Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Comments on Baldwin Wallace's Take Back the Night

from Alex Leslie, Community Educator

My comment on the Baldwin-Wallace Take Back the Night is below; as soon as I get some pictures from my contacts there, I’ll also send to Wendy to post:

“It takes two people to speak the truth: One to speak and another to hear.” – Henry David Thoreau

It was pretty cold. It was dark too; amazingly dark for a college campus. It also looked like it was going to rain any second, since it had been all day prior. Did I mention it was Thursday night?

Despite so many reasons to stay inside, about 100 people—students, faculty, staff, and community members included—came out to support the Baldwin-Wallace Take Back the Night (TBTN) March and Rally put on by the student group POWRE (Promoting Our Women’s Resources and Experiences). I caught up with the group of people mid-march, which wasn’t terribly difficult. “What do we want?!” “SAFE STREETS!” “When do we want them?!” “NOW!!”

Anyone who has ever been to a TBTN event knows that these chants are the rallying calls during the march, and B-W’s was just as engaging, drawing looks out front doors and causing megaphone reverberations throughout the neighborhood. The tone of the march was passionately harmonious, with many people linking arms, and everyone carrying candles. I jumped into the pack and saw some familiar faces; we had but a minute to exchange “hellos” before we were roped into another chant, “Racist, sexist, anti-gay; don’t you take our night away!” For the remaining quarter mile of the march, I joined in with the group, not knowing how many people were there until we all gathered in a fire pit area outside of the student union.

From there, Emily Mastroianni, executive board member of POWRE and former CRCC intern, took the reigns and encouraged all attendees to practice something the Quakers call, “holding in the light.” This meant that people could speak about hopes, concerns, fears, joys, etc… by first saying, “I hold in the light…” What was most powerful about the experience was how moving some of the things people were willing to “hold in the light;” some people said, “survivors,” others “those who can’t get out of dangerous relationships.” One young man said, “women who have been raped or battered,” and a woman said, “men who have been raped or sexually abused.” No one said what came to my mind; the campus of Baldwin-Wallace, a joy for an activist like me.

After about 10 minutes of sharing, everyone had the opportunity to leave, yet most stayed to chat and eat s’mores with each other (let it never be said that being an activist doesn’t have its benefits). With hugs all around, the executive board of POWRE celebrated their achievement, and thanked some student groups who sent representatives to march and speak out on violence against women in their communities.

The whole event served as a renewal to my commitment to college campuses in Northeast Ohio; if students can come and speak truth to each-other, I can certainly continue to do so myself. I look forward to continuing to work with POWRE, and look forward to greater regional partnerships between campuses, so that all violence on campuses can be addressed. I look forward to the day when the kind of truth spoken at B-W that night is the action that every student takes to prevent men’s violence against women, and indeed, all violence, on their campus.

If you are interested in the history of Take Back the Night, you can check out this link from the national organization:

If you want to plan a Take Back the Night on your campus, you can use this guide to start, and please contact me to provide support:

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