QuiAnne’ Holmes | Staff Writer

Pan-Afrikan Week serves as an opportunity to introduce students, faculty, and staff to the education, celebration, and acknowledgement of the African culture and influence of the Diaspora in several different avenues.

Towards the end of the week, students look forward to the main event: the Pan Af Concert which last year hosted rapper BIG K.R.I.T. (King Remembered in Time).

This year, the Black Students Board (BSB) who works within the Union Activities Board (UAB) booked Grammy-nominated artist Kehlani. However, Kehlani was unable to perform at the concert. This was presumably due to her recent visit to the hospital and the alleged suicide attempt.

The Black Students Board had to refund all patrons, however, BSB did not allow this cancellation to prevent them from creating an opportunity for other artists. They decided to host a benefit concert in place of Kelani’s act to raise money and awareness for mental health.

They opened up the opportunity to local and student artists to showcase their wonderful talents to the campus. The concert was free of charge and open to the public.

Tsharre Sanders, a senior in psychology and the 2015-2016 Chair for BSB said that “it was an impromptu decision to create the benefit concert because our headliners agent canceled all of her shows through May due to her suicide attempt. We wanted to stand in solidarity with her the best we knew how with such limited time.”

Performers included: Matthew Wright, singer/dancer; J. Capri, rapper; Anahzsa Jones, poet and Sonny Miles, singer. Each used their platform to draw the audience’s attention to their message as well as entertainment. Amazingly enough, students from the crowd joined in with dancing and singing throughout the night and thoroughly enjoyed themselves.

“At first I didn’t know how the vibe would be but once I got there it was a great turn out and I think everyone who came out enjoyed it,” said Marcus Zeigler, a senior studying textile technology.

Students that attended this benefit concert probably did not know what to expect when going into it but quickly realized that it was a gathering of understanding and uplifting rather than a place for sorrow.

“I thought this Pan Af event was especially important to attend, in light of how serious Kehlani’s situation is and how suicide has touched our NC State family more than once in the past few years,” said Janay Graham, a senior studying education.

Ultimately, Graham enjoyed her experience being able to observe the talents of others while supporting mental health awareness.

“It is a beautiful thing for the black community to continue to come together more each and every week showing threads of growth and strength within the community. Dancing and socializing after the performances continued to show how we are rooted and how we enjoy each other’s company,” said Zeigler.

Graham highlighted her favorite moment of the concert by saying, “In one of Jordan’s songs the lyrics said something like “let love fix it,” and that really spoke to me. More than a few of us have been battling some really tough things this school year and although the song was dedicated to Kehlani, it reminded me personally of the loving black community we all have access to here at North Carolina State University.”

The benefit concert helped to remind students  that there are mental health resources on campus that can help support and motivate you to be the most successful student on campus mentally, physically, and emotionally.

“Although we may have wanted a Kehlani concert, we have to be selfless and understand that self-care and personal situations are important, even when you have celebrity status. I think the benefit concert was a great reaction on behalf of the Black Students Board, and I commend them for making the best of an unfortunate situation,” said Tyrek Shepard, a junior studying accounting.

In all, the Black Students Board was able to create an event that both promoted mental health awareness and also allowed students to use the platform to showcase their talents.