Cafe Mahogany brings mix of talents, cultures

GVL / Mikki Fujimori
GVSU student Jasmine Broadnax at the Cafe Mahogany poetry reading.

GVL / Mikki Fujimori GVSU student Jasmine Broadnax at the Cafe Mahogany poetry reading.

Matt Oberski

The Grand River Room was filled Nov. 30 with people in formal attire, bowls with floating candles as the centerpiece of every table, and energy and excitement on everyone’s face. It was the scene of Café Mahogany.

Hosted by the Black Student Union, Café Mahogany provided a night of music, food, and poetry readings and performances from Grand Valley State University students, as well as others from the Grand Rapids area. The night also featured two headlining poets, K-Love and Tebe Zalango, visiting artists from Chicago.

The night included more than 15 performers doing what they do best, whether it was poetry-reading, singing, dancing, rapping or playing music.

Grand Rapids Community College student Deavondre Jones took the stage Friday night with a choreographed dance routine to multiple songs.

Jones started performing in high school, traveling and dancing with a nonprofit organization across the Midwest, and traveled to places such as Los Angeles, Minnesota and New York City.

His songs for Friday’s performance derived from emotions that he wanted to portray. The first song described “courage, and a minority having a dream,” Jones said. The song had harsh words, but a good message complimenting his emotions.

“The last song, the emotion I tried to portray was love, remembrance, hope, something like that,” Jones said. Emotions he derived from a past relationship.

Jones is working to finish up school and working to start a choreography and dance business he calls “Dancespire.”

Closing up the night, poets K-Love and Tebe Zalango took the stage and moved the crowd, with cheers and screams practically competing for the microphone during each performance.

K-Love stirred a lot of audience reactions with her first poem about Sarah Baartman, a native African woman brought to Europe in the late 18th century, who was cast in a freak show and had her body experimented on.

“The poem was very strong, about the woman exploiting her body,” said GVSU sophomore Micah Hopkins.

Though Hopkins was unable to attend the entire event, she said the night and K-Love’s readings were “very entertaining.”

Tebe Zalango held a violin as he took the stage while fans cheered. When the crowd settled down, he began to play with a crescendo full of emotion that some audience members did not expect. He sang, recited his poetry and also played guitar while on stage.

His music and performance career started when he was young.

“I think I was 19. I drove down to Atlanta to try out for ‘American Idol,’” Zalango said.

He had been trying to do shows and perform locally since he was 17 years old and now, when he’s not helping his dad work at his restaurant, Zalango travels and performs across the Midwest, and loves every second of it.

“I always loved traveling,” Zalango said. “It brought peace of mind, being by myself on the highway for 10 hours. It helps me get my thoughts together.”

On his performance at Café Mahogany, Zalango said he had “spiritual responsibility” to try and give something to the audience they can grow and live with.

“If I give to people what God gave to me, and I can shift somebody’s awareness to something that matters, I did a good job,” Zalango said. “To be in a position where I can say anything is a humbling experience, and a blessing for sure.”

For upcoming events hosted by the BSU or more information on any of Café Mahogany’s performers, contact the BSU at [email protected].

[email protected]