A Star In Universes
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The New York based ensemble company, UNIVERSES, has been performing all around the world since 1996. Two of UNIVERSES’ founding members, Mildred Ruiz Sapp and Steven Sapp, moved to Ashland with their son, Ashland High sophomore Quest Sapp, when Quest was 12 years old. The group has lost some of the original members since ’96, but gained new ones as well. The current group includes Quest’s parents, his uncle and two other students. UNIVERSES blends hip-hop, jazz, poetry, vocals, theater and blues in order to make political statements. When asked to sum up the purpose of UNIVERSES in one sentence, Quest said, “freedom of speech.”
Raised in The Bronx in New York City, Quest grew up learning from his parents that the freedom of speech is something we as individuals should not give up. His parents traveled around the world spreading this idea with their unique blend of poetry, song and politics. Quest told Rogue News, “[My parents] are not scared of what to say as long as it is true.”
Though Quest grew up used to his parents’ frequent performances, his own recent performance at the Ashland High Martin Luther King Jr. assembly and at the MLK Celebration at the Armory on January 18, were only his second and third performances. His stunning voice struck the students, staff and community as he sang the song “Feeling Good” by Nina Simone; following his parents’ performances at AHS and their keynote act at the armory. “I felt like it would make a real statement,” said Sapp. “I felt like that song had a lot of emotion.” His favorite performance during the celebration at the armory was Mouminatou Thiaw’s performance with her band, The Last Stop, playing a modernized version of “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised,” lyrics written by Ashland High student Jahiya Clark.
During the keynote act, Mildred and Steven Sapp told a story about their young son, Quest, and the day he learned from a New York schoolteacher that, “they killed Martin Luther King.” His parents talked about their experience as non-white parents, having to explain a painful history and reality to their young son. Despite this difficult experience, Quest and his parents are examples of people that hold up the theme of the 2016 MLK celebration—“let us be dissatisfied.”
At his previous schools in The Bronx, Quest was surrounded by an almost completely black community. “There were only about five white people in my school,” Quest said. Coming to Ashland, it was strange for him to be surrounded by a largely white community. Still, Quest says he has not seen any racism in Ashland since he has lived here. Last month, the Black Lives Matter campaign stated they are seeing racism in the Ashland community. Ahsante Foree, leader of Southern Oregon Black Lives Matter, told Rogue News during the Black Lives Matter march that he has witnessed and been subjected to several instances of racism in the community and on the Southern Oregon University campus.
Until there are no members of the community that are experiencing racism, UNIVERSES has said they will not be satisfied.