A Tribute for Social Change

Students use dance events as platform to create all-inclusive space

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A hip-hop mix of Mariah Carey’s “Shake It Off” echoed through the loft of The Catalyst as a projector flashed video clips from classic ’90s and early 2000s television shows like Lizzie McGuire, content from Obama’s last days as president and clips of Mariah Carey music videos and her New Year’s performance.

It was Mariah Carey Tribute Night at the loft, and damp bodies filled the dance floor as three student DJs spun throwback hits.

“I love the old school vibe. [It] keeps all the ages going,” said Santa Cruz local Tiba Ganesh as she danced to Mariah’s “Fantasy.”

Thursdays on the Loft kicked off by tributing Mariah Carey and other artists from the ’90s and early 2000s including TLC, Boyz II Men and Whitney Houston. The series launched on Jan. 19 with about 200 people in attendance. It was the first of eight Thursdays on the Loft events this quarter, with more planned in the spring. Upcoming events will be free and accessible to anyone 21 years and older.

The Mariah Carey Tribute was hosted by The Social Club, a group comprised of seven UC Santa Cruz students and one community member. The Social Club has been planning, hosting and facilitating dance events for the past three years throughout the greater Santa Cruz area.

The event went beyond the dance and nightlife elements. It brought people together through musical interest and nostalgia. It sparked conversation among the crowd about the upcoming presidential inauguration.

The Social Club added that with the inauguration the next day, its objective with the Mariah Carey Tribute was to establish an environment where people could come together in solidarity to make connections and implement what they’re learning in school in a social environment.

“One thing that we’re trying to push with The Social Club is having a very dynamic demographic, meaning there [are] spaces, especially [for] people of color, where we don’t feel safe,” said The Social Club co-founder and fourth-year student Daniel M. Murillo-Perez. “There are folks that practice a lot of social oppressions, [so] we are trying to create a space that liberates from those things.”

The event series is dedicated to social change, community building and dynamic entertainment. It transformed a traditional dance party into a safe space, giving students the agency to express themselves in a non-threatening atmosphere.

“We are a group that is all about intentionality,” said fifth-year student Adam Villalobos. “We formed because, as students here in Santa Cruz, we don’t have space or see a space for us to really take ownership and be a part of.”

The Social Club created Thursdays on the Loft in response to the lack of spaces both on and off campus designated for student ownership.  Hosting events with student DJs provides agency and full autonomy to students to create an environment where they can manifest their ideas.

“[The loft] is being retrofitted into what we want it to be: a dance club, a discotheque,” said fourth-year student and co-founder Alberto Reyes. “A lot of things we’re bringing in ourselves, like the projector and the sound system. The college community at UC Santa Cruz needs something like this.”

Reyes, Daniel M. Murillo-Perez and Jacques Huynh were the founders of The Social Club (then known as VIBE). They are all DJs, spinning music for events on campus before they started playing shows. At the Mariah Carey Tribute, the three DJs rotated in mixing throwbacks, each implementing their own style.

Mindful of spaces where  people of color   feel unsafe due to racism or hypermasculinity, The Social Club aims to produce a student-run discotheque with students of all ages, different college affiliations and diverse cultural backgrounds.

“[The event] made me feel empowered, being surrounded by so many beautiful people of color unafraid to express themselves,” said fourth-year student Chelsea Valenzuela.

Last quarter, The Social Club’s event, “If It Don’t Make Dolla$, It Don’t Make ¢¢¢,” sparked concerns because it referenced cultural appropriation in ’90s and early 2000s. People were worried attendees would wear urban attire as a costume, justifying it as a part of the era’s cultural style. The Social Club decided to publicize a statement on the Facebook event page acknowledging the issue.

The group advised the public to be aware of the space it is creating and generated a conversation about cultural appropriation within the UC community. It declared it does not endorse any form of appropriation.

“[The Social Club is] trying to be intentional about creating an environment that’s conducive to the mental, spiritual and emotional health of people of color […] and for the student body in the greater Santa Cruz area, but especially aimed at UC Santa Cruz,” said member of The Social Club and community organizer for the Kapor Center for Social Impact Jonathan Garcia.

In building this kind of environment, the group makes sure its marketing is culturally sensitive and approaches any mishaps or misunderstandings about its intentions.

The group is open to collaborating with students and organizations on campus to ensure it is not only reacting to concerning comments but taking steps to ensure it is proactively establishing a safe and inclusive social environment.

“It was a space that made me feel like I actually belonged, a space where there were other people like me,” said fourth-year student Chelsea Valenzuela. “I felt free; I felt boundless. Being there made me feel like I wasn’t different or an outsider.”


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