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Chico State's independent student newspaper

The Orion

Sexual assault survivors and allies gather in solidarity

This slide shown during Take Back the Mic displays a simple yet powerful thank you to those who shared their experience through poetry. Photo credit: Carlos Gonzalez

Students and alumni shared their stories through powerful and emotional poetry in solidarity and support of Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

The Associated Students Gender & Sexuality Equity Center hosted the annual “Take Back the Night,” April 17. The week long event focused on shedding light on the issue of sexual assault, standing in solidarity with victims and spreading awareness. A series of events for the week included workshops, keynote speakers, spoken word and a silent candlelight march.

GSEC’s woman’s program coordinator Rachel Biccum emphasized the importance of having events like “Take Back the Night.” “We aim to spread awareness not only on our campus, but in the Chico community as well,” she said.

“We wanted to address different issues because it really is a complex problem,” Biccum said on the topic of sexual assault. “We started the week off with different workshops and then Thursday is our main event when we address everything as a whole.”

The GSEC had the opportunity to collaborate with specialized counselors who provide resources and safe spaces. The main highlight of Thursday’s event was author and poet Mariahadessa ‘Ekere’ Tallie’s powerful message.

Ekere Tallie is the author of “Dear Continuum: Letters to a Poet Crafting Liberation and Karma’s Footstep.” Tallie’s work is heavily centered on topics of healing, social justice, women empowerment and self-love. Her compelling testimony and story during her keynote gave inspiration to survivors and allies.

“Back when I was in college, we didn’t have events that spoke on these issues and it definitely would’ve helped having these tools around,” Tallie said. “Sexual assault is considered taboo to many and we must break those barriers of silence to help educate and promote.”

During Tallie’s keynote, she stressed the significance of men speaking out and not remaining a bystander. “Men must do their part and speak up,” Tallie said. “Male spaces such as fraternities need to be courageous and educate each other because it affects us all.”

The theme of Tallie’s testimony was healing and self-love. She added that it’s crucial to achieve these two points to break that brokenness that survivors endure. “It’s a political act to find self healing,” Tallie said. “However, there are places like women centers, facilities, counselors and so much more, so it’s essential that we utilize them as best as possible.”

“Take Back the Mic” included performances of inspirational poetry. Chico State alumni AJ Medeiros gave a spoken word about a frilly white dress.

“The white dress I spoke about symbolizes innocence and being carefree,” Medeiros said. “By the time I was in college though, all the ruffles in the dress were missing and there wasn’t anything to hide anymore.” They also added that excuses for assault, such as what someone’s wearing or how intoxicated they are, are intolerable and must be recognized.

“Everyone has their own unique stories to share and ‘Take Back the Night’ did a great job in highlighting everything that needed to be spoken about,” Medeiros said. Following “Take Back the Mic,” the night ended with a silent candlelight march through downtown.

Niyat Teferi can be reached at [email protected] or @theorion_arts on Twitter.

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