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The Black Bruins Essay

1276 words - 6 pages

In November of 2013, there was a typical occurrence with an unusual subject matter. Simply put, a Youtube video went viral. In my generation, that’s a common enough occurrence; nothing to raise brows or start a controversy. But this was no ordinary viral video of cats playing the piano; for once, someone in our generation used his voice to talk about what matters. Sy Stokes, a black UCLA student, wrote and performed spoken word about the myth of individual merit the year after affirmative action was removed from the admission process. Stokes and the rest of the “Black Bruins” originally intended to reach the community of UCLA, but the video spanned worldwide and started a petition for ...view middle of the document...

He stands with a small number of black men behind him who hold up the statistics, and as the performance goes on their number creates an impact. The viewer realizes that they represent twenty-two percent of the black students in Stokes’ year, thirty-one percent of the black men who will graduate in his year. It’s easy for the viewer to get overwhelmed by the shocking statistics and ignore other important features in the performance that say more than any number on a chart.
The opening title could be missed the first time around, so I’ll call special attention to it now: “John Huggins and Bunchy Carter, UCLA students and members of the Black Panther Party, were assassinated inside Campbell Hall on January 17, 1969.” The slide was followed by an image of Campell Hall and a boulder with the student’s names engraved on it. This is an important visual for many reasons. First, slide with quote is black with white words. For once black is overwhelming white, which sends a message to the viewer before the piece even starts that the fact that they thought that font setup was odd proves his point. The second is that Campbell Hall stands untouched by the disaster that occurred there. The boulder that is meant to be a tribute to the students also doesn’t give a description of the horror. In fact, it doesn’t even put the students’ full names on it. It reads “Carter-Huggins 1969”. Stokes views this as the University’s attempt to sweep the disaster under the rug, so he calls attention to it.
Going along with the use of black and white in the opening, “The Black Bruins” also uses colored film as a visual aid. In the beginning of the piece, Stokes is reading straight-forward statistics and the film is shown in black and white. This not only reiterates the distinct segregation between races but also comes across in a face-value way. By that I mean that there is very little depth to a black and white photo. It calls to mind old things, boring things, and things that no longer matter. When Stokes begins his poetry, the screen fills with color. These thoughts are no longer statistics on a page; they’re living, breathing kids. It makes the viewer realize that these statistics represent actual human beings, not just black numbers on a white page. The use of color also alerts us to the fact that this is happening now. Not twenty years ago, or forty, but today.
Before I get to the second use of visual aid, I think the text itself needs to be looked at. Throughout his performance, Stokes makes a metaphor that set black students in opposition with white university students and faculty. The first...

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