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Arts and Entertainment

Words, songs and dances of praise: Affinity’s open-mic night draws talent from the faithful

A lone podium and a chair lit by a portable soft light, throwing shadows on a hefty keyboard and what looks to be an old-fashioned broadcast microphone. Welcome to Affinity’s first open-mic night.

Affinity is a Christian Bible study and prayer group formed this academic year after almost three years of work. Founding members saw a need for the multicultural, and specifically black community, to have a worship group of its own.

Junior Ryan Elliott is the group’s president and one of the founding members. Beginning as a prayer group with friends, Affinity saw the need at Elon University for a new kind of group.

“No other group is trying to target (multicultural students),” he said. “We felt there was a demographic not being reached.”

Affinity’s adviser, Leslie Garvin, is the associate director of North Carolina Campus Contact, a group that encourages student volunteerism. She sees Affinity events as a way for  different Christian groups on campus to join together.

The open-mic night April 17 was only the first of what the group hopes to become an annual event. The open-mic format was the brainchild of sophomore Kemi Olagbegi.

“People always come up to listen,” she said, referencing the recently popular spoken-word poetry format. “It’s just with a twist, about Christianity.”

Fourteen acts were lined up for the evening. Ranging from a cappella singing to violin playing,  to spoken-word and step dancing, all performers were visibly touched by the message they were trying to communicate.

The newly minted step group Order my Steps, which formed April 11, performed an original dance crying, “We use our voice, our hands and our feet” and “J-E-S-U-S” instead of the usual braggadocio style of fraternity and sorority stepping. Junior Brittany Cadwallader shared a personal story of family loss and eventual recovery and sang a praiseful song with clear emotions of relief and joy on her face.

Perhaps the performance that was most profound was sophomore Chelsea Yarborough’s poem describing her best friend’s testimony. The poem rattled off in a fast-paced spoken-word style, even with breaks in Yarborough’s voice as she told the painful story.

“It hit me hard,” Yarborough said of her friend’s revelation.

Faced with a lifetime of low self-esteem and self-hatred, Yarborough’s friend tried to commit suicide twice.

Yarborough said she was honored that her friend asked her to write a poem and share the story with others.

“What it did for me was allow me to step into someone else’s shoes,” Yarborough said. “It was like seeing the road someone else took to get to where I am now.”

Affinity has other events planned for the rest of the semester, including its weekly Bible studies every Friday from 5-7 p.m. Each week they read the Bible, discuss current issues or do a service project. The next major event is the Day of Prayer, where Affinity will join with other Christian groups May 12.

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