As of last week, Stamp Student Union’s UPS Store is not just for buying school supplies or shipping packages. Every other Wednesday night, students and locals can now immerse themselves in a newly-formed hub of up-and-coming artists.
The University of Maryland’s campus has talent around every corner, and Beats & Bites is opening the floor for artists of all different levels and variations to perform in an environment packed with support – and, of course, free food.
The event, co-created by Beats & Bites host and junior government and politics major Deji Afolabi, his team and the UPS Store, kicked off just after 6 p.m. on Wednesday. Attendees and performers were invited to grab a slice of pizza and listen to the variety of talent the community offers. The event synthesized acapella acts and instrumental performances throughout a two-hour period.
“I wanted this event to be created because I wanted to show the creativity. I felt like we didn’t have much of an opportunity here, especially minorities here, to give their voice out to the UMD community,” said Afolabi, who hopes to share his Nigerian heritage through his performances. “It was a passion for me. It was something that I knew I needed to do, and it’s just an opportunity for me to share my message to the entire world.”
Afolabi knew he wanted to have the event somewhere in Stamp, which sparked the idea to approach management at the student union’s UPS Store.
The untraditional setup for an event in the middle of campus has been “an amazing thing so far,” Afolabi added.
“I wanted to make this a Stamp thing, and we went to the UPS owner,” Afolabi said. “She just loved the idea, she loved it. And she was like, ‘Okay, let’s let’s do this. Let’s set this up for the community’ and she was completely down for it.”
Music has captivated Afolabi since his youth. He started creating music when he was 15 years old. Today, he performs around the DMV and plans to release a special project involving skits and songs.
While many, including Afolabi, have performed before, some of last week’s Beats & Bites performers took the floor for one of their first times. Afolabi continued to remind attendees how difficult it can be to perform in front of a crowd.
“I’m excited to see fresh faces in the sense that a lot of times, people who love their art and what they perform are oftentimes really scared,” said Beats & Bites performer and freshman environmental science and policy major Jade Blackmoore. “Smaller scale stuff like this can be really great opportunities for people to break out of that shell and show what they’ve never done before.”
The event is hosted on campus, but Beats & Bites features artists from all over the area, including University of Maryland alumni and performers from Baltimore City and Prince George’s County. The Beats & Bites events will continue to feature local returners alongside new performers who sign up ahead of each performance.
“It’s one of the first times where it’s artists celebrating artists,” said freshman government and politics major Helen Mesfin. “This whole event was made by students for other students and just seeing that camaraderie, lifting each other up is what I like.”
This was the first Beats & Bites, but the UPS Store was far from empty. Performers and attendees alike congregated in front of each act singing, dancing and cheering along. As performances went on, the audience gained multiple passerbyers who couldn’t turn down the chance to investigate the crowd and artists.
Beats & Bites returns to the UPS Store for its second evening on Sept. 20. Students looking to discover their new favorite on-campus performers can attend for talent of all kinds.