The talent of Hope’s women was held high Saturday as the 84th annual Nykerk Cup Competition rocked DeVos Fieldhouse. From 7 to 10 p.m., three hours of performance represented the distilled efforts of three weeks of hard work and devotion from dozens and dozens of individuals. Foremost among these would be the performing song girls, play girls and orators, but also morale members, coaches and judges alike. While both teams performed spectacularly well, it would be Even Year who would take home the trophy. For those unfamiliar with the yearly competition; Nykerk is a women’s performance competition that originated in 1935 by music department founder Dr. John Nykerk.
The competition has undergone several iterations and seen many refinements that have since become a hallmark of the tradition. While the judges are instructed to grade the performances based on quality, there are also rules dictating the qualities and mannerisms that must be attended to for each act. The teams are also graded on a presentation, continuous smiling, and transitions from the audience bleachers to stage bleachers. Nykerk, often seen as an antithesis to the more masculine Pull, prides itself on delicate professionalism while maintaining wholehearted sportsmanship. First on the agenda was “HopeOpoly,” the Even Year play in which two freshman Hope students were trapped in a board game with an amalgamation of game pieces. Afterwards came Odd Year oration, featuring Camryn Zeller and her piece “All You Shining Stars” about societal heuristics and freeing ourselves from them by faith. This was then followed by Even Year song, a cover of Adele’s 2011 “Rolling in the Deep,” with its traditional hand motions. After a brief intermission, it was time for Odd Year Play “A Tulip Tizzy,” about missing tulips and some of Holland’s great features. Next, Even Year’s orator Gracyn Carter performed her piece entitled “Shaping the Shattered”, in which she used allusions to pottery to talk about recovery.
The final event of the evening was Odd Year Song, performing a medley from the Julie Andrews 1965 film “The Sound of Music.” After the performance, judges were escorted to an isolated room for deliberation, and speaker Rachel Gillespie thanked those responsible for putting Nykerk together: the Executive Board, coaches of all of the events, the Carter Damaska judges, and the technical staff. Finally, Even Year was declared winner of the 2018 Nykerk Cup Competition. This breaks a three-year dry spell for Even Year, and both teams celebrated with “Meet You in the Middle”, a sign of solidarity between the competitors. As put by Odd-Year Song’s Hope College’s Black Student Union hosted its third annual Black Excellence Dinner on Friday at the Midtown Center in Holland. The group was celebrating the 50th anniversary of its formation as the Black Coalition at Hope College.
With this in mind, they paid homage to one of the greatest eras in black history: the Harlem Renaissance. They sought to honor those who have come before them but also recognize the excellence exhibited within the Hope College community. The group made magnets or this special occasion, and everyone in attendance received one. Two awards were given out at the event: The Kujichagulia Alumni and the Sankofa. Kujichagulia is the second principle of Kwanzaa, meaning self-determination. This award is “meant to define, name, create, and speak of a rich, resilient culture crossing the four corners of the globe. The recipient(s) possess the motivation and drive to go above and far beyond what could have been imagined for us. They are the elders’ wildest dreams come true.”
This award was presented to two outstanding alumni, Dr. Dara Spearman, who currently owns her own practice specializing in dermatology, and Dr. David Paul, who specializes in neuroscience in west Michigan. Both alumni gave impassioned speeches about their experiences at Hope and their lives and career after college, leading to their success now. They encouraged the audience, specifically the students of color, to go out to achieve their dreams and make them their own. The second award, Sankofa, has special significance because it roughly translates as “Go back and get it.” Its literal translation from the Akan words meaning “return, go, and seek” is as follows: “It is not taboo to fetch what is at risk of being left behind.” This honorary award was presented to Dr. VickiLynn Holmes who is an exceptional person who exemplifies intelligence, focus, commitment, resilience, and determination. She is well known for her kindness, even to people who are not always kind back to her. With this in mind, she seeks first the wisdom and power of God. Every morning at 5 a.m., she walks around her neighborhood and prays over her community. Because of her Christian faith, the Hope College community and City of Holland regularly call on her to pray over their lives and critical issues impacting their work and community.
This award represents Dr. Holmes well; she dares to reach back to her history, personal and collective. The night ended with a get-together with many of the students present. The third annual Black Excellence dinner sought to honor distinguished alumni and professors and close the boundaries, through positive dialogue, between color, while enriching and diversifying the Hope community. Erin Hoffman and Safia Hattab, “While Nykerk is a competition, we are first and foremost dedicated to sisterhood and the empowerment of women on Hope’s campus.” This encapsulates the spirit that Nykerk hopes to stir each year in its participants and its thousands of fans.