The Dance Cube in the PAHB was packed Thursday to see Breai Mason-Campbell, a Baltimore dancer, teacher and community activist, give an interdisciplinary lecture and performance on the topic of race relations. The bleachers filled quickly, requiring organizers to bring in extra chairs. Some attendants even sat on the floor.
The large windows of the dance cube overlooked the campus, with Baltimore’s hazy skyline in the distance. The small room created an intimate setting for Mason-Campbell to deliver her message. She focused on improving race relations in Baltimore, as well as the discourse surrounding race. She discussed the inconsistencies of how black people are perceived in America.
“How can we have a black president, and a need for a black lives matter movement?” Mason-Campbell passionately asked during her lecture.
Mason-Campbell tied in the importance of dance to her message, explaining the role dance has played in bridging the gap between all races. When attending dances or concerts by artists such as Little Richard, people historically ignored racial segregation and danced together.
The topic of dance segued into the performance aspect of the evening. Mason-Campbell and the six performers with her presented three short dances, about three minutes each, with a short question and answer session afterwards.
The dances served to illustrate topics Mason-Campbell spoke of in the lecture. Three white dancers dressed in all white, and all black dancers wore all black, which served to visually separate them. In one piece, three black dancers danced together, while one white man danced alone. By the end the four performers came together, merging two very different dance styles.
In another powerful piece, three dancers interacted with a prop gun, while images of victims such as Freddie Grey flashed on a screen behind them. When holding the gun, the dancers showed fear, anger and sorrow.
The evening was well received, and the room filled with applause after each performance and when all involved took a bow.
Megumi Gomyo, a media and communications studies major with a minor in French, was one of the people in attendance who felt impacted by the performance. She felt the interdisciplinary aspect of Mason-Campbell’s presentation was a unique way to deliver a message.
“I would never think of dance as being related to the subject of race, so seeing that connected is another way of helping with the problem, and shedding light on it,” Gomyo said during the reception after the performance.
Gomyo is a humanities scholar, and attended the event because it was part of the humanities forum. She believed this was the best forum so far. A big takeaway for Gomyo was Mason-Campbell’s suggestion that schools with different racial demographics come together to study the arts, in order to help young people see people from other races in a more humanizing way.
“Whenever you have to solve a problem you have to start with the basic element of it,” Gomyo said. “This was a really strong way of presenting both of them as a solution.”