Project Resilience: “We are unapologetically black.”

(Left to right: FSU students Bithja Legrand, Christine Nwafour, and Saharra Shaker perform a silent skit about hair.)

With wounds still fresh from recent hate crimes, freshman Carlos Barbosa, sophomore Keener Anum-Sowah and The Center for Inclusive Excellence showcased a number of multi-talented performers on Feb. 9 in DPAC to celebrate Black History Month.

The event, “Project Resilience,” was created and designed by Barbosa and Anum-Sowah in under two weeks. Barbosa said it felt as if they had just started rehearsing when the night of the show arrived.

Performances included FSU’s Afro-Caribbean Dance group, Bridgewater State University Dance Troupe D’Afrique, silent skits, spoken word poetry and a fashion show.

President F. Javier Cevallos said, “This is a student-driven event. … I am just really happy by the way it’s going and there are so many people here. … They put in a lot of energy.”

Close to 400 students showed up to the event.

Barbosa, one of the targets of the  hate crimes, formed the name Project Resilience as a way to inspire others to never back down and keep fighting. “I just wanted to send that message to the Framingham community,” he said.

Black Student Union (BSU) President Destinee Morris shared a reflection about the recent hate crimes, as the crowd chanted: “BSU we stand.”

She said, “The incidents that happened last semester on campus weren’t just a BSU problem, but it was a community problem. So everyone check in on their friends, stick together and show support because you don’t know what individuals can be going through.”

The show began with a silent skit featuring Barbosa and his friends. The group of friends were seated around a table playing Uno and drinking from red solo cups, until two white police officers banged on the door, entered and broke up the “party.” Although Barbosa and his friends weren’t resisting, the officers used excessive force. One of the friends was even tackled to the ground, while another was unjustly handcuffed.

Barbosa subsequently took center stage, while his friends and the officers froze behind him.

“Oh, here we go,” he began. “This is my people’s reality. Some may be skeptical, asking, ‘How?’ I’ll teach you about our society. This is how it goes. It be like, ‘Freeze! Don’t move or else I’ll shoot!’”

The monologue continued as Barbosa addressed the social issues that persist in the black community, specifically mass incarceration and the racist persecution of black men.

He said, “Mass incarceration is the seed in our fruitful nation, as the criminal justice system is its hydration. We’re swimming in murky waters that have no filtration. The truth – bullets ringing from a white cop are rambling. Just another tune in our national anthem.”

Heads hanging low and hands behind their back, the Afro-Caribbean dance group dragged their feet onto the stage to Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech.

The group had been practicing every day for the past two weeks. As the group performed a routine set to “Freedom” by Beyoncé and “Finesse (remix)” by Bruno Mars and Cardi B, the crowd’s volume amplified.

Junior Cam Raia said, “I like the Afro-Caribbean dance group as opposed to the regular dance team, because the regular dance team sometimes has very lyrical choreography and it’s always country music or something. And I’m like, ‘You guys are doing this well, but it doesn’t make me go, like, ‘OHHH!’’ And I wanna go, like, ‘OHHH!’”

Afro-Caribbean dance group member and sophomore Birica Pierre-Louis said the show “demonstrated the talents of the black people on campus to show that we are still united and we are still together. Despite everything that has happened, you know we can do something positive out of it all.”

Anum-Sowah invited Bridgewater State University Dance Troupe D’Afrique dancers Stacy Appiah and Sierre Payne to the Project Resilience event. The duo danced in heels to Beyoncé’s “Formation” and “Freedom.”

Anum-Sowah then led a fashion walk to the song “Ghana Bounce” by Ajebutter22.

“To be accepted, refuse to be rejected, we are here to stay. Not here to go or here to disappear, but here to grow. .. Chapters to a never ending story, we create room for generations to walk and demand territory. We are unapologetically black,” she said.

FSU sociology professor Lina Rincón read two of her poems, both of which were motivated by the hate crimes.

Rincón said her poem “Segregation” was motivated by something she saw happening in her classroom. In her poem, she recalled a time when she wrote the word ‘segregation’ on the board and a student asked if  “things are getting better.

“Quite the opposite,” Rincón said. “Lack of contact is what we’re talking about / Segregation is that separation / That long lasting physical separation / When you all at this table never talk to you all at these other tables.”

Her other poem, “Band Aid,” was prompted by what she was “seeing and feeling” with her students. The poem describes living in constant fear and compares this life to living with an open wound that never seems to heal.

At the end of the show, Barbosa asked the crowd to help him with his final monologue. He asked the audience to respond with the word “black” each time he gestured toward them.

Barbosa directed his focus on black oppression and empowerment. “Be the one entity fighting for equity, turning the twisted penalty into a legacy,” he said. The audience responded, “Black.” Barbosa said, “Beautiful. Unconstitutional. Black. The usual indisputable, power that’s immovable. Black.”

He stood in silence as recordings of news clips reporting social injustice and discrimination echoed off the walls behind him. Performers and student leaders slowly surfaced one-by-one onto the stage. Despite their stoic nature, they radiated emotion.

Anum-Sowah said, “I see our school unified and that’s what I’ve always wanted to see. … If you need a shoulder or hand, we’re sisters and brothers. We are white, black, brown, yellow. We’re all together.”

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