known by the mononym, BANKS—is a rising star in the world of alternative R&B. Her seemingly overnight success is due to her friendship with Phil Collins daughter, Lily Collins, who passed along her samples in the industry. BANKS’ bewitching voice and brazen love songs are a refreshing sound that caught the attention of The Weeknd, whom she opened for on his 2013 tour. Her song, “Waiting Game,” was featured in Victoria’s Secret’s 2013 holiday ad and in an episode of Grey’s Anatomy this month. She starts touring in Europe this November.

Lianne La Havas

Lianne La Havas

This British singer/songwriter has a voice that will make your hairs stand on end and lyrics that will tug at your soul. To date she has released three EPs, five singles and a debut album “Is Your Love Big Enough?” Her incredible voice has won the hearts of influential artists such as Bon Iver and Prince. If you’re looking for a good cry or just a sniffle or two, be sure to download “Lost and Found” and “Tease Me.”

FKA Twigs

FKA Twigs

The UK artist, born Tahliah Debrett Barnett, started her creative career as a backup dancer before she pursued music. Her name, which stands for “Formerly Known As Twigs,” comes from how her joints crack and pop when she dances. Twigs, well-known for her unique image and haunting experimental songs, has been very busy over the past year. Her debut album, LP1, was released in September. Earlier this month, she premiered a video collaboration with Google Glass entitled #throughglass, and she’s reportedly dating Twilight star, Robert Pattinson.

Little Dragon


The Swedish electronic band, Little Dragon, is led by vocalist Yukimi Nagano. Their music is an eclectic mix of multiple genres. From digital jazz in, “After the Rain,” to chillwave in “Let Go,” this group will always keep you guessing. Their first EP, Nabuma Rubberband, was released in May featuring the ultimate pump-up song, “Klapp Klapp.” Since 2006, Little Dragon’s music has been reworked and remixed by big names like, Drake. They are currently wrapping up a European tour.

Alina Baraz


It’s safe to say that Cleveland-based singer/songwriter Alina Baraz is flying way below the radar. Over the past year, the R&B songstress has released a handful of singles and an EP produced by Danish musician, Galimatias. Best classified as R&B, her slow, sultry songs—similar in sound to Jhené Aiko—will have you begging for more.

Doja Cat

Doja Cat

This Malibu raised, LA-based double threat came out of nowhere. Born Ami Zandile, Doja Cat is a talented rapper and singer with a smooth, colorful sound and cheeky flow. She has released a series of freestyles and tracks on Soundcloud including the trippy love song, “So High.” Doja Cat has started performing at venues throughout L.A. and is scheduled to perform in Paris next month. Her debut EP, Purrr!, is available now on iTunes.



Solana Imani Rowe, better known as SZA, is the princess of rap label Top Dawg Entertainment—home to rappers Kendrick Lamar and Schoolboy Q. Since 2012, SZA has been hard at work putting out a total of six singles, two EPs, a studio album and numerous collaborations. Her tranquil voice paired with melodious hip-hop beats is an addicting and wonderfully unexpected combination. Aside from her music, her hair has caught the attention of fashion magazines such as Vogue, Elle and W. SZA performed at Pitchfork Music Festival in Chicago last summer and is currently on tour.



This London-based singer makes an awesome addition to your iTunes library if you’re looking for catchy pop tunes. Songs like “Hater,” “Love You So,” and “So Irate” are sure to make you sing along and get your body moving. Her debut album, From the Roots Up, was released in 2012 and there’s no news of any new music in the works. Nonetheless, her songs are oldies, but most definitely goodies.

Little Simz


Simbi Ajikawo, better known by her stage name, Little Simz, is an up and coming rapper from north England. At the young age of 20, Simz has already released an EP and four mix tapes, the last of which was released via Jay Z’s blog, Life+Times. Often nicknamed “Barz Simpson” because of her hard-hitting lyrics, Simz writes bars in between taking classes at the University of West London. Her gritty delivery and slightly foreboding beats are similar to that of ASAP Rocky. Her EP, E.D.G.E., is out now.

Lion Babe


Technically, Lion Babe is a band, but the duo is most known for its singer, Jillian Hervey. With the looks and a sound that channels, Erykah Badu, she is bound to be the soul diva of this decade. Paired with electronics provided by Lucas Goodman, Lion Babe delivers saucy vocals over killer baselines in “Treat Me Like Fire.” The twosome recently released “Jump Hi,” their latest single featuring Childish Gambino. Both of their singles are available on iTunes now.

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Students, faculty bear the cold to walk for MLK

Students, faculty bear the cold to walk for MLK

Last month, MSU’s Office for Inclusion and Intercultural Initiatives sponsored the University’s 34th MLK Commemorative March. MSU students, faculty, alumni and friends braved the frigid weather to make the trek from the MSU Union through West Circle Neighborhood ending at Beaumont Tower.

This year’s march was one of several special events during MLK weekend that marked the start of Project 60/50 — a yearlong conversation and celebration of civil and human rights. Project 60/50 commemorates the 60th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision in Brown vs. Topeka Board of Education and the 50th anniversary of the of the Civil Rights Act — two pivotal moments in American civil rights history.

The project’s organizers have planned a series of events that will take place throughout 2014 including two exhibitions showing at the MSU Museum now through July.

For more information, visit Project 60/50’s website.

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Why does this have to be mine? A guide to terrible Valentine’s gifts

Why does this have to be mine? A guide to terrible Valentine’s gifts

There’s only one day each year when romantic gestures are completely and utterly unavoidable.

Yes, Valentine’s Day has come and gone, but what about the remnants? Often times the best gifts like a romantic dinner, chocolates and a bouquet of flowers won’t make it till next week. So, what are you supposed to do with the not-so-sweet gifts that linger well past February 14th?

Of course, no one wants to give or receive a valentine’s gift that’s unwanted or just downright awkward, but the truth is that it happens. So, here’s your guide to the Why-Does-This-Have-to-Be-Mine-Valentine.

The Mug

This is probably the easiest post-valentine’s day dilemma. Whether it boldly states your anniversary or it has your face on it, you can put it in the cupboard and leave it there until all the dishes are dirty and you’re desperate for coffee. Just don’t take it to class.

The Excuse: “I use it a lot! You’re just never around.”



The Scent

Maybe it’s not your taste, maybe it smells like Lysol, but either way you refuse to wear it. Consider using it as an air freshener for your bathroom or wait a couple weeks to re-gift it.

The Excuse: “I like it, but sometimes it messes with my sinuses.”



The Jewels

It looks like something you wore in junior high and it turns your skin green. Or, you’re a guy who never really liked wearing jewelry in the first place. Hang it from your rearview mirror, your bedroom doorknob or anywhere visible enough to show that you appreciate the thought.

The Excuse: “I don’t want to break/ruin/lose it.”



The Shirt

For the poor guy or girl who gets one of these I only have two words: laundry day. The best way to deal with this gift is to never let it see the light of day.

The Excuse: “It reminds me of you when you’re not around.”




The Life-Sized Bear

It’s big, it’s fuzzy and it’s downright scary when you turn the lights off. It’s a bear the size of a teenager. You could sit him in the corner of your room for as long as you can stand him staring at you. Or, stick him in the closet or the basement. However, he’d probably be an awesome pillow for girls’ night in or for a good night’s sleep. If all else fails, donate him to Goodwill or The Salvation Army. There’s a little girl out there who’d love to have a giant teddy bear. 

The Excuse: “I took him to my parents’ house. I don’t have enough space!”


The Undies

A lot of people freak out about unwanted undergarments received on Valentine’s Day, but honestly no one has to see them anyway. Although, if you feel uncomfortable receiving such a gift, make it known! If you don’t want to wear them, DON’T.

The Excuse (if you really, really need one) : “They don’t fit!”


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InterCIDADES brings Brazilian art to Lansing

InterCIDADES brings Brazilian art to Lansing

It’s a well-known fact that art is often cross-cultural, but did you ever consider that an exhibit could be international?

“InterCIDADES,” originally a Brazilian exhibition, became an international exhibition in October when it was brought to Lansing. For curator Jefferson Kielwagen, this was a very exciting time.

Rolling shadows

From “Rolling Shadows,” via the InterCIDADES Facebook page.

“This is my first time doing anything on an international scale,” he said. “It’s an art exhibit, but in a way it’s a social experiment.”

The purpose of “InterCIDADES,” which translates to “inter” and “cities” in English, is to engage, captivate and “interchange” the community through relational art and public performance. Exhibitions included “Rolling Shadows,” a demonstration about solar energy and mobility, “Blood Fireworks,” an exhibition about food energy and “Inconvenience Station,” a study on the relationship between citizens and their city.

The curators of “InterCIDADES,” in conjunction with the Joinville Cultural Foundation and Schwanke Museum of Contemporary Art, sent out an open call for Brazilian and American artists to submit exhibition ideas. The aim was to gather projects that could be performed publicly in urban areas and re-performed internationally between Joinville, Brazil and Lansing, Mich.

“What made InterCIDADES appealing was the opportunity for artists’ work to be shown and executed on foreign grounds and the chance to engage with foreign artists,” he said.

In July of 2013, InterCIDADES took place in Brazil and throughout the month of October, it was re-created in Lansing. However, this was not the first time public performance was displayed in Michigan.

Kielwagen, who is also a third-year MFA student at MSU, proposed the idea to Michael Rush, Founding Director of the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum. In 2012, “The Broad Without Walls,” the first curated show at the Broad, was created in an attempt to engage the surrounding community prior to its completion. The exhibition followed through, but publicity was scarce.

“No one seemed to care about it. Then I came back from Brazil with the images [of “InterCIDADES” from July 2013] and everyone cared about it,” Kielwagen said.

At the beginning of Fall Semester 2013, MSU’s Department of Art, Art History and Design sent out an open call similar to the first open call released in Brazil.
As word spread, “InterCIDADES” began to ease its way into Michigan culture. However, there were a few speed bumps due to cultural differences.

Kielwagen brought “InterCIDADES” to America with hopes that our country could match the amount of money provided in Brazil for this project. He wanted to make it bigger and better, but failed to find funding on American grounds. The exhibitions were funded almost entirely by Joinville Cultural Foundation.

“Brazil is more socialist than the United States. Money for the arts is [mostly] government funded. American art seems to be focused on big names and big budgets. Museums often feel like bank vaults to me. Every gallery has a guard watching over the treasure. Art is an object and the museum is the bank. I’m trying to make sense of this,” Kielwagen said.

Despite, the cultural differences, “InterCIDADES” was completed successfully with twice the amount of volunteers as before. It not only engaged the community and its participants, but it inspired.

Dylan Wahl, an electrical engineering major at MSU, thoroughly enjoyed his experience with the art world by getting involved with “InterCIDADES.” He wrote a script for “Trade Party,” an exhibition about the relationship between Brazil and the United States and also played a role in in “Rolling Shadows.”

Since InterCIDADES, Wahl began to create public performances of his own. “Parachute Run” and “Unboxing” are his two latest exhibitions about “an irrational dream of flight and the celebration of consumption as a public ritual,” he said.

“I have wanted for a while now to develop an artistic voice, and to learn more about how public art can be organized and structured,” Wahl said, “I hope that those who experienced the work in “InterCIDADES” feel inspired to seek out more public performance art.”

The future of “InterCIDADES” is a little uncertain, but hopeful. Kielwagen shared his hopes of making it a biannual, international event.

“I want to connect the farthest city in North America to the farthest city in South America. That would be Anchorage, Alaska and Ushuaia, Argentina. It would require the cooperation of two different governments so that might just be a crazy dream,” Kielwagen said.

If this followed through it would become the only biannual art exhibition not anchored in one city. Given its progress thus far, anything is possible for “InterCIDADES.”

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Scene & Heard: SYTYCD at MSU

Scene & Heard: SYTYCD at MSU

Guests piled into each one of the 2,420 sold out seats at the Wharton Center on October 1. The lights cut low and the music faded in as dancers surprised the audience by prancing their way from the back of the theater to center stage to Herb Alpert’s “Puttin’ on the Ritz.” At that moment, it was official. So You Think You Can Dance had kicked off its Season 10 Tour right here at MSU.

SYTYCD dancers

Photo credit: John Kochiss

Earlier that day, the dancers giggled their way through interview questions at press hour. Yet, for the rest of the night, Aaron Turner, Hayley Erbert, Jasmine Harper, Jenna Johnson, Makenzie Dustman, Nico Greetham, Paul Karmiryan, Tucker Knox, DuShaunt “Fik-shun” Stegall and Amy Yakima transformed from young adults to eloquent physical artists. Season 10’s Top 10 wowed the crowd with riveting contemporary, hip-hop and jazz routines both new and old.

So, how does a Primetime Emmy nominated television show end up in East Lansing? According to the Wharton’s Marketing Manager, Tara Peplowski, everything just seemed to fall in place. The marketing team at Wharton began investigating the show in January while it was planning its tour route. She revealed how the effort was mutual on both ends to bring SYTYCD to MSU.

“We looked at this show back in January when they were looking at routings and we told them we were interested,” she said.

“It’s the opening night of the tour that sold out in a matter of hours. Clearly, it’s a win-win for the both of us. Especially, having one of the winners being from Michigan and an hour away—it was perfect. Obviously, we knew someone from Michigan was in the Top 10, but we didn’t know she was going to be a winner. I think it’s just icing on the cake.”


Photo credit: John Kochiss

Fik-Shun and Amy Yakima won this year, and each claimed the prize of $125,000.

Yakima, from Northville, Mich., had no lack of moral support at her first tour performance. In fact, there couldn’t be a better place for SYTYCD to start their 42-city tour.

“I believe there were about 200 people that just came just for her,” said Peplowski.

And reasonably so—viewers can see her enthusiasm when she dances.

“It’s the only way I can truly communicate how I feel. I’m so passionate about how to explore different movements and how to be different characters,” Amy said. “It’s an artistic way of acting. I feel that passion I have.”

There’s no doubt that those 200 plus the other 2,220 patrons came to the show witnessed Amy’s fervor shine through her dancing. She’s fantastic alone, and astonishing alongside other dancers who have the same fire within them.

It’s been a long road from street performing to national tour for winner Fik-shun.

“I think I had more injuries on the show than I think I’ve ever had in my life,” he said, “but it’s just something that you have to push through. Every time I thought I couldn’t do something or had doubts I just have to remember to give it my all. Even if I feel that [my performance] is not at the level it should be perform to the best of your abilities because people can see that. People can always see when you’re trying you’re hardest so, go all out all the time.”

SYTYCD Dancing

Photo credit: John Kochiss

And, that’s exactly what each and every dancer did. At show’s end, nothing but satisfactory chatter could be heard around the Wharton Center. The words, “amazing,” “great,” and “exciting” filled the air.

Karla Unger, an MSU alum, was more than pleased with the night’s performances.

“These young people had so much energy and enthusiasm paired with accuracy and boldness in dancing. I was thoroughly engaged and entertained the entire time,” Unger said. “It was so exciting to be around fellow fans who knew just as much about the show as I did. My reasonably priced ticket was easily worth $100.”

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