As February came to an end, Rider celebrated Black history and culture with one last event: “Gospel Fest.” Attendees took part in an evening of music and worship on Feb. 26 in the Cavalla room with performances from Rider students and faculty as well as other guests.
Senior behavioral neuroscience major Lorinda Laube spoke about why events like “Gospel Fest” are important to her and other Rider students.
“To have people around you who … encourage you to further your relationship with whoever you believe in, for me personally, it feels like home. It feels that not everything we do on campus is strictly business, you know, there’s personal relationships with each other,” said Laube.
Pamela Pruitt, Center for Diversity and Inclusion (CDI) executive director, started the event by introducing the guest speakers, president of the New Jersey council of churches Marcus Burnett and radio personality on WIMG 1300 AM Craig Hayes.
Everyone rose and sang “The Negro National Anthem” which is also known as “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” This piece was originally written for Abraham Lincoln’s birthday and sung by children.
Junior political science major Naa’San Carr was the first performer of the night, singing, “I Love to Praise Him.” Audience members began to get on their feet and joined Carr in praising and singing.
Laube spoke about her relationship with God and what events like “Gospel Fest” do for students who may not be able to attend church every Sunday.
“If you believe in God, if you believe in a higher power, it’s an opportunity for us to care,” said Laube.
Assistant professor of music education G. Preston Wilson was the next person to take the stage with, “This is the Day that the Lord Has Made.” His passion shined through as he walked up and down the aisles of the audience.
Sophomore graphic design major Genesis Johnson made a comment about his favorite part of the event.
“My favorite part was the Tabernacle Baptist praise dancers. They did one of my favorite songs,” said Johnson.
Nine dancers were welcomed to the stage who are known as The Tabernacle Baptist Church Dance Ministry directed by Giselle Roberts. This dance routine consisted of several costume changes and music that conveyed that the Black community is strong and resilient.
Many of the performances emphasized the uniqueness of being Black and finding power in that. Senior journalism major Taylor Tunstall spoke about her favorite parts of being Black.
“There’s so many different parts that not everybody can relate to … but there’s always a sense of community coming back together in a big group like this, and everybody has their own style, their own sense of comfort and everyone just respects it,” Tunstall said.
Rider alumnus ‘02 Samar Newsome was the next performer who sang more gospel music as well as an original song written by him titled “I FEEL GOOD.” The audience was indeed feeling good and joined along once learning the words to his song.
To close off the event, Sam Frisby & Friends performed in a choir and during their last song invited anyone who wished to praise to join them. Many audience members took them up on their offer and joined in with them.
Johnson spoke about how appreciative of the Black community he is and how everyone is connected regardless of blood.
“Like if you’re not related by blood, we have a friendship. We’re related anyway, not just by blood,” Johnson said.
Pruitt took the stage and spoke about the significance of “Gospel Fest” to her, and how the first time she hosted it only eight people attended compared to that moment when a majority of the room was filled with people.
Laube spoke about what she loves about the Black community and how “Gospel Fest” served as another way for Black students to stay connected with their community.
“It’s just the fact that no matter where you are, you’re gonna find … being Black you feel the most welcomed by everyone in our community. I don’t think I’ve ever felt a time where I wasn’t welcome,” said Laube.