As polarizing of a figure as NBA superstar LeBron James is in the realm of barbershop conversations and Twitter debates, President Donald Trump incomparably proved this past fall that he is the current “King” of divisiveness.

Even James agreed, and he added fuel to the fire of controversy.

Instead of mimicking Michael Jordan’s numerous Sports Illustrated covers of either an action shot on the hard wood or posing with the Larry O’Brien trophy, LeBron took a different approach when the illustrious magazine crowned him the 2016 Sportsperson of the Year in December. Donned in a cream suit, LeBron wore a safety pin over his lapel, an accessory that symbolizes safety and protection against minorities and women — groups Trump had offended during the gritty campaign season.

LeBron has been outspoken of his disdain for Trump. He stumped with Hillary Clinton at rallies and even suggested he may not visit the White House should the Cleveland Cavaliers win another championship. With his subtle statement on the cover of one of America’s most renowned magazines, he emphasized that strategically wearing clothing could send a powerful message.

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This past weekend, Elon University’s Black Student Union did the same thing — and did it masterfully. 

Their annual fashion show — themed this year as “A Different World” — frequently emphasized the role of African-Americans in today’s political climate, addressing the many negative stereotypes and offering encouragement moving forward.

The event was planned by sophomore Kenneth Brown Jr., the special event coordinator for BSU, who said he wanted people to leave the show feeling empowered and energized. Dashikis, “My Black is Solid,” T-shirts and a specific call to action in the five selective scenes: “For Change, Voices of the Culture, For the Culture” and “An Array of Excellence,” intuitively hammered home messages of resilience and poise in the face of adversity. The show also included multimedia elements. On a video wall adjacent to the runway, videos of President Barack Obama’s, “I, too, am America” speech and a #BlackBoyJoy monologue played during the breaks between scenes. One of the more powerful moments occurred when models resisted the urge to raise their fists when “Hands Up” by Vince Splice played.

The effects were well received by the audience. Brown, who changed his major from communications to human services this year, said he wanted to do everything possible to tell a great story.

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The show did exactly that.

Photo by Cameron Jackson

As someone who’s written frequently on this topic, I’ve seen a repetitive rut with how situations revolving around race relations can be handled. People don’t want to talk about it. But when people do want to talk about it, their message is that we need to talk about it more. It’s a never-ending cycle. No action is really taken. This fashion show was a breath of fresh air because it put a creative spin on how to handle this issue. An unorthodox showcase with underlying messages added to the overall effect and made it enjoyable. I never saw myself going to a fashion show. I never saw myself writing about one.

But this was different.

College students normally want to take to social media to exhaust their problems or frustration. But BSU’s systematic approach to a problem that can be fiercely debated was impeccable. In the recent past, students from across the nation have chosen alternative methods — some that only increase the divide between the problem. Blaming others, quickly making assumptions and then acting impulsively are common.

This wasn’t.

“As a younger generation, we have taken these concepts and made them our own,” Brown wrote in the fashion show program. “We have an obligation to take the world by storm and, despite the challenges we face, we make the most out of every situation.”

As an African-American male, seeing the show made me feel hopeful. It proved that sending messages can be as elaborate or as simple as you want — but it can be done creatively if someone puts their mind to it.

Now, BSU has set a precedent for other students and organizations in the future.


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