By Maxwell Sternlicht
On Wednesday, August 21st, the performing group, 621, held their first show. 621was founded by Nichi Pandey (’19) and English teacher, Mr. Michael Otieno Molina.
When 621 was first announced, they did not reveal the genesis of its name, saving that story for their first event. Nichi explained that at first he was searching for a Latin, Greek, or Sanskrit word that could symbolize the duo, but he then decided that numbers were more universal than words. Nichi went on to explain that the average human heart weighs 310 grams and that this duo was two hearts, equaling 620 grams. As for the number 1, he added it because he wanted the audience to be the plus 1, because they were also important to the group. Nichi and Mr. Molina decided that the name 621 was a “Conjuring-style” sign because Mr. Molina’s address is also 621.
Mr. Molina explained that the main goal of 621 is to create, “a welcoming environment of mutual respect where people can come and engage each other across many, many different perspectives.” 621 accomplishes this environment through the use of anecdotes, poems, rhythmic verse, humor, projected visuals, audio clips, audience interaction, along with other techniques.
Nichi explains, “it is really our hope that when viewers come, we’ll take them on an emotional journey of pain and suffering, anger and frustration, but also love and happiness, hope for a better tomorrow, and faith in the millions of Americans like ourselves and everyone else who can use their voice to make a difference…”621’sfirst show took place at Johns Hopkins’ Fast Forward U. The duo performed in a large open room, and brought in chairs to accommodate for the 75+ Hopkins students, Gilman teachers, the duo’s families, and recent Gilman alumni.
The event began with Whitney Houston’s hit song, Greatest Love Of All. As the song progressed, Mr. Molina grabbed a microphone, asking, “Nichi, are you ready to lead the way?” Nichi’s response was, “I guess... but what is this awful eighty’s song?” When Mr. Molina explained the sensational appeal of Houston, he quickly won the audience’s applause, setting a lighthearted tone for the first few segments.
The segments of the show varied from poetic readings to personal anecdotes (both dramatic and comedic). One such anecdote was Mr. Molina’s experience of returning to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina to tear down his family house. During this segment, he showed photos of his home before and after the hurricane and read an excerpt from his book, The Misbelief Tree. Nichi shared anecdotes of his lovelife during his junior and senior years at Gilman, stories which were both comedic and harrowing. Several segments gave the audience time to reflect and engage with the show. One instance being where 621would project a question, and the audience members would have 3 minutes to discuss it with the person sitting next to them.621hopes to continue performing their show and eventually travel to different cities. For now, Nichi is beginning his freshman year at Johns Hopkins University. Mr. Molina will continue to teach at Gilman, while also working on a poetic retelling of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Mr. Molina also hopes to involve other parts of the Gilman community, especially current students and faculty so that “together we are 621.”