Fullerton College’s Umoja Community and Cadena Cultural Center hosted their annual Beat Café open mic Feb. 9, allowing Black and African American students and staff to showcase their talent virtually while continuing to promote a united and encouraging community spirit.
Umoja considers building the community, prioritizing students and touching the spirit as key organizational values and it was in full showing Tuesday as part of the collaboration of events with the Cadena Cultural Center celebrating Black History Month.
They provide education and support services for African American students, holding monthly workshops, academic counseling and mentoring services. Their goal is to develop a sense of community among African American students and staff at Fullerton and provide cultural understanding through events that reflect on Black culture.
The open mic night was organized by members of both programs held over Zoom and opened the floor for students to share their art and passions in a safe setting as well as a chance to hear Fullerton alumnus and “The Voice” contestant Nelson Cade III.
Students were able to share their songs, poetry and rap with others in attendance, cheering for each other through chat, creating a light-hearted, fun atmosphere.
The first act to kick off the event was Kenneth Siese, who played an original song about loneliness on his acoustic guitar. With less than two years of experience on the instrument, his raw talent was there for singing and songwriting.
Nelson Cade III was the third performer of the night and put on a smooth performance on his acoustic guitar, playing covers of Maroon 5, 21 Pilots, Jon Bellion and Stevie Ray Vaughan.
Cade told a story of a gig at the Skylight Gardens in Westwood, CA, where he would play nights. Halfway through a three-hour set, the bartender gave him a note which read “Stevie Wonder is here right now.”
“Imagine playing and reading that note, and trying to hold it together,” Cade laughed. “I mean it’s Stevie Wonder! I took a break after the song, and this guy, who was his manager came up to me and said that Stevie Wonder wanted to play, not by himself, but with me. I called my mom even though she lives three timezones away to tell her.”
Cade was a class act, not only as a songwriter but as a person who seemed genuinely interested in his community and former school. He stayed for the entire show and was active in the chat, cheering on every performer.
One notable performance was by Julissa Cardenas, who read their original poetry about women’s struggles, with a confident, passionate and open tone that resonated throughout every line; something that artists, from pro to amateur hope to achieve in their work and is the very reason for aching hands and long nights over the note pad.
“I realized that it wasn’t just about myself, I was writing for others as well,” Julissa stated. “What inspires me is knowing I can help make someone feel less alone, less than how I felt when I wrote a specific piece.”
The Beat Café is a worthwhile tradition and one that will continue in the coming years whether online or in-person; so keep your eyes and ears open, and your creative juices flowing for next year’s open mic.