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CIAA Reinvigorates Charlotte 

QC After Dark gets down in uptown

What does CIAA stand for?

According to Tone X, it's an acronym for "Charlotte Invaded by African Americans." Hey, he said it, not me. I thought it meant: "Charlotte Is having A lot of After parties." Turns out, it actually translates as Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association.

Like Patti LaBelle said during her Apollo Night performance at the Convention Center: "Give it up for all the young football players ... basketball ... whatever y'all play, shit." Clearly, Patti Patti wasn't in Charlotte to watch the games. Nor was I -- I was hyped for the post-games.

Speaking of post: This week, my column could rival New York Post's Page Six, because Charlotte had 20-20 vision for celebrity sightings during the CIAA: DMX at Dilworth Grill, Big Daddy Kane at The Breakfast Club, Jay-Z at The Forum, Big Tigger at Jillian's, Magic Johnson at the Big Chill, President Bush at ... well, yeah, along with Diddy, he couldn't make it down for the tournament.

Meanwhile, the Convention Center converted into the hottest megaclub uptown, with parties hosted by DJ Clue, Fantasia, Trina and LL Cool J. Not to mention appearances by LaBelle, Heather Headley, Steve Harvey, Biz Markie and celebrity chef Marvin Woods of Turner South's Home Plate.

My party got started Wednesday night, when I got down in NoDA at the Neighborhood Theatre's Michael Ward jazz concert. Ward, a New Orleans jazz violinist who came to Charlotte straight from Mardi Gras, played for a crowd full of New Orleans evacuees, taking them back home for the night. Something about jazz music gets me in the mood ... to dance that is. So after the concert, I went to the after party at the Hart-Witzen Gallery to shake my tail feathers.

Thursday, I kicked off my night at the Convention Center, pretending I was on Harlem's famous 125th street for entertainment at the Apollo. Amateurs (aka students) from CIAA colleges showcased their talent (or lack thereof) for a multi-generational crowd. A lot of groups, including Charlotte's True Divine opted to sing gospel, perhaps because it's boo safe. But victory graced John Legend's vocal twin from Elizabeth State. After the show, queen diva LaBelle serenaded the Queen City with her 61-year-old-yet-timeless pipes. Then it was down the street to the Big Chill for Big Daddy Kane's Tip Off party, which extended to the parking lot.

At 6am on Friday, I stirred myself for the Steve Harvey Morning Show taping -- it felt like nightlife because I'd never slept. Harvey claimed this is his favorite city; two points, Charlotte. That night, I went from a meet-and-greet with the band Cowboy Mouth to the sold-out Step Show back at the Convention Center, where we witnessed groups from frats and sororities perform some of the best dancing I have ever seen. Between performances, audience Greeks busted impromptu moves in the aisles. My favorite step team was North Carolina Central's Deltas. Apparently, they were the judges' favorites as well because they won -- as did JCSU's male Sigmas. I worked the floor too that night, to beats provided by DJ Clue.

I knew Saturday was going to be a good CIAA day, when a limo conveyed me to guest alongside CIAA Commissioner Kerry on Marvin Woods' cooking show. The kitchen stage wasn't the only thing heating up the Convention Center, though: Biz Markie was spinning, while I was salivating over the food being prepared by Diddy's favorite chef. Later on, I finally made it to a game -- the final men's game that is. I joined Woods in his suite to cheer on JCSU at the Bobcats Arena and spy Mr. CIAA cruise the stands in his flamboyant threads. I'm partial to Smith because I am a TA there, but I'm not mad at Virginia Union for winning (I was born and raised in the VA, after all).

Above all, the best entertainment was that which celebrated the cultural traditions of historically black colleges, such as Apollo Night and the Step Show. As for the club parties, they were too crowded to actually get your groove on. Still, since the crowd was mostly upbeat and classy, I had no problem getting down in uptown.

Psst: If you have the inside dirt on good parties, shows or club events, drop me a line at brittney.cason@creativeloafing.com

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