Mourning [A] BLKstar performs on campus

Photo of Mourning [A] BLKstar courtesy of McKinley Wiley.

Kerry Kadel | Staff Writer

As part of the series of Black History Month events aiming  to recognize the histories, cultures, experiences and contributions of diverse populations, the University of Dayton invited Mourning [A] BLKstar, a multi-generational, gender and genre non-conforming group of indivualds dedicating their talents to black culture to perform on campus in Sears Recital Hall on Feb. 11 at 7 p.m. 

UD hosted a meet and greet, Q&A and a live performance for Mourning [A] BLKstar. There was also an alumni audition panel in which alumni Theresa May, trumpet player for the group, shared her experiences at UD.

Reflecting on the upcoming alumni audition May said, “It’ll be nice to talk to the students [and] prospective students looking at UD. I can be my honest self and talk about my experience while I was on campus and that’ll hopefully give them some insight about whether or not they choose UD.” 

Other band members include James Longs (vocals), LaToya Kent (vocals), Kyle Kidd (vocals), Dante Foley (drums), Pete Saudek (Guitar/keys), William Washington (trombone) and RA Washington (samplers/bass).

According to their website, the group aims to “service the stories and songs of the apocalyptic diaspora.” 

“There are so many displaced stories or truths that have not been present throughout history and so it is an offering of eight individuals who have all totally different experiences and have stories that have not been represented in the current landscape today or the pre-existing landscape,” Kidd said. 

Kidd shared  that one of the best parts about the way their band is intentionally structured is that they totally fight against the idea that being black is a monolith.

“It’s a full spectrum,” Kidd said.

Speaking about what apocalyptic diaspora entails, Washington said, “That’s just us saying that the destruction visited upon people of color and so called ‘third world countries’ is on an apocalyptic level and diasporicly [sic] that apocalypse has spread.” 

According to Washington, the group hopes to highlight the stories within that diaspora and acknowledge the destruction that has occurred.

The band was founded by Washington in 2015 when his dream of creating a black orchestra became a reality.

Washington said, “I got a chance to open for a show. After we finished playing, I was standing outside smoking a cigarette and Latoya [another vocal member of the group] came up to me and I said to her, ‘You know what I want to do, I want to start an orchestra. I want to start a black orchestra.’ And she was like, ‘Well, if you get it off the ground, I’ll be in it.’ Fast forward to now, it actually happened.” 

Before Theresa came along to join the band, Washington said that to create music without the right instrumentation, they had to depend on “the illusion of a counterpoint melody” creating hooks for songs in ways that were different before Theresa joined which “opened up the music.” The singers would write the song and then May would add in a few extra details needed for the song to take off. 

Washington was excited to be performing at UD. 

“We’re excited because we get to represent Theresa and just show a little bit of love or what she means to us as a person, as a performer [and] as a talent. Anytime you get to go back to some place, it’s a nice thing. We are the kind of band that just likes to play, so if you give us an audience we will play,” Washington said. “It’s always fun to just go to colleges and play because they don’t really get to see us in that kind of context. It’s always good when a university can curate a diverse group like ours to come in.” 

Kidd  added, “Having conversation with Theresa and my background being studying music in college… [with] what you are offered sometimes in college, you don’t realize that playing outside of the way you were taught is a possibility [and]  that you can actually live as a musician. I was trained classically, but having that classical background and roots, but also being able to go to the highest heights and still having those roots present is something that we’ve [Theresa and I] talked extensively about. I’m excited for her to be able to go and be there to experience and bear witness to her telling her story in her journey and coming from the conservatory and living the life that she’s living still with those roots present.” 

Washington hopes that their music will live on long after the band exists. 

“It would be such an amazing thing if any of our songs lasted after we’re dead,” Washington said. “If any of our music lasted and was impactful on the future, I will feel very proud.” 

Visit https://mourningablkstar.com or follow @mourningablkstar on Instagram for more information. Listen to Mourning [A} BLKstar on Spotify or Apple music.

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