Black celebrities entertain Ball State students from home in first-ever 'House of Melanin'

<p>Javier Colon, the first winner of NBC’s &quot;The Voice,&quot; performs audience-requested songs at University Program Board&#x27;s &quot;House of Melanin&quot; event Feb. 24, 2021. Colon was one of three performers at the event. <strong>Evan Weaver, Screenshot Capture</strong></p>

Javier Colon, the first winner of NBC’s "The Voice," performs audience-requested songs at University Program Board's "House of Melanin" event Feb. 24, 2021. Colon was one of three performers at the event. Evan Weaver, Screenshot Capture

On Feb. 24, the University Program Board (UPB), with Late Nite, student government association and the National Pan-Hellenic Council held an event celebrating Black History Month by hosting three Black entertainers to perform in front of a virtual room full of Ball State students.

The night’s festivities kicked off with comedian from Comedy Central and NBC Jourdain Fisher, who interacted with the audience for the first hour and previewed his new album “Good for You” on Spotify and iTunes.

Fisher joked about several topics including Muncie, the current political atmosphere and the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I send money to my bank the same way people send nudes on Instagram: I take a picture, I send it off and I forget about it,” Fisher joked.

After Fisher was finished performing for the first hour, the first winner of NBC’s The Voice, Javier Colon, welcomed attendees from the comfort of his home and gave an in-house concert featuring songs that he competed with during his time on the show.

Like Fisher, Colon requested audience participation and asked them to sing along to his version of hits such as Miley Cyrus’ “Wrecking Ball,” Ed Sheeran’s “Perfect” and Lewis Capaldi’s “Someone You Loved.”

After his performance, Colon answered questions from fans about his experience working with Adam Levine and touring with Maroon 5, as well as how his life has changed as a result of winning The Voice.

“Adam [Levine] is a great guy and he let me be myself,” Colon said. “There were other artists on the show that I talked to who felt their coach was pushing them one way or another, trying to make them feel like they were someone they felt they weren’t based on song choice. I never felt that way with Adam.”

The final event of the night was a discussion between moderator and graduate assistant for the Office of Student Life Arnold Nyatanga and actor Langston Kerman, known for his time on the HBO series “High Maintenance” and “Insecure,” as well as Amazon Prime’s “The Boys.”

Once the moderated discussion finished, there was a Q&A portion where audience members were able to ask Kerman anything from his experiences as an actor to his hobby of writing poetry and his time in college.

“I think what this year has kind of taught a lot of us entertainers is to evolve and change our footing,” Kerman said. “So that we can be more effective artists, but also continue to be artists, even in the midst of the world, not necessarily being set up for the art that we want.”

Nilima Mow, a graduate student majoring in linguistics, was one of several prize winners during the night and said she attends as many student events as she can.

“With all these mental pressures, I get stressed out with all the courses,” Mow said. “Then the Late Nite parties and other events come and they save me.”

Liza Blevins, graduate assistant for Student Center programs and the student affairs administration in higher education, and supervisor for Late Nite and UPB, hosted the event and booked the celebrities who appeared at the event. 

“Hearing [Mow’s] interview and how she felt as a student and as an attendee, that just means so much to me because I don't really get to hear how students feel about these events,” Blevins said. “It just means so much that these events are ‘saving her.’ It makes me know that the work that I'm doing is making a difference towards the students of Ball State.”

Mow said her favorite part of the event was listening to Colon sing, while Blevins said her favorite part was being able to have a conversation with them.

“I never thought they would talk to me or talk to the audience,” Blevins said. “They talked to everyone who was willing to talk to them and it just reminds me that they are human.”

Blevins said Niyatanga helped her with organizing the event, including coming up with a name and finalizing the performers to invite.

Prizes were also given out via raffle drawings throughout the night, including karaoke microphones, Beats by Dr. Dre, and a chromebook.

“I identify as an Asian American woman, and I want to use my role to uplift Black voices at Ball State,” Blevins said. “So for me, I'm doing this event for Black people and I wanted to make sure I was being sensitive.”

Blevins said she thought the event was a success and she believes events like these can happen again in the future with or without the COVID-19 pandemic.

“These performers were so personable,” Blevins said. “They laughed with us, they wanted to share their talents with us and they wanted students to enjoy that. They are very aware of the reality that our students are living in during these times.”

Contact Evan Weaver with comments at erweaver@bsu.edu or on Twitter @evan_weaver7.

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