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SkinTones, Emerson’s A Cappella Group for People of Color, Debuts

On Tuesday, December 5, SkinTones, an a cappella group comprising students of color, made its debut at CenterStage in Emerson’s new Dining Center.

Founded in Spring 2016, the group was started by Malik Peacock ’18, a Communication Sciences and Disorders student, after he saw a lack of students of color in other a cappella groups and wanted to connect with other students of color through music.

“In my sophomore year, I was going through a bit of a crisis because I was not really involved in anything at Emerson,” said Peacock, who did not participate in the performance on Tuesday, but hopes to be more involved with the group next semester.  

SkinTones joins artist collective Flawless Brown as Emerson performance groups that speak through and to people of color. This weekend, the two literally will join together when they both perform at the Cabaret on Friday and Saturday.

On Tuesday, SkinTones performed popular songs, including “I Feel Like Coming” by The Weeknd and “I Wanna Dance with Somebody” by the late Whitney Houston. The group meets for two to three hours a week, but soon they will increase the number of rehearsal hours as they prepare for a cappella competitions in and around the city.

The six currently active SkinTones singers are all women, though not by design.

“Our aim is to be inclusive and diverse, and if someone identifies as a person of color, they are welcomed in our group,” said Sabrina Ortiz ’19, a Performing Arts major and president of the group. “We ended up with an all-female group and definitely some sort of sisterhood was developed in the process.”

Visual and Media Arts Professor Tom Cooper, faculty advisor for SkinTones, as well as other campus a cappella groups, praised the work ethic and dedication of all the students involved with the group. He said that groups like these present students with an opportunity to find their voice and express it.

“In the beginning, students don't realize it, but this group becomes their family; it becomes their community. It may also become their political expression if they choose songs that make a statement,” said Cooper, adding that students also learn leadership skills in the process of organizing meetings and making decisions for the group.

Chassidy David ’20, vice president of SkinTones, agreed with Cooper, saying her leadership position in the group has helped her learn “soft skills.”

“[SkinTones] is a safe space for us to sing and learn, but also gives us space to talk about what we are going through at the same time,” David said. “I have learned a lot of things about myself, about working with people and how to manage people.”

Ortiz is optimistic and excited about the future of SkinTones and its impact on the College.  

“In the coming years, when potential students apply to Emerson, I hope they say that they are applying because of SkinTones,” Ortiz said.


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