First-ever Black Student Music Showcase comes to USF

Delayn Partlow, a third-year international business major and music minor, had an idea over a year ago to bring together student performers and celebrate Black artistry at USF. This month, that idea came to life at Lone Mountain’s Black Box Theater during the biannual performing arts and social justice (PASJ) music showcase. Black-identifying students and allies performed original works and paid tribute to music legends like Billie Holiday, Nat King Cole, and Roberta Flack at the first PASJ showcase dedicated to Black music. In his closing remarks, Partlow told the audience to “look around” at each of the performers. “This is what talent looks like at USF,” he said. “We did it.”


Abigail Cotchett made her way to center stage in the dark. When the lights came on, her gown sparkled and she sang the first notes of Etta James’ “At Last” with ease.

Spoken word poet Maxwell Ayiko told the audience they were in for a surprise with his two poems, each titled “Parasite.” He talked about the hardships he faces as a young Black man in both poems, but his words took on new emotional depths in the second rendering with the inclusion of African American Vernacular English.

D’Vine Riley embodied over 50 years of Black music with infectious joy in her performances of Sammy Davis Jr.’s 1961 classic “That Old Black Magic” and Miguel’s “Harem” from 2017. 

David Robinson told the audience a story with his soft vocals during his performance of “Unforgettable” by Nat King Cole. Later in the show, he joined Cherrie Liu, an expressive guitarist, for Roberta Flack’s “Killing Me Softly With His Song.”

J King moved across the stage with confidence and got the crowd going with two original songs, “Been That” and “Conflicted.”

Zana Lawrence, a self-proclaimed “Billie Holiday enthusiast,” transported the audience to a smoky 1940s bar with her performance of Holiday’s “All of Me.” Then, Lawrence strutted across the stage as she sang an original song about learning to love herself called “Her.”

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