“We have the power. We have the right. The streets are ours; take back the night!” Powerful words you might have heard last Thursday, Oct. 19, being chanted by over 50 women and men as they marched around and near campus in solidarity with sexual violence survivors.
On and off for around 30 years, Keene State College has hosted a Take Back The Night event, representative of a nationwide movement started in 1978 in San Francisco. The movement was created to protest sexual violence against women, and for women to “take back” their rights to safely walk the streets at night without fear. The event as KSC featured collaborative signmaking, slam poetry read by students, keynote speaker Patricia Pedroza and a walk of solidarity around Keene. The poetry readings connected the arts with raising awareness of sexual assault and violence against women, really allowing a creative platform for students to talk about the problem.
Dakota Umbro, member of Sexual Assault and Violence Education committee (S.A.V.E), emceed the night, as well as helped to organize it. “I think this event is really trying to spread awareness to the fact that [sexual violence] is really awful and it happened everyday and we shouldn’t have to feel this way but since we do, being able to stand up and say something about it is important.” Umbro said. “ I think it’s really important to see how common it is.”
Senior Maggie McNamara helped coordinate Take Back The Night event for the last two years. She appreciated the student poetry performances for putting a face on what the event stood for, and increasing student involvement.
“It kinda just puts context to what we are doing here,” McNamara said.
The Live Poets Society also had five students perform spoken word pieces at the event. Junior Lisa Russo was one of the poets performing, sharing a piece called “To The Women Who Said No.” The performances used poetry and spoken word performance to really highlight the inherent problems society has with dealing with and exasperating sexual assault and violence.
The piece centered around men cat-calling and objectifying women, and how their attitudes towards women can often go sour when rejected.
When asked on inspiration for her poem, Russo said it was a way to demonstrate that “women are allowed to say no. We don’t have to say yes, we are allowed to say ‘I don’t want your advances- yes you may be attracted to me but I am not interested.’” “I think this is a way for the students voices to be heard and also just to bring in that emotional side of actual students,” Umbro said of having the slam poets perform this year.
Forrest Seymour, a counselor on campus who helps run the S.A.V.E committee, helped students to organize the event.
“I think events like these are important for raising awareness in the sense of letting people know that sexual assault, street harassment, these things really do happen,” Seymour said. “I think also for survivors, it’s really powerful for them to see other people out there trying to stop things.”
Meridith King can be contacted at
Meridith King can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org