The Collegian
Monday, April 15, 2024

Ngoma African Dance Company celebrates life of Christopher Elvin

<p>The Ngoma African Dance Company dedicated its March 23 concert "All Roads Lead to Africa" to celebrating the life of Christopher Elvin.</p>

The Ngoma African Dance Company dedicated its March 23 concert "All Roads Lead to Africa" to celebrating the life of Christopher Elvin.

As the lights dimmed to a mellow orange, the Ngoma African Dance Company took the stage for their spring showcase. The University of Richmond’s Camp Concert Hall was packed Saturday night for “All Roads Lead to Africa,” which commemorated the life of late sophomore Christopher Elvin, Jr. 

The show, which marked Ngoma’s 29th year on campus, featured a variety of dances spanning the African diaspora. The lively “Horn of Africa” performance gave the audience a glimpse into East African culture, and the dance "Dundungba" recalled traditions originating in Burkina Faso and Guinea. Sophomore Anaiya Forte and senior Katiana Isaac also performed solos. Members of Ngoma delivered remarks before the performance began, and Elvin’s friends and family were given the opportunity to speak about him during the ceremony at the beginning of the show. 

“I have so many fond memories with this beautiful angel that I will continue to cherish, and can only wish I had spent five more minutes with him,” said sophomore Nancy Barraza during her speech.

Elvin, known as “Chris” to his friends and family, was a sophomore from Newark, New Jersey. He had recently declared a major in business administration and a minor in Chinese studies. In addition to his academics, Elvin was a member of the Richmond Spidermonkeys, UR's men's club ultimate frisbee team, and served as president of West Indian Lynk, an organization connecting students of Caribbean descent. Elvin was seen as a beacon of the campus community who could befriend anyone–a sentiment echoed by many throughout the evening. 

“See the sunshine and remember him for the light that he is,” Barraza said.

Elvin’s aunt Christel delivered a brief biography, during which she said of him that “despite being born in the States, he was filled with Jamaican pride.” Elvin, who attended high school at St. George’s School in Middletown, Rhode Island, was fluent in Mandarin and had recently studied abroad in Taiwan. Those close to him remember Elvin as a caring friend who was always blasting songs through his headphones. As a child, however, he was slightly introverted. 

“He was shy but precocious, and one thing was clear. He was brilliant,” his aunt recalled.

Sophomore Shelby Richards, president of the Black Student Alliance, spoke next on behalf of the organization. 

“Chris was an active member of our campus and constantly worked on creating new events that would bring us closer,” said Richards. 

Richards also spoke on her personal relationship with Elvin, with whom she bonded over their shared love of music. 

“The world needs more Chris’s in it,” said Richards. “People who are unapologetically themselves and people who are kind.”

Senior Matt Fliegel spoke on behalf of the Spidermonkeys, of which Elvin had been a member since his first year. Fliegel and Elvin had bonded through the team and their shared love for the gym. Fliegel said his favorite memory of Elvin was when he deadlifted 405 pounds twice in his Halloween costume. 

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“I really do believe that the school and even the world itself would be a much better place if everyone was a little bit more like Chris,” Fliegel said.

To close out the ceremony, senior Jillian Yates, Elvin’s girlfriend, and sophomores Tara Knighton, Marian Ali and Nancy Barraza spoke on their personal relationships with Elvin. In her speech, Knighton highlighted how Elvin accepted everyone. 

“I never felt like I had to be someone for him to like me,” she said. “He liked me for me and it was honestly refreshing.” 

Ali also characterized Elvin as someone who knew how to make his friends feel seen. 

“Every time you walked into a room, you lit it up with your smile and contagious laughter,” she said. “Calling you my friend was a privilege that I feel I did not deserve because you always knew how to make me laugh, feel easy or give me the best hugs.”

Yates remembered Elvin as a considerate boyfriend who loved his friends. 

“Chris was someone who was so easy to love, and I was just lucky to see more of that,” Yates said. 

It would sometimes take the two of them twice as long to cross campus because Elvin would take the time to greet everyone he knew, Yates said.

“I hope we can meet each other in another life, but until then I’ll be thinking of him in every moment,”
she said. 

Contact Notes from the Margins editor Jasmine Wilson at jasmine.wilson@richmond.edu.

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