St. Thomas Gospel Choir hosts Face Forward EXPOSED show

About 70 people filled Scooters’ seats, April 12, to watch Face Forward’s EXPOSED show presented by the UST Gospel Choir. The show included three slam poets, dance performances, African drumming and singing.

Face Forward is a nonprofit media organization that works to bring unique performers together for shows that are meant to showcase humanity. 2010 St. Thomas graduate Amanda Leaveck started the organization and is the creative director.

“I started it because I saw a niche in the community for a collaboration of performing arts and the use of art for social change,” Leaveck said. “I hope that they (performances) contribute to the community. I hope that they spark passion in the audience and build community.”

Since Leaveck started Face Forward, the organization has booked performances for Holiday Inn, Corepower Yoga, Kidventure, Macalester and St. Thomas.

“My favorite part is the moment when the performers are on stage and the audience members are quiet and listening, and there’s a connection there and everyone’s sharing it,” Leaveck said. “There’s a lot of power in that.”

Last week’s show began with two dance performances by Energy Dance Collective and followed with slam poetry. Khary Jackson recited two of his pieces. Though the first piece conveyed more of a personal message, the second explained the drama of college house parties.

Tinitha Warren, also known as Da Black Pearl, recited her slam poetry as well. Warren touched on the hardships that inner-city girls endure.

Sophomore Kevin Yang of Hamline University was the last of the slam poets. Yang, who competes in a slam poetry club at Hamline, spoke about his Hmong heritage. He ended with a more comical piece on bike theft.

Senior Sharhar Eberzon of Macalester College and guitarist/singer Daniel Lohmann performed four songs: “Redemption Song” by Bob Marley, “Landlocked Blues” by Bright Eyes, “Falling Slowly” from the Once soundtrack and “Lime Tree” by Trevor Hall.

Eberzon, who has performed for Face Forward shows in the past, said the songs she sings focus on “humanity and connections.”

“When I sing them, I’m in a very vulnerable position because I take them very close to my heart. And when I’m on stage, I’m in a vulnerable position because I’m visible, which is something that I’m still struggling with,” Eberzon said. “But through this music, I’m trying to create a connection over feelings and emotions and love.”

Eberzon has been with Face Forward since its beginning in October 2009 and plans on interning for the organization next year.

The next performance was by Earthshake, a world rhythm drum ensemble. The group of African drummers was accompanied by four dancers who literally brought the audience out of their seats.

Senior Kiana Williams’ a capella song reset the mood from intense to relaxed. Williams is the current director of the UST Gospel Choir, a group that started in 2005.

After another singing and guitar performance, the show ended with the gospel choir unexpectedly singing a capella due to technical difficulties.

Senior Tiffany Lewis is a member of the choir and said she enjoys coming to Face Forward shows because of the variety of performances.

“I was just blown away by the work that they did and the work by the dancers with the African drummers. All the performances in general were amazing. I loved dancing along with the music,” Lewis said.

Geena Maharaj can be reached at