UCCI students sing for acceptance

Ericka Rockett-McBean, on guitar, and UCCI classmates, faculty and staff filmed a music video for her song 'Who I am.' - Photo: Kelsey Jukam

Students, faculty and staff of the University College of Cayman Islands offered a special performance last Thursday to promote tolerance and acceptance.

About two dozen people gathered in the quad in the afternoon to participate in the filming of a music video for a song called “Who I am,” written by UCCI student Ericka Rockett-McBean, who goes by the stage name Ericka Assai.

The song discusses lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender issues, like discrimination and homophobia, but according to Ms. Rockett-McBean “the song is about acceptance as a whole.”

The song started out as an assignment for Ms. Rockett-McBean’s dance class. Professor MoniKa Lawrence had students prepare a creative work to present at the TEDxUCCI conference on March 19.

The students wanted to contribute something that was topical, and in the Cayman Islands, the issue of LGBT rights has been in the spotlight in recent months. It’s a topic Ms. Rockett-McBean said is “a pressing issue in society” and one she and fellow students often discuss.

“I know a lot of homophobic people and I love gay people, as I said in my TED talk,” Ms. Rockett-McBean. “Why knock somebody just because of their preference?”

While Ms. Rockett-McBean hopes to become a psychiatrist, she is also a songwriter, singer and guitar player.

“Who I am” started as a spoken word poem, but turned into a song as Ms. Rockett-McBean strummed her guitar, and, quickly, a whole team of students joined creative forces to turn the piece into a rich and layered piece of music.

“My team is amazing,” Ms. Rockett-McBean said.

The students were supported in their endeavor by Ms. Lawrence and also by UCCI musical director Glen Inanga.

“It makes me very proud to see…they’re the future, they’ve taken the lead, they’ve shown us what they can do,” Mr. Inanga said. “We’re really trying to give the young people here in Cayman a voice and trying to effect cultural change.”

Mr. Inanga said that as the students worked on the song, it evolved from focusing on one specific group of people and turned into something that was more about acceptance and tolerance in general, of individuals from all different walks of life.

“No one is saying that it’s right or wrong to be this way or that way, but the important thing is that we’re focusing on accepting the different rather than judging them,” Mr. Inanga said.

It’s a message that was readily supported by UCCI President Roy Bodden, who canceled Friday afternoon classes and encouraged the entire student body to participate in the filming of the video.

“Tolerance does not necessarily mean that you condone something,” Mr. Bodden said. “It means that you have an understanding and you respect people’s rights to be different…UCCI has to mirror society and these are the young people of the future.”

About two dozen students, faculty and staff showed up to participate as extras in the music video, which was directed by Lance Parthé, owner of Parthé Productions. When he caught wind of the song, he offered to direct the video for free. Hopscotch Productions provided studio recording for the song at no cost.

The song will eventually be posted on YouTube.