Performing for AIDS awareness

Diversity. On campus, we see it as we walk across the Cut on the way to lecture, in front of Doherty as students table for different events and causes, and even in the people of “Walking to the Sky.” SPIRIT, a minority organization, embraces the cultural differences among the students of Carnegie Mellon, earning itself a name that reflects the vibrant energy of its constituents.

Last Friday, SPIRIT held a talent show in Kirr Commons of the University Center as part of the UC Late Night series. The black chairs were packed with people, while others stood in the back and on the steps. And this was not just a talent show. Students Helping AIDS Relief and Education (SHARE) partnered with SPIRIT to bring the program to the University Center. Senior social and decision sciences major Rosalyce Broadous-Brown, the president of SPIRIT, explained the alliance with SHARE: “Initially, we wanted to do a talent show,” she said. “The opportunity to work with SHARE came because of the dinner to benefit AIDS research. SHARE did most of the dinner [planning] and we did most of the talent show [planning].”

Overall, the success of the talent show reflected a combined effort. First-year art and creative writing student Jessica Smith, SPIRIT’s community service chair, worked extensively with SHARE to bring this event to fruition. Other student organizations helped out too: SPIRIT and SHARE received financial help from the Students Activities office, and AB Tech sent a representative to make sure all the sound equipment ran well.

In the talent show, the participants brought a variety of performances. From poetry readings and recitals to the SPIRIT dance troupe, the audience was witness to plenty of amateur talent. There was even a self-proclaimed “avant-garde” jazz performance, in which a student switched from saxophone to flute in the middle of the act. Other highlights included two vocal performances and a comedy act. Everyone, including Broadous-Brown, was surprised when a man named Kevin asked if he could be given a chance to sing. “Kevin was a guy that just came out of nowhere,” said Broadous-Brown. However, everyone seemed delighted to hear his karaoke as he sustained notes that many women probably could not reach. Sterling Berliant, one of the audience members, decided “Kevin was the bomb.... Kevin is my homeboy for life.”

Despite the acclaim for Kevin, the winner of the talent show was the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) Step Team. Its members themed their routine after an archetypal James Bond movie and recited their pledges mid-step. How did SPIRIT determine the winners? This is when the service portion of the evening comes in.

SHARE raises money for a clinic in rural South Africa that helps HIV-positive individuals in the area; Friday night’s proceeds went towards that organization as well. For every performer of the evening, a cup was set aside. Audience members were encouraged to contribute a bit of money for their favorite act. The act with the most money in its cup at the end of the night was the winner.

Another major part of SHARE’s goal is to educate people about AIDS. Commanding the stage between acts, group members asked the audience multiple-choice questions about the AIDS pandemic. They then threw candy out for those who chose the correct answers. Some interesting facts were pointed out. For example, AIDS is a unique disease in that it can affect everyone, not just the young or elderly. Perhaps one of the most shocking facts was that the amount of people that die of AIDS in one week is equivalent to the number of soldiers killed in the Vietnam War. SHARE even tied the pandemic to other aspects of rural African life; AIDS affects one-fifth of the agricultural workers in South Africa, contributing to the lack of food. Supporting SHARE’s cause, SPIRIT helped collect money through both the dinner and the talent show.

Even though SPIRIT maintained a very philanthropic aspect to the talent show, some of the group’s events are just for fun. “This was the first year that we didn’t do the SPIRIT cabaret,” said Broadous-Brown, explaining that SPIRIT’s events change from year to year. “We did a karaoke night and we will probably do another open mic night.” In addition to these events, the group also holds movie nights. One of their biggest shows is the SPIRIT fashion show. SPIRIT maintains a strong presence on campus by engaging in these activities.

SPIRIT’s description is in its name. The show was full of vibrant and talented people who cheered for each other and rejoiced in their individual skills. It was easy to see the heavy spirit encompassed in everything the group’s members do.