Black history inspires talent



By Kelsey Caudill

With February being Black History Month, members of the UK community gathered to watch contestants  bring a piece of Harlem tradition to campus.

The Black Student Union held its annual fundraiser, based on the Apollo Theatre Talent Contest, at the Singletary Center Saturday night.  Known as Apollo 2010, the talent show gave the opportunity for students and community members to showcase their talents and receive direct audience feedback.

The Apollo Theatre aims to advance the contributions of African-American artists and advance up-and-coming creative voices across cultural and artistic media, according to its Web site.

The Black Student Union has held Apollo for more than a decade.  Martez Johnson, a 2003 UK alumnus and former football player, said he participated in the event twice when he was in college, receiving second place both times for rapping.  Johnson returned to UK for Apollo 2010 to see his sister-in-law rap.

“It was one of my most memorable moments in college,” Johnson said. “After the Apollo, everyone knew who I was.”

Contestants from UK, the University of Louisville, Western Kentucky University and others rapped, danced and recited poetry in hopes of receiving the audience’s approval — and maybe the $500 grand prize.

Audience performance was the judge of the contest, and after 30 seconds of each performance, a green light on stage signaled viewers to either cheer or boo contestants.  If performers received cheers of approval, they could finish their acts.  If they were booed, however, sirens sounded and three men from backstage came out to shoo them off stage, providing comic relief.

The winner of Apollo 2010 was stand-up comedian Marcus Allen, a sophomore from Western Kentucky University. Allen said he has done stand-up for a couple years, and the support he received motivated him to audition for Apollo.

“In high school I was the guy who made people laugh,” Allen said.  “People always said that I was funny, and that I needed to do it on stage.”

Allen’s act consisted of comical renditions of women and men in the club and dancing impersonations.

Cameron Harper, a marketing sophomore at UK, said Allen was his favorite act.

“He was funny and I could relate to what he was talking about,” Harper said.

Allen won a $500 check and two hours of free studio time with Fyre Entertainment to work on his stand-up mixed tape.  He plans on sending part of the money home to his mother, to help pay for a recent surgery while saving the rest.

“I’d like to thank the people that supported me and actually laughed, and BSU, who picked me and gave me the opportunity to come out and perform in front of these students,” Allen said.

Other fan-favorites were a pop-singing male duo accompanied by piano, a religious vocal number, and a dance crew that combined tumbling, breaking-dancing and hip-hop.

Although African-America students identify Apollo as one of the biggest social events of the year, some see it as more.

UK alum Joshua Odoi, a Ghana native, said Apollo depicts diversity and shows the other side of the university. He said the contest could also help increase recruitment at UK through its video exposure to social networking Web sites like Facebook.

“The difference between top schools is little things,” Odoi said.

Co-chairman Geoffrey Griggs said the event came close to filling the room’s capacity and people were impressed with this year’s talent.

About 1,000 people attended the annual fundraiser, raising more than $9,000 for the Black Student Union and other campus organizations such as the National Association of Black Accountants and the Martin Luther King Jr. Cultural Center.