Black culture takes center stage at The Black Experience

At a dynamic, student-led event, Black-owned businesses, fashion designers, and musical artists showed their talents in celebration of Black History Month.

By Aiden Penner ’27, student writer

February 21, 2024 | 11:30 a.m.

The Black Experience.

Black designers showcased their work in Benson Great Hall at a fashion show during The Black Experience.

As neuroscience major Misgana Mamo ’24 modeled in the fashion show during The Black Experience celebration earlier this month, she took pride in getting to display the God-given “beauty that comes with being Black” through all body shapes and sizes. For Mamo, other participants, and attendees, the celebration was a chance for Bethel students and community members to take pride in Black culture and to celebrate it.

Food, fashion, and worship were all on display on February 10 at The Black Experience, a student-led event that highlighted Black History Month at Bethel University. The event, which was organized by Bethel’s Black Student Union (BSU) with support from the Office of Inclusive Excellence, started with a vendor showcase in Brushaber Commons, with 32 Black-owned businesses exhibiting and selling their products, ranging from jewelry to bakery items. Then a fashion show in Benson Great Hall showcased the work of five Black designers before four musical groups led a gospel-style worship to end the evening. 


The Black Experience

The fashion show portion of The Black Experience showcased the work of Black designers from the community.

As she reflected on the display of beauty during the fashion show, Mamo said she hopes the event is only one way for students to immerse themselves in Bethel’s diverse culture. In celebrating her rich culture, Mamo found many glimpses of God throughout the day. "It was important in showing like how much we actually love our culture…it's a celebration for a reason,” she said. “It brings like a godly aspect—God is in the middle of this and that diversity is something God wants.”

 The Fill Me Up Worship Experience was a favorite of many attendees. It offered a taste of a music style different from the typical contemporary worship music at Chapel on Mondays and Fridays and Sunday night Vespers services. Esther Adeniyi ’24, who is a member of Bethel’s United Worship Ministries—the team that leads worship music at those services—saw the experience as another positive way for Black culture to connect with the kingdom of God in a new way, especially in the joy that gospel music exudes.  “I want worship to look like what the kingdom of heaven will look like,” D.J. Ellis ’27, a singer in the United team said. “Being able to show that to other people can open their hearts.”


The Black Experience

The Fill Me Up Worship Experience was a favorite for many who attended The Black Experience.

The Black Experience

Four musical groups led The Fill Me Up Worship Experience, a gospel-style worship service, to conclude The Black Experience event at Bethel.

While Bethel hosted a similar event for Black History Month last year, organizers took it to another level this year. Office of Inclusive Excellence Executive Assistant Nadine Palmer organized the vendor portion of this year’s event as well as the fashion show, for which she designed several pieces. Many of the vendors were members of the local Twin Cities community outside of Bethel. Palmer met BSU President Aniya Robertson ’26 and the two quickly started discussing ways to improve the event this year. After offering to help organize a new event this year using her connections outside of Bethel, Palmer collaborated with Robertson and other BSU leaders to organize a successful event. “My main goal is just bridging the gap between Bethel and our community,” Palmer said. “And letting them know that we do have a Christian institution that loves them and cares about them.”

Overall, Palmer hopes that attendees will see God’s fingerprints all across Bethel through every culture represented. Events like The Black Experience help signify the individualities of each person while uniting the community as God’s diverse kingdom. With many talents on display, Palmer also aims to showcase the excellence that exists among Christians in the Black community and wants to see everyone walk away with “a glow” from the Black joy expressed at the event.

The Black Experience

Thirty-two Black-owned businesses sold products during a vendor showcase in Bethel's Brushaber Commons.

The Black Experience

The 32 vendors at The Black Experience brought a variety of skills and products to Bethel, from nail art to sweets and treats.

Along with The Black Experience, Bethel also hosted an event at the library called “Backstage Barriers and Beyond: An Artist Conversation” on February 20, where artist M. Gasby Brown and Bethel President Ross Allen held a conversation on Brown’s artwork. Her Backstage Barriers and Beyond exhibit celebrates the separate, but equal activist story singers, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Nina Simone, Lena Horne, Mahalia Jackson, and Alicia Keys, and will also include a musical medley tribute featuring Adeniyi and Robertson.

Explore United Cultures of Bethel.

Bethel’s Black Student Union is part of United Cultures of Bethel (UCB), a student group that supports students in their cultural identities, enriches cultural sensitivity, and celebrates similarities and differences.

Learn more