Twenty-five Carver High School students from Felecia Piggott-Long’s Theater Arts classes and Austin Warner’s health class participated in the “Black is Beautiful” fashion show on Thursday, May 12 in the school cafeteria . Former models Joseph Anderson of New Breed Models in New York and Valjean Griggs of Troyann Ross Modeling Agency in Charlotte and Ricky Wilson’s Fashions in Winston-Salem assisted students with programming.
Audience turnout was high, and other students and staff, as well as Principal Thyais Maxwell, joined them on the dance floor.
“The Black is Beautiful fashion show was a great cultural experience for our staff and students. Our students looked amazing and brought the culture and vibe that was so rich in the 60s and 70s to 2022! We are grateful to Dr. Piggott-Long for organizing this wonderful event for Carver Nation! says Dr. Maxwell.
Senior KeSean Samuel, drum major Carver, walked down the aisle with his mace in hand. “I just like to move and be hyped! If I can be hyped and get everyone involved, that’s exciting,” Samuel said. I watch other drum majors, like A&T, do it, and then I put my spin on it.
“It was a phenomenal display of culture and a wonderful introduction for some students to cultural variety,” Warner said. “They had fun. It felt like a cafeteria party – it’s the culture, baby! It was beautiful!”
“It was encouraging to see young people modeling ’60s and ’70s fashion. Those were my modeling years,” Griggs said. “I also modeled for Coca Cola as Fresca Girl.”
“I was happy to see so many young people wearing the dashiki. When I modeled with New Breed Models in New York, I remember Jason and Mable Benning, the founders of the company, popularizing the dashiki in America in the 1960s and 1970s,” Anderson said. “The dashiki was considered a warrior’s garment.”
The word dashiki comes from the Yoruba word “dansiki”, which means “loose shirt”. Various companies have promoted the cultural appropriation of this garment in the African landscape and throughout the African diaspora. The civil rights and Black Power movements of the 1960s and 1970s gave dashiki great political power. Wearing the dashiki is a way to reject Western cultural norms and embrace this emblem of black pride. The dashiki is a radical garment.
The dashiki was the center of attention during the show. The models wore dashikis in different colors – red and white, lime green, purple and gold, orange and black and green – to name a few. Other highlights include bling tops and shiny palazzo pants, as well as orange and royal blue polyester bell-bottom suits. The female models were dressed to perfection in African clothing, headwear, long skirts and dresses, dashiki dresses, dashiki tops and jumpsuits. They also wore dresses from China and India which interventionist Fran Bussey and Piggott-Long donated to the show.
The Black is Beautiful fashion show follows Kwame Brathwaite’s visit to the Reynolda House Museum of American Art’s “Black Is Beautiful” photography exhibit during Black History Month. Piggott-Long sponsored the excursion to the museum and visited the exhibit ten times. She dreamed of seeing her students modeling in these colorful clothes. The fashion show was a natural follow-up to the field trip.
“A dream without a plan is just a dream, but since the students and teachers realized it, it was more than a dream,” said David Fields.
This photography exhibit tells the story of a central figure in the second wave of the Harlem Renaissance. In addition to his photography, Brathwaite documents two organizations he co-founded – The African Jazz-Art Society (artists, playwrights, designers, dancers, etc.) and Grandassa Models. Jazz is a musical genre that originated in the African-American communities of New Orleans, Louisiana, and the United States in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, with its roots in blues and ragtime. The origins of jazz can be traced back to blues, ragtime, spirituals, folk music, marches and West African music. The models celebrated African American beauty standards.
Hector Mendoza, data manager, observed the fashion show during the three lunches.
” It went very well. The children had a lot of fun. African Americans and Hispanic students were eager to participate,” Mendoza said.
School counselor Arneathia Brown said: “I just loved the beautiful colors of the dashiki and appreciated the students’ willingness to participate. Plus, Dr. Piggott-Long was so involved and they were excited to hit the trail.
Councilman Kenneth Brown saw the fashion show as “a way to embrace the past in order to reshape the future”.