Normally, Friday nights are spent at the Union watching the Sacramento State talent show or going to live concerts in the ballroom, but due to COVID-19, these nights are now spent watching these same events from behind a computer screen.
The Sac State UNIQUE program is responsible for hosting memorable social events on campus and UNIQUE program members have been tirelessly working throughout the year to ensure that memories are still being made and captured virtually.
Ajamu Lamumba, the UNIQUE programs advisor, described the typical process of coordinating campus events. He said most events are cultivated differently but advanced preparation is crucial.
“Sometimes it can take planning in January for something that’s going to happen in September or December,” Lamumba said. “So it can take planning six to eight months in advance for a larger named artist, so we’ll start working now for fall events.”
The Union at Sac State is currently closed to students and to the public, so events hosted by UNIQUEhave been coordinated virtually in other locations. Lamumba said as of now, social events will still be held virtually through the 2021 fall semester.
Noah Flores, a UNIQUE volunteer said he found a program based in Sacramento called Remedy Revue that allows Sac State to partner with artists for upcoming events.
“They are a virtual venue that has full sound capabilities and extensive visual capabilities for specifically streaming concerts,” Flores said. “These are music and audio visual professionals and hobbyists, it’s Josh Haines and Alex Severson.”
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Both Lamumba and Flores said that before they were partnered with Remedy Revue, all of their events were streamed over social media.
“We were doing stuff on Instagram live and it was terrible, we had to trust that these people we were booking had the equipment, had the know-how,” Flores said. “They were their own film, tech, performance and they were doing all these hats and we had to trust that it would work out.”
Elysse Fresquez, a UNIQUE volunteer, transferred to Sac State last fall and said she wanted to get involved with campus events and UNIQUE was a program that stuck out to her.
“I found UNIQUE on Instagram and I was really impressed with how UNIQUE was able to transfer super well into an online environment,” Fresquez said. “Of course I wasn’t here last year, but when I came in to see the orientation, it just seemed like they had everything in order.”
By the end of the 2019-2020 school year, UNIQUE already had a lineup for summer events, including livestreamed concerts with musical guests, DJ Rated R and The Gold Souls. The UNIQUE program had also adjusted the upcoming fall events to a virtual format.
Fresquez said UNIQUE has given her the opportunity to get a hands on experience of everything the UNIQUE program has to offer.
“I’ve been able to promote through Instagram and their upcoming shows, I’ve gotten to MC a couple of shows which has been really fun,” Fresquez said. “I didn’t think in any way I would be helping to the extent that I am now, I thought that would have been a limited opportunity as a volunteer moving onto the online setting.”
Sac State’s Got Talent, movie screenings, guest speakers and Wednesday nooners — concerts that are held at noon, are only a few of the events the UNIQUE program has hosted over the past 2020-21 school year. Lamumba said the turnout for these events has been better than expected.
“On average for our nooners is between 20-30 [people] and that’s not really high, but it is,” Lamumba said. “We have heard from other campus entities where they’re like, ‘Yeah well, we had three people at our event,’ and for us, we’re like ‘we only got 20’ and they say, ‘how did you get 20 people?’”
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Other events held by UNIQUE have brought in more spectators. For example, Lamumba said that keynote speaker Andrea Ritchie’s 50th Anniversary of Women’s Studies at Sac State event guest lecture brought in 280 viewers.
Flores said the virtual environment has allowed Sac State students to remain involved with campus events, even from across the world.
“I think one of our crowning achievements was the self-produced event we did, it was our last event of last year,” Flores said regarding the Sac State’s Got Talent talent show. “We had 120 people come in that; we had people from Georgia looking in, we had people from India competing[ in the Sac State talent show], we had people all over.”
Social media has played a helping hand in allowing students to stay connected with upcoming events, and Fresquez said that Flores and herself make sure to keep the UNIQUE program’s social media updated.
“I luckily get to do the weekly recaps with Noah now, which is really fun,” Fresquez said. “We get to interview our guest speakers beforehand now, upload it as a Youtube video for all the students to see, and kind of get acquainted with the artist before they show up to their concert or event.”
It’s not too late for any students looking to join the UNIQUE volunteers with event planning, or for students looking to get involved to cure their isolation fatigue.
“We’re always open, we’re open to anyone 24/7,” Lamumba said. “As long as you’re a Sac State student, there is a little form that you can fill out on our website and essentially we have meetings every Monday and Tuesday at 1 [on Zoom].”
Lamumba said the sense of community that the UNIQUE program has built is what sets them apart from other clubs.
“Our ultimate goal is to create a family experience because Sac State is a huge campus,” Lamumba said. “It [UNIQUE] gives you a great opportunity to get yourself out there and to become exposed.”